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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

378 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

2 April 1944

Reference your telegram of 1 April.

You will remember that on 10 July last when I left New Zealand you said I might write direct to you if I felt the situation so demanded. Since receiving your cable giving the opinions of the Chiefs of Staff1 I have felt that you should know what is in my mind at present. In your last cable you say that it will be ‘for consideration whether page 346 the 2nd Division in whole or in part should return’ at a later date. As you will be discussing this in England before I see you I felt I should cable my views for what they are worth.

I am nervous for the safety of small detached forces in battle. Experience has shown that the safety of the 2nd NZEF has been best served when it has been kept together under its own commanders. I would therefore strongly advise you that when the time comes to make any change you should withdraw the whole force and not leave a brigade group as the Chiefs of Staff suggest. I give this advice after commanding your Expeditionary Force for four years, during which there have been difficult times.

In the last two months here on this front great firmness has been needed in dealing with the present most difficult tactical situation. In similar circumstances the commander of a small independent force is in an impossible position. Further, whenever a situation deteriorates there is a tendency to use independent brigade groups to stop gaps in the same way as the Long Range Desert Group was committed at Leros. I know from experience that small independent forces are far too vulnerable.

I trust you will not resent my expressing my opinion before it is asked for on a question of major policy which is not my concern. As, however, there may be aspects of the situation of which you may not be fully aware, I feel that you would wish to know my views in advance before your conversations in London.

I look forward very much to welcoming you in Italy. As I do not know when you leave I would be grateful if you would acknowledge this cable.

1 Not published. Mr. Nash's telegram of 29 Feb (No. 375) was repeated to General Freyberg on 3 Mar.