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

464 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence2 — [Extract]

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence2

15 May 1945

I know from your telegram of 3 February3 that the New Zealand War Cabinet ‘are very anxious that the Division should be maintained as long as possible’. While I do not wish to influence the New Zealand War Cabinet in making their decision, in view of their stated desire and the changed manpower position I am putting forward fresh proposals which I believe would enable the New Zealand Government to retain the 2nd New Zealand Division in the field to the end of 1946. I am, of course, not in a position to know if the proposal is a practical one from the New Zealand manpower point of view.

In making my appreciation to War Cabinet in February of possible requirements for 1945, I had to be conservative.4 Although I thought the war would be over by the end of June, provision had to be made to carry on to November. There was another aspect of planning for the future. The fighting in Italy during 1944 had been hard, with heavy casualties, and should the Division be engaged through the summer of 1945 it would be exhausted. This would necessitate the replacement not only of the 6th, 7th, and 8th, but probably the 9th and 10th Reinforcements, before embarking on a fresh theatre of war.

The quick and comparatively inexpensive end to the war with Germany has changed the manpower situation which appeared to face the New Zealand Government earlier in the year.

In the first place the offensive, fierce while it lasted, was only of twenty-three days' duration from D-day to the day of capitulation, and during the last eight of which we had little fighting. Casualties have been less than had been allowed for and the future wastage for 1945 reduced to loss by sickness. The result is to reduce by page 431 3000 the estimated wastage to the end of 1945 as visualised in your telegram of 8 April.1

As reported, we had strengthened the Division for this summer offensive by returning all war-weary personnel and by adding a third infantry brigade. When the Division took the field it was in excellent condition and, in view of the little fighting it has done, it is still fresh and fit to go on should the need arise.

If such a course were adopted, I feel that although the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Reinforcements should return at once it is for consideration whether the 10th Reinforcements, who have been only one year eight months in the war theatre, with comparatively little fighting, should be returned. No personnel to date have been returned to New Zealand with less than three years and six months' service. With regard to 3rd Division other ranks, few fought in the last battles. Although their service overseas may entitle them to be considered, it is early to think of their relief. I feel that the 3rd Division personnel, especially as they have all had a period in New Zealand, should stay for further service overseas if the Division goes on to another theatre. In pursuance of this policy I would suggest that only a percentage of the time spent in the Islands should count for purposes of replacement.

If these two proposals are agreed to by War Cabinet, and I feel they are fair, then the position at the end of 1945 would be as follows:

Overseas strength in all ranks of the 2nd NZEF on 5 May 1945 29,100
Less all ranks to return to New Zealand at once:
(a) Tongariro 130
(b) 6th Reinforcements 1300
(c) 7th Reinforcements 2400
(d) 8th Reinforcements 4500
(e) 9th Reinforcements 2800
(f) Officers 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Reinforcements 525 11,655
Leaving 17,445
Add 15th and 16th Reinforcements 6,500
Total 23,945
Less wastage one-third of battle casualties 315
Seven months' no activity wastage 630
Approximate total overseas at end of 1945 23,0002

2 Repeated to Mr. Fraser at San Francisco.

1 See Volume III, Proposals for Participation in Operations against Japan.

2 See Volume III, Proposals for Participation in Operations against Japan, for rest of text.