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

54 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

5 January 1942

Since receiving your telegram of 26 December (No. 52) a telegram from General Puttick (No. 53) has also reached me. From it I gather that the 8th Reinforcements have now been used for other purposes and the 9th Reinforcements also are intended to be posted to units in New Zealand or Fiji.

I fully appreciate the present circumstances in the Pacific and know that the best employment of reinforcement drafts is a matter for you to decide. The reinforcement situation here is quite satisfactory for some months to come.

The final estimate of casualties here is 4000 all ranks3 and on that assumption, when all units are made up to War Establishment (which will be shortly), there will be some 4500 reinforcements available. After making allowance on the one hand for those wounded who return to duty and, on the other, for some small wastage in the next three months, it appears that on 1 April the total reinforcements available will, on a conservative estimate, be 5000. Provided that the next campaign in which the Division is engaged (and which should commence about 1 April) is a normal one and does not involve prisoners of war on the scale of Greece and Crete, this figure of 5000 should be adequate to maintain the force until 1 August 1942, by which date it is hoped you will have been able to despatch some page 39 reinforcements. The position here is thus satisfactory for the next six months at least.

In the circumstances, however, I do not propose to proceed with the formation of the Medium Regiment and have intimated to General Headquarters that the desirability of keeping the Division up to full strength will prevent us forming any other new units, however small.

I hope it will be possible to despatch the Army Tank Brigade to the Middle East even at a later date in 1942, but I appreciate that delay is inevitable in the present circumstances.1

Should you so desire, I am prepared to release at once Brigadier Wilder2 and Lieutenant-Colonels Dittmer3 and Andrew.4 Brigadier Wilder commanded the 5th Brigade in Libya with distinction after Brigadier Hargest was captured. All three officers have had extensive experience in the field in Greece, Crete, and Libya. In addition I will do all I can to meet any other requests that General Puttick may make.

In a telegram which will probably be despatched tomorrow, I am sending an appreciation regarding the future employment of the Division.5

2 Major-General A. S. Wilder, DSO, MC; CO 25th NZ Battalion, Mar 1940–Sep 1941; commanded 5th NZ Infantry Brigade, 6 Dec 1941–17 Jan 1942; commanded 5th Division, Apr 1942–Jan 1943, and 1st Division (in NZ), Jan—Nov 1943.

3 Brigadier G. Dittmer, CBE, DSO, MC; CO 28th NZ (Maori) Battalion, Jan 1940–Feb 1942; commanded 1st Infantry Brigade Group, Northern Military District, Apr—Aug 1942; commanded 1st Division, Aug 1942–Jan 1943, and 1st Infantry Brigade Group (in NZ), Jan—Aug 1943; commanded Fiji Military Forces and Fiji Infantry Brigade Group, Sep 1943–Nov 1945; Camp Commandant, Papakura Military Camp, 1946; Commandant, Central Military District, 1946–48.

4 Brigadier L. W. Andrew, VC, DSO; CO 22nd NZ Battalion, Jan 1940–Mar 1942; commanded 5th NZ Infantry Brigade, 27 Nov–6 Dec 1941; Fortress Commander, Wellington Area, 1942–43; Area Commander, Wellington, Nov 1943–Dec 1946; Commandant, Central Military District, 1948–.