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

466 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

23 May 1945

While I appreciate that the bigger question of the ultimate destination of the 2nd NZEF is a matter of high policy to be determined by War Cabinet, I have felt for some time that there are matters page 433 of detail, such as the disposal of divisional equipment and the method of return of the New Zealand Division, that should be discussed independently of the final decision.

The role in which we are now employed1 appears likely to last for anything from one or more months, after which we will be relieved by another division. Our operational employment will then be finished.

I assume that no matter what the final decision may be, the whole of the 2nd NZEF will be concentrated in Egypt. There we can either reorganise for future employment or else embark in one lift or by stages for New Zealand.

It will, I know, take some time to arrange for shipping. Embarkation will probably be from Taranto. When the main decision has been made, I propose that the Division and other troops in Italy should be withdrawn to the south and embarked for Egypt.

The question of the movement of personnel of the 2nd NZEF to Egypt is straightforward, but it is complicated by the question of the disposal of equipment, which must be dependent on shipping and your own future equipment requirements in New Zealand. All our present equipment is, I understand, the property of the New Zealand Government and, if they so desire, could be taken to New Zealand. This would require, however, a greater quantity of shipping. You will recall that in the move from Egypt to Italy, whereas seven ships were required for personnel, forty-two were needed for vehicles and heavy equipment. If, however, it is not all required in New Zealand, the disposal of it is presumably a matter for negotiation between the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments. Whether or not the equipment is disposed of here affects planning considerably.

So much for the problem of the war equipment of the Division. The second question I want to consider is the return of the New Zealand Division to New Zealand. Is the force to go back by drafts depending on length of service, or as a Division by units, or a combination of both? This question is not a simple one and I am dealing with various aspects of it in a further cable.2

In your telegram of 16 May you quote the provisional plans for the allocation of troop transport between Egypt and New Zealand. The supply offered to you is most encouraging and exceeds expectations, both in the speed with which it is to be made available and the numbers to be returned. If this schedule can be fulfilled and we can get the Division clear of operational commitments in the next few weeks, we could make the necessary arrangements at this page 434 end. It is certain that there is no time to be lost in making arrangements for the transfer home of 20,000 men by September, and to ensure against loss of time an early decision should be given upon the following questions:

When released from operational control:


Is the Division going back to New Zealand?


Do you want some of the 2nd New Zealand Division for future service against Japan?


What equipment, if any, do you want to take back to New Zealand?

As the whole question of the return of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to New Zealand is most involved and has political aspects, I am preparing for your consideration a separate appreciation on this question, which follows at once.

1 See Trieste.