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

394 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister — [Extract]

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

21 September 1944

Reference your cables (Nos. 3913) on the future of the 2nd NZEF.

As you have pointed out to Mr. Churchill, it is difficult without more precise information to make plans for the future war effort of New Zealand. In view of this uncertainty, I feel that the only course open to the New Zealand Government is to implement the long-term policy for the war in Europe, which we discussed while you were here and which is outlined in your message of 16 September (No. 393). I feel this policy is quite possible. As I indicated to you at my headquarters at Sora, when the 13th Reinforcements arrive we will be really very well off, better I believe than any other division here in Italy. Without any further troops we could carry on until the end of March 1945. Numbers, however, are not the only consideration, and if it came to heavy fighting in 1945 I feel that a large number of long-service men would have to be replaced by fresh men. Further, a large number of our battle-weary officers would also require relief. I feel your early announcement, in general terms, of the replacement scheme will have a very good effect. It will show that New Zealand intends to play her full part to the end of the European war, while the replacement scheme will be received with great satisfaction by the troops. I feel, however, that the early collapse of Germany will make it unnecessary to implement the full long-term policy.

page 360

The implementing of the scheme will of course depend upon the arrival of replacements, which is again dependent upon shipping. The number of men to be replaced in the near future comprises returned Ruapehu and Wakatipu1 personnel 1050, 5th Reinforcements 3256, 6th Reinforcements 1908, and 7th Reinforcements 3434, totalling 9648. I understand from Conway's cable to Stevens2 that 4000 replacements would be available to leave New Zealand at the end of October and 3000 at the end of each quarter following. This would enable us to send back the whole of the 5ths, 6ths, and 7ths, and Ruapehu and Wakatipu personnel by the end of May. I would suggest that the first draft to be returned should comprise the 5th Reinforcements, plus a proportion of Fiji personnel3 and a proportion of Ruapehu and Wakatipu personnel selected by ballot, followed by the 6th Reinforcements, plus the remainder of Fiji and Ruapehu and Wakatipu personnel, then the remainder of the 7th Reinforcements. The first draft could leave here as soon as adequately trained replacements are available, i.e., about December at the earliest.

With regard to breaking up the cadre of the 3rd Division, I feel that this depends upon War Cabinet's future policy, and there are various factors which will affect this. Will the 3rd Division absorb the 2nd Division or vice versa, or will you form an entirely new division? It also depends on whether the new force is to be used in island hopping and jungle fighting or in a theatre where a division organised and equipped such as the 2nd Division can be used. If such a theatre is contemplated, e.g., China, there would be reasons for keeping the future organisation similar to that of the 2nd Division; and similarly, if island hopping or jungle fighting is envisaged, the new force would be organised on similar lines to the 3rd Division. I feel, however, as you do, that since the whole situation is uncertain it is really impossible to form any opinion until the policy in the Pacific is clarified. If China is likely to be the theatre in which the British Commonwealth force is to be used, I suggest for your consideration that you could offer to raise and train a new division based on the existing organisation of the 2nd Division, to be used as a follow-up division. I feel that the new force could be organised and trained in approximately six months from the disbandment of the existing Division….4

My wound, thanks to good care at No. 1 General Hospital, and penicillin, has now healed and I am up for part of the day. Please forgive my delay in replying to your cables.

1 Code-names for first and second furlough drafts.

2 Not published.

3 Men who had served in Fiji before being sent to the Middle East.

4 In the text omitted some officer appointments are discussed.