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

467 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

4 June 1945

In continuation of my telegram of 23 May. It is realised that no decision has as yet been made by the New Zealand Government as to the future war effort of the New Zealand forces against Japan. In view of your manpower difficulties and the importance of the early return of the 6th and 7th Reinforcements, some forecast has to be made to enable the New Zealand Government to order the necessary shipping. Our estimated requirements are based, therefore, on the assumption that the force will concentrate in Egypt, that the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Reinforcements will return to New Zealand by the quickest route, and that the remainder of the Division, plus the 16th Reinforcements, will reorganise for possible future operations in South-East Asia Command or other theatre. Once the Division is released from operational duties, on a date to be known as D-day, it will be possible for us to embark men for Egypt as fast as shipping can be provided in Italy and Egypt, subject to the ten days' journey to Taranto and the possible delay of the handing-in of our surplus equipment at Ordnance bases at Naples. Should it be necessary from the shipping point of view to embark all or part of those returning direct to New Zealand from Italy, this could probably be done, but presents many disadvantages over spending a short period in Egypt.

page 435

As instructed, I have now conferred with Field-Marshal Alexander, who fully appreciates the difficult manpower situation in New Zealand and wishes to do all he can to help. He feels, however, that the present unsatisfactory Yugoslav position which keeps the New Zealand forces in Northern Italy will resolve itself in the course of a few days. In his opinion it will be safe to forecast D-day at the latest between 14 and 30 June. The move from Trieste to Taranto will be in our own MT and will take ten days. Although we are now 1100 below War Establishment as a result of sending off the 6th Reinforcements, we have examined the possibility of sending 70 per cent of the 7th Reinforcements as soon as possible and will get the remainder of the 7th Reinforcements, plus the 8th, away as soon as we get the Division to Taranto. If shipping is available, it is quite possible that the 6th and part of the 7th Reinforcements, amounting to approximately 3500, could embark from Egypt by 14 July, and the remainder of the 7th, plus the 8th, in all 5200, by D plus 40. The whole of the remainder of the 2nd NZEF could be concentrated in Egypt by D plus 60, and the 9th and 10th Reinforcements, less certain key personnel, would be ready to commence embarkation by D plus 80.

To sum up:

  • D-day between 14 June and 30 June.

  • 14 July: 6th and part of the 7th Reinforcements (3500 in all) embark in Egypt for New Zealand.

  • D plus 40: Remainder of the 7th, plus the 8th (5200 in all) embark in Egypt for New Zealand.

  • D plus 60: Remainder of the NZEF concentrated in Egypt.

  • D plus 80: 9th and 10th Reinforcements (7500 in all) embark in Egypt for New Zealand.

  • D plus 80 to D plus 170: New Zealand force re-equipping and training.

  • D plus 170: New Zealand force ready to move to possible theatre of war.

These figures do not include ex-3rd Division men or all entitled officers of the 6th to 10th Reinforcements. If these are added the total will be 2000 more. It must be pointed out that shipping from Italy to Egypt must be available so that the reinforcements returning to New Zealand arrive in Egypt ten days before embarkation for New Zealand. At the present time, Allied Force Headquarters reports that there is no indication of shipping to Egypt being available, and this will probably be the case until a decision is reached on the whole major question of shipping.