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

383 — The Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (London) to the acting Prime Minister1

The Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (London) to the acting Prime Minister1

13 June 1944
My tour of Divisional units in Italy and New Zealand Expeditionary Force bases at Bari and Egypt has been very satisfactory indeed. I have had most useful discussions with General Freyberg and serving officers, and on all occasions my reception among the troops was most friendly. The spirit that prevails is excellent, especially in the forward areas, where the progress of the campaign has naturally had a stimulating effect. I was able to see for myself how very efficiently the forward moves were being carried out. General

1 Hon. D. G. Sullivan.

page 351 Freyberg and his staff impressed me very much. The hospitals are particularly good and great credit is due to those in control. My opinion was reinforced by comments made to me by two visiting British officers whom I met—the Directors of Medical Services in the Mediterranean and Italy. Everything I saw enhanced my opinion of our very fine force, the men who are leading it, and those who are serving in all ranks.

I had the opportunity of meeting groups of men wherever I went and I discussed with them very frankly the problems confronting the Division, and especially the difficulties regarding furlough. I should make it clear that I made no commitments and indicated very plainly that I could make no promises, although my views would, I thought, carry weight in our discussions back in New Zealand as to the future of the Division.

I explained the necessity for making adjustments in our manpower and the reasons why we could not maintain two divisions overseas. I also discussed the immediate difficulties regarding shipping and the weight which had to be attached to such factors as the launching of the Second Front and the situation existing until the stabilising of a new front in Italy, after which the future of the Division would have to be reconsidered. I emphasised that the question had to be taken up with the British and American Chiefs of Staff as to the area in which we were to serve for the future—Europe or the Pacific— and that we would be influenced in coming to our decision by such advice.

I explained that if the Division was to remain in Europe until the defeat of Germany then, in my opinion, it would be necessary to relieve the longer-serviced men by means of a replacement scheme rather than furlough. If we were to concentrate on the Pacific, then the reorganised Division for 1945 would have to be built up from those with shorter service in both existing divisions and from the remaining manpower resources in New Zealand. This would involve the return of the 2nd Division and the relief of the older and longer-serviced men by those now in industry who had not seen service overseas.

This, in general, is the ground I covered in talking to the men.

General Freyberg has prepared an appreciation which is being forwarded to the Minister of Defence.1 I propose to discuss the matter myself with the Chiefs of Staff in London and Washington and to endeavour to obtain some indication or decision as to the possible use for the reorganised Pacific Division. This should enable me to be in a position to report to War Cabinet on my return so that a final decision may be made.