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

471 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

4 August 1945

With reference to our message of 21 June (No. 469) concerning shipping for the repatriation of personnel of the 2nd New Zealand Division returning to the Dominion.

Early advice would be appreciated of the proposed plans for the repatriation of personnel from Italy and the Middle East. We have been advised that one vessel with a capacity of 3600 has been allotted and is due to sail almost immediately from the Middle East.4 Some page 438 15,300 all ranks (2300 officers and 13,000 other ranks)1 will then remain, and from advice just received we understand that another large trooper has been allocated. We do not know, however, when this vessel is likely to depart.

The many demands upon shipping resources at this time for the deployment of forces in new theatres of operations and the return of others to their own countries are recognised, but we are most anxious to ensure that all personnel of the Division to be repatriated should be returned to New Zealand as soon as possible. We must point out that the early return of men from the Middle East to New Zealand will assist us in maintaining, and if possible increasing, supplies of foodstuffs, and in providing housing and other essential services for the rehabilitation of service personnel. The majority of the men in the reinforcement draft at present awaiting despatch have been withdrawn from food production and other primary and essential industries, and the earliest possible return of men from Italy and the Middle East to replace them, to provide for expansion of essential activities, and to ensure the despatch of further reinforcements for the Pacific land force, would therefore be of the greatest assistance to us.

In view of the services rendered by the New Zealand Division in the Middle East and Europe since the beginning of the war with Germany until its end, we trust that arrangements will be made to ensure repatriation to New Zealand at the earliest possible date, whether via the Middle East or Panama, of all men who are to return. We would much appreciate very early advice of your proposals.

4 This telegram from General Freyberg, dated 22 Jul, is not published. The vessel was the Strathaird.

1 The above should read: (2300 all ranks from the Middle East Forces and 13,000 all ranks from the Central Mediterranean Forces). These were the grand totals of a table giving the numbers awaiting repatriation after the departure of the Stratbaird which was included in General Freyberg's telegram of 22 Jul to the Minister of Defence.