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

443 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

13 May 1945

Further to my telegram of 5 May (No. 440).

At the conclusion of this hard campaign, I have the honour to bring to your notice the excellent work done by the services at Lines of Communication and Base during the whole period of the war.

As you will remember, our original plan was to train in Egypt and go to France, transferring our Base to Colchester in England. This handicapped our starting welfare organisations. When France fell we settled down to Egypt as a Base and this meant that our planning for Lines of Communication was not started until September 1940. In my work here as Commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force I have been responsible for the organisation, administration, and training as well as command of your Force in the field. I have been most fortunate in having Brigadier Stevens as a most excellent head of the administrative services. His help, and the help of all those working under him, and the work of the Medical Services, which are under my direction, have been of the greatest assistance.

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The object of Line of Communication and Base troops is to support and maintain the fighting troops in the field. The importance of this organisation to the fighting portion of the New Zealand Division has been very great; there is no doubt that New Zealand personnel in the field appreciate an organisation [run] by New Zealanders.

Work at Base and Lines of Communication is not spectacular. I feel a debt is owed to all those employed there. It will not be desirous for me within the limits of a cable to do more than enumerate the various functions performed, and I hope that brevity will not be taken as showing slight appreciation of their value.

The keeping of the fighting efficiency of our Division has been a complex problem dependent upon the correct balance of supporting arms, the battle-worthiness of the commanders, and the morale of the fighting forces themselves. War-weariness, however, plays an adverse part towards the end of a long war. At Sidi Rezegh, in November 1941, our men were excellent, and although we have never reached a higher standard on the part of the individual soldiers, yet the increased skill and efficiency of our machine enhanced the military value of our organisation.

The whole object of military organisation and training is to maintain the fighting efficiency of the individual, without which success in battle is not possible. I attribute the high morale of the New Zealand Forces largely to the fact that we are a national army with great esprit de corps, and also to our early life and education in New Zealand. Further, our reinforcement position has been good, which has enabled us to look after the convalescent stage of all ranks so that no one has been returned to duty before he was thoroughly fit.

The greatest individual factor in keeping us a unified force lay in the fact that we had ‘all ranks’ clubs, where we all met under the same roof—officers, sisters, VADs, and other ranks. We started with Cairo, then Bari, Rome, Florence, and now in Danieli's Hotel in Venice. I can safely say that these institutions kept us together and were in fact the homes of the Division to which we turned during our periods of rest overseas. These clubs owe their efficiency to the sound organisation of our first club in Cairo, which was the work of Brigadier Falla and Major Harvey Turner.

In the opinion of members of the 2nd NZEF, and this opinion is borne out by comments from outside sources, the New Zealand Medical Services are without equal. The standard of surgical and medical treatment and administration of hospitals, casualty clearing stations, field ambulances, and convalescent depots has been most important in keeping up the high standard of morale in your Force overseas. The personal interest shown by the medical staff has established a sense of confidence in all who have come under their care.

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These results have been due to my first Director of Medical Services, Brigadier MacCormick, who laid the foundations in 1940–42, and to his successor, Brigadier Kenrick. With these I associate the head of the Dental Services for nearly the whole of the war, Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. Fuller. The standard set by this service was equal to that of the medical service.

The New Zealand Nursing Service has been excellent and the good results achieved have been largely due to their devoted work. Miss E. M. Nutsey was our first Principal Matron, and her excellent work has been continued by her successor, Miss E. C. Mackay. The Medical Division of the New Zealand Women's Army Auxiliary Corps under Miss M. King has rendered most valuable support to [the nursing] service.

I feel that during the course of the war our welfare services have developed into the most efficient in this theatre of the war. The National Patriotic Fund Board, through the medium of its Overseas Commissioner, Colonel F. Waite, has shown the utmost co-operation and understanding of our needs. The YMCA has done great service, both with the units in the field and on Lines of Communication, and the whole Division is most appreciative of the work done. The representatives with the units have always been prepared to work in the most forward areas, however unpleasant the conditions, and on many occasions following the men into battle and helping to evacuate the wounded. No praise can be too high for them. The Red Cross organisation, the Church Army, the staffs of our many clubs, the Kiwi Concert Party—all have played their part. I would like to mention Mr. H. W. Shove, first Commissioner of the YMCA, Miss M. A. Neely, who has directed the Welfare Division of the WAAC, and Captain T. Vaughan, who has been the guiding light of the Kiwi Concert Party.

Included in the Base and training establishments are a large number of training and administrative units, too many to enumerate. Their work has been of a high standard throughout.

2nd Echelon of 2nd NZEF has dealt with all questions of records in a manner which has won praise, not only from the 2nd NZEF but from the authorities in New Zealand. The Pay Department has throughout shown efficiency and has approached all pay problems of members of the Force in a most sympathetic and wise manner. Our warmest thanks are due to Colonel F. Prideaux, who has been the Chief Paymaster and Financial Adviser to me since the commencement.

The spiritual welfare of troops of all denominations has been in excellent hands. We have been able to allot one chaplain to every unit of battalion size and every help has been given by the regimental page 414 officers to chaplains and priests in the execution of their duties. Their work has been unwearying. The foundation of this service was laid by the first Senior Chaplain, Bishop G. V. Gerard, and carried out by his successors, the Rev. J. W. McKenzie and Rev. G. A. D. Spence. We have all had the greatest co-operation from our Roman Catholic priests and we are all most grateful to their head, Father L. P. Spring.

A further factor which has helped us efficiently has been our postal service which handled the large number of letters and parcels from New Zealand, and our thanks are due to Lieutenant-Colonel A. V. Knapp, who for a long period was Chief Postal Officer. Those who sent parcels to us played an important part in keeping our force efficient, especially in the desert campaigns.

The Public Relations staff—which comprised war correspondents, NZEF Times staff, photographers, the broadcasting unit, cinematograph unit, and the official artist—have carried out their varied work in a first-class manner. They all worked under difficult conditions. After the capture in Greece of Captain J. H. Hall, Major M. S. Carrie took over and was a most conscientious head. Captain E. G. Webber, his successor, who was also foundation editor of the Times, has carried on most efficiently. The work of the Official Artist, Captain P. McIntyre, needs no commendation from me.

The Legal Department, controlled first by Lieutenant-Colonel C. A. L. Treadwell and, for the last three years, by Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Barrowclough, has been of great assistance to all ranks of the Force in the administration of military law, and to many members of the Force in their personal problems. The Chief Auditor, Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. Steere, and his staff have helped us in all our financial and accounting problems. The Education and Rehabilitation Service has just started and its work has largely still to be done. I am sure it will equal the standard set by the other services.

The Clerical Division of the NZWAAC is also a recent addition to the Force. Like the other women's services, its work is of the first order.

Our two units engaged on graves registration and concentration attract little attention, but their work is of the usual New Zealand standard.

In conclusion, no words of mine can do justice to the great assistance we have all had from Army Headquarters in Wellington. The tone of all our dealings with them has been on a high co-operative basis. They have helped me right from the start to the finish with knowledge and understanding of our many difficulties. I personally am most conscious of all I owe to them, in the first case to General Duigan, and later to General Puttick and Brigadier Conway. What their help has meant to me only I can say.