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

462 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence1

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence1

8 May 1945

I am happy to report that notwithstanding the recent strenuous campaign all members of the force are in the best of spirits and morale is very high. Now that the war in Europe is over it is easy to understand that inquiry is already being made as to the future. I realise this matter is under consideration and that some weeks may elapse before the New Zealand Government make their decision. I feel that a short interim statement to meet the present situation should be made to all ranks of the 2nd NZEF in the Central Mediterranean Forces.

This would tend to anticipate and allay possible dissatisfaction among long-service personnel and equally give an incentive to more recent reinforcements to keep fit and efficient. It would seem

1 This telegram was also sent to the Prime Minister at San Francisco, via the New Zealand Military Liaison Officer, London.

page 429 desirable to publish at an early date a statement regarding the policy of replacement and possible future participation in the Pacific. I have therefore prepared the following statement for War Cabinet's consideration:1

The New Zealand Government's policy was announced in October of last year to the effect that the replacement scheme would be carried on so that all long-service men would go home to New Zealand and be replaced from men drawn from industry. This policy has been carried out in the past and the First, Second, and Third Echelons, together with the 4th and 5th Reinforcements, in all 16,000 men, have been sent home to New Zealand. With the arrival in Egypt of the 15th Reinforcements and the finish of the war in Europe, we are now in a position to speed up the replacement scheme.

Under the original plan, it was considered that the 6th Reinforcements would be withdrawn in June, when the 15th Reinforcements were available in the field, and the 7th Reinforcements in September. It is now proposed to send the 6th Reinforcements at once, with the 7th Reinforcements to follow as soon as possible, or perhaps even at the same time. This will have the effect of reducing the strength of the Division in Italy to between 3000 and 4000 below War Establishment. This can be accepted under the existing circumstances but not before Field-Marshal Alexander releases us from our present operational role here in Italy.2

Regarding the war in the Pacific, an announcement of possible policy will be made by the New Zealand Government in the near future. It is obviously desirable that New Zealand land forces should be represented. It is not possible for us to give any guidance in the matter as the question is still under consideration between the New Zealand and British Governments and, furthermore, is dependent upon shipping. When a decision is reached it is certain that men with long service overseas will go back to New Zealand and that men with short service overseas would be used in any future operations.

An early reply would be most helpful.

1 Several changes were made by War Cabinet to the text of this statement. General Freyberg was advised of these changes in a telegram dated 16 May, in which it was stated that ‘the purpose of these amendments is to give special emphasis to the importance of shipping at this juncture.’

At this time ships were required for the deployment of forces from Europe and the Middle East for the war against Japan.

2 See Trieste.