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

417 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

8 February 1945

As I reported to you in my telegram of 29 January (No. 414), the Division has had to remain in the line owing to the diversion of reserve divisions to Greece. Our line on the Eighth Army front was thinly held and there were no other reserves available. At present the Eighth Army is regrouping, which will enable our relief to take place in March. The Division will then be withdrawn to the rear area for rest and training. In the meantime, however, as a result of the Russian offensive some German divisons have been withdrawn from Italy, and we have been warned to be ready to attack and follow up should the opportunity present itself. Any attack which may take place depends on the enemy thinning out considerably, which is not considered likely before the last week of February at the earliest. From a health point of view it would be a great advantage if the front can be advanced as the present area is highly malarial.1

1 The Division was at this time in the Faenza sector.

page 388

I am glad to be able to report that Tongariro personnel are being withdrawn successfully by stages. Men from the first-line units have already gone back. I have spoken to as many as possible and thanked them for their services. I am sure this change-over will have a good effect. Mr. Sullivan's arrival was most opportune as he was able to see some of the Tongariro personnel on parade and talk to them. I will cable separately the Army Commander's message to the Tongariro draft, which you may wish to publish on their arrival in New Zealand.1

I am also to report that our reorganisation programme proceeds smoothly. Our new 9th Infantry Brigade has been formed and the Machine Gun Battalion, Divisional Cavalry, and the 22nd Battalion have moved back to train together. Brigadier Gentry is to command the brigade. To give us a reserve which may be used in the operation mentioned above, the 43rd Gurkha Brigade has been placed under command.

I have had very useful discussions with Mr. Sullivan and have explained our problems to him. On his return he will be able to give you a better picture of our difficulties than I can in a cabled message. I have taken the opportunity of the lull in operations to accompany Mr. Sullivan on the last stage of his tour and hope to go with him to see Field-Marshal Alexander. He has seen many units, including the Maoris, in the line and will have visited all our hospitals before he leaves.

I return to the Division on 10 February. All goes well.

1 General McCreery's message is not reproduced.