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

410 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

4 December 1944

Further to my telegrams of 22 October (No. 402) and 1 November (No. 406) and your telegram of 1 November (No. 405).

page 380

The reasons for the reorganisation of the Division and proposals for the short-term policy have already been outlined in previous cables, and as you know we now have two four-battalion brigades, the 22nd Motor Battalion and the Divisional Cavalry Regiment having been incorporated as infantry battalions in the 5th and 6th Brigades respectively.

Looking ahead to next year and possible future fighting either in Europe or in the war against Japan, it seems inevitable, owing to the general shortage of infantry divisions, that we will be used mainly as an infantry division. I have come to the conclusion therefore, after making every inquiry, that we should form a third infantry brigade to relieve the strain on the front-line infantry and spread our casualties over nine instead of six battalions. We can do this by using the 22nd Motor Battalion, the Divisional Cavalry Regiment, and the 27th (Machine Gun) Battalion as infantry battalions.

The proposed reorganisation allows us to retain the three armoured regiments, with certain reductions in strength. We do not need our 168 tanks in the present conditions and, in any case, we cannot maintain them at full strength as we will lose so many trained personnel under the replacement scheme that it would be impossible to train reinforcements in time to take the field next spring. It is proposed therefore, to reduce the size of each squadron by one troop, a total reduction in the Armoured Brigade of about thirty-six tanks involving the saving of ten officers and 200 other ranks. This method of reducing our armoured component, enabling us to keep all three armoured regiments, means that one regiment is available to support each infantry brigade.

The reorganisation will be completed by the addition of two small sub-units—an assault squadron of engineers with armoured bulldozers and self-propelled bridges on Sherman tanks, and a small unit of two platoons of traffic police. These units will involve an increase in establishments of thirteen officers and 208 other ranks.

The above reorganisation can be carried out during our next rest period.

I would like War Cabinet to realise the effect of the replacement scheme and reorganisation on the Division which will take the field next spring. We will have virtually a new division, well balanced and suited for fighting in close country in Europe, and, by retaining our Armoured Brigade organisation on reduced establishment, our organisation will be flexible should the force be required for a more mobile role either in Europe or in another theatre. Many of our commanders and staff will be new and untried. As a result of the replacement scheme and usual wastage we have lost in the last page 381 six months six Brigadiers—Kippenberger, Inglis, McD. Weir, C. E. Weir, Stewart, and Burrows. Their places have been taken by Parkinson, Gentry, Queree,1 Pleasants,2 Campbell,3 and Bonifant, two of whom were captains and two subalterns when this war started. On my staff my GSO 1, AA and QMG, and ADMS4 will all have left within a month. Most unit commanders are new young men, and 600 officers and all other ranks, with the exception of some 8th Reinforcements, have not seen service in North Africa.

Although the Division will lose many experienced officers and NCOs, I am still convinced that the policy of withdrawing long-service personnel is right. What the Division may lack in experience will be made up in virility. After the next period of training in the rear area, your Division will take the field in 1945 fresher than any other Allied formation. We will be fighting against a shaken enemy, and I am certain the force will live up to the reputation of the 2nd New Zealand Division.

Would you let me know if the proposed reorganisation has the approval of War Cabinet.

1 Brigadier R. C. Queree, CBE, DSO; Brigade Major, New Zealand Artillery, Oct 1940 – Jun 1941; GSO 2, 2nd NZ Division, Jun-Aug 1941, Jan-Jun 1942; CO 4th NZ Field Regiment, Jun-Aug 1942; GSO 1, 2nd NZ Division, Sep 1942 – Dec 1943, Jan-Jun 1944; BGS NZ Corps, 9 Feb – 27 Mar 1944; CO 5th Field Regiment, Jun-Aug 1944; CRA 2nd NZ Division, Aug 1944 – Feb 1945, Mar-Jun 1945; QMG, Army HQ, May 1948 – Nov 1950.

2 Brigadier C. L. Pleasants, DSO, MC, ED; CO 18th NZ Battalion and Armoured Regiment, Jul 1942 – Mar 1944; second-in-command 4th NZ Armoured Brigade, Mar – Sep 1944; commanded 5th NZ Infantry Brigade, 1–22 Aug 1944; 4th Armoured Brigade, Sep-Nov 1944; 5th Brigade, Nov 1944 – Jan 1945 and May 1945–1946; Camp Commandant and Commandant Royal NZ Armoured Corps School, Waiouru, Aug 1948 – Mar 1949; Officer Commanding Fiji Military Forces, Mar 1949–.

3 Brigadier T. C. Campbell, DSO, MC; CO 22nd NZ Battalion, Sep 1942 – Apr 1944; commanded 4th NZ Armoured Brigade, Jan-Dec 1945; Area Commander, Wellington, 1947; GSO 1 (Training and Staff Duties), Army HQ, Nov 1947 – Feb 1949; Commander of Army Schools, Apr 1951–.

4 General Staff Officer, 1st Grade, Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, and Assistant Director of Medical Services.

Refer to Index for other biographical footnotes.