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

414 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence1

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence1

29 January 1945

In my telegram of 27 December I forecast the possible postponement of our relief from the line owing to the diversion of reserves to Greece. Unfortunately this has happened and, except for the battalions which are being withdrawn from the line to train and form the new 9th New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the Division will not be relieved until early in March.

Although this delay makes the implementing of the next stage of the replacement scheme more difficult, I do not think that the withdrawal of personnel should be postponed. The change-over is possible in the line as the front at present is static, casualties are light, and units in the line are comparatively comfortable. By carrying out the next stage of replacement now we will be able to adhere to the shipping plans made long in advance, and the Tongariro draft will leave for Egypt at the beginning of March.

As you will realise, we will be nearly 2000 short between 2 February, when the Tongariro personnel are withdrawn, and the end of March, when the 14th Reinforcements become available to join the Division in the field. Although this will place a strain on the Division, I feel that it is the correct decision. We have accepted an operational role before below strength—when we went into the line for the Battle of Alamein we were 2000 short. I would like you to know that, although many might have been unsettled by the thought of going home, the morale of the force in recent battles has been excellent. However, although morale is good it is clear from censorship reports that Tongariro personnel have been waiting for the announcement of their relief which was promised early in the New Year, and I am certain any further delay would be a mistake.

Trained reinforcements are due here from Advanced Base on 2 February and the change-over will be made in the forward area. On the morning of 3 February the first flight of personnel from combatant units will leave the front line en route for Maadi Camp.

1 This telegram was repeated to the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, who was then visiting New Zealand troops in Egypt and, later, in Italy.

page 385

No announcement will be made until I issue a special order on 2 February along the following lines:

On 25 October 1944 a statement was issued to all ranks dealing with the New Zealand Government's policy of replacement.1 It was announced then that long-service personnel would be released by stages as soon as trained replacement drafts arrived in Italy. Although only a portion of the necessary replacements are available to join the Division, and although it will leave the Division temporarily below strength, the next stage of the replacement scheme will now be implemented. In all, 5600 all ranks are affected. (Categories affected will then be given.)

The policy to release long-service men is to proceed as reinforcements are available, but the next replacement draft will not arrive in Italy for some months.

Starting tomorrow, the first flight composed of Armoured, Artillery, Infantry, Engineers, Signals, and Provost Corps will be withdrawn from the Division. The remainder of the personnel being released will be withdrawn in the following order on dates to be announced later:


Personnel of administrative services.


Personnel of Line of Communication units and Base.


Certain key officers, NCOs, and technical personnel who cannot be relieved until they are replaced by the arrival of personnel due with the next draft from New Zealand.

The statement will conclude with a message of thanks and farewell.

Mr. Sullivan, who will be with us on 4 and 5 February, will see some of the men before they leave.

The general news on all fronts is most encouraging.

1 See No. 404.