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

408 — The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

22 November 1944

War Cabinet went into the question of sailings very thoroughly with Army Headquarters and with representatives of the Director of Sea Transport. From the outset I can assure you that strong pressure was exerted for early transport, but there now appears to be little prospect of speeding up the arrival of the vessel allocated.1 This is a very fast ship which has now left the United Kingdom for Australia, whence it will come to New Zealand. At this late stage we are advised that there appears to be no possibility of obtaining any other earlier vessel.

War Cabinet fully recognise the difficulties which the timetable imposes upon the replacement scheme and, with you, very much regret that the 5300 other ranks of the Tongariro scheme will have to be sent back into the line. It is assumed that this action would, however, have been necessary whether or not the 14th Reinforcements had left a month earlier than shipping now renders possible.

It is felt that consideration may have to be given to the alternatives of either using up the reinforcement pool now to the fullest extent or of withdrawal of the Division as a whole from active operations for sufficient time to absorb replacement drafts. I would be glad to have your views.

Although there may be difficulties in obtaining sufficient suitable men at short notice, the shipping arrangements now in train should enable later reinforcements to be despatched on time. All good wishes for your next operations.

1 Empress of Scotland (formerly Empress of Japan), 26,032 tons, Canadian-Pacific; sailed from Wellington with 14th Reinforcements on 5 Jan 1945.