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

384 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (London)1

page 352

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (London)1

28 June 1944

Many thanks for keeping me informed by your telegram of 16 June.2 The short-term policy is now in action.

Unless enemy resistance cracks by November, the state of the ground and weather conditions generally after October preclude active campaigning on the Italian front. There are, therefore, only four months when active fighting is possible, and of these one month will be spent by us in the Rome area waiting for the railways to be pushed forward.

Whatever the New Zealand Government's long-term decision may be, with Rome now in our hands and the Second Front well established I feel that some statement should be made as to the future of the 4th Reinforcements. If you decide to open leave, or rather replacement, for the 4th Reinforcements, I suggest that a plan similar to the one suggested by me during your visit be implemented by taking a percentage by ballot, the ballot to be carried out by arms of the service, on a quota to be decided by me after consultation with the senior commanders of the Division.

I am of the opinion, so long as a firm decision as to the replacement policy is announced and selection is entirely by ballot, that the return of even a portion of the 4th Reinforcements will not only keep faith with what the men may expect after your visit but it will be good for the morale of the remainder of the force.

Before the plan can be implemented, a decision will first be needed as to whether replacement or leave is to be the policy. Should you decide upon replacement approximately 3200 men will be affected, and it will only be possible to release such a number by degrees, and only then if 2000 men are made available here as reinforcements as soon as possible. Until this question is decided by the New Zealand Government it would not be possible to send more than a small quota back to New Zealand. I have cut the replacement down to the lowest figure possible. If 2000 are agreed upon I feel reasonably certain that we can continue to take our part in the ensuing battles in accordance with the short-term policy. If the German Army

1 Repeated to the Minister of Defence.

2 Not published. This telegram read in part:

I had a brief discussion with the Chiefs of Staff this morning and obtained information as to the plans they are considering for the use of British forces in the Pacific. While no concrete proposals are likely for some weeks, it seems reasonably clear that they will not conflict with the conclusions arrived at in your appreciation. I hope to have a further talk with General Brooke and also with the United States Chiefs of Staff in Washington….

page 353 is not defeated this summer and winter arrives, the long-term policy of the New Zealand Government could then be implemented. I feel most optimistic about the immediate prospects of an early victory over the German forces in the field and am anxious that New Zealand should be represented in the final phase to reap the full benefit of all their great sacrifices, but I realise that these are policy questions to be decided by the New Zealand-Government.

In the meantime, pending your decision, we can carry on as we are, but an early decision will be appreciated upon the question of leave or replacement of the 4th Reinforcements, which will of course bring with it shipping problems between the Middle East and New Zealand.1

1 In a personal telegram to General Freyberg on 29 Jun Brigadier Conway advised that the short-term policy was likely to be adopted by War Cabinet.