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

65 — General Freyberg to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington) — [Extract]

General Freyberg to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington)

8 August 1942

Your telegram of 5 August (No. 62) was received with thanks and with much relief.

The policy as to where the New Zealand Expeditionary Force is to fight is purely a matter for the New Zealand Government. However, I must make administrative plans ahead, and for these purposes it would appear that it is the intention to keep the 2nd NZEF in the Middle East for at least another six months. During that period the 2nd New Zealand Division must be available for such active service as is required of it.

The estimated ‘total loss’ to date is 3250, made up of killed, died of wounds, missing, and one-third of the wounded. On that page 48 basis the reinforcement position at the moment shows a small surplus of 150, which is negligible. It is obvious that casualties in the present action are not yet finished. ‘Total loss’ is increasing daily.

The next draft can presumably not arrive before the middle of October and will require acclimatisation and training before they are employed forward. They will be available for absorption about November, i.e., in about four months time. This draft when it arrives will only compensate for losses in the four months preceding its arrival and will not be available as hitherto to meet losses in the next following four months.

In other words, the 2nd NZEF will show a steady fall below establishment from now on until the draft arrives and will then momentarily be up to establishment again.

The full draft of 2500 thus cannot really meet the requirements of keeping the force up to establishment for the period following its arrival, but will only compensate for losses already incurred.

You will thus appreciate that with active operations ahead from now onward it will be necessary to ask that the full 2500 in both cases be sent. In fact, to put us in the very satisfactory position occupied hitherto, we would require a first draft of about 4700, of which 2500 would bring us up to establishment on the date of arrival and 2200 would allow for wastage in the following three months, i.e., until the arrival of the next draft.

Base establishments have already been combed out here and depots left with minimum staffs pending the arrival of reinforcements.

We will have, therefore, to leave the size of the draft to be fixed by the Government at the highest figure that the manpower situation will allow….1

1 Details of the composition of the draft have been omitted.

On 29 Aug War Cabinet approved the despatch to the Middle East of 5500 men, inclusive of a tank battalion and a proportion of technical personnel. Headquarters 2nd NZEF was advised of this decision on 31 Aug—see Formation of New Zealand Armoured Brigade (No. 89). This draft, the 8th Reinforcements (5492 all ranks) sailed from New Zealand in the Aquitania on 12 Dec 1942.