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

66 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

4 October 1940

In the light of the fighting in Poland and France, a committee under General Bartholomew1 was set up to consider reorganisation of the Army, and the following recommendations concerning the organisation of a division have been agreed to by the War Office:


The formation of a reconnaissance unit of headquarters and three companies, each consisting of motor-cycles, scout cars, Bren carriers, and infantry in trucks.


Field Artillery regiments to be three batteries, each of eight guns.


Divisional anti-tank artillery to be 76 2-pounder guns, twelve on self-propelled mounting with a reconnaissance unit, the remainder in four batteries each of sixteen guns; infantry anti-tank companies to be abolished.


The addition of one light anti-aircraft artillery regiment of 48 Bofors guns to the division.


The addition of one 6-inch howitzer regiment to the division.


One platoon of infantry for the protection of each division and brigade headquarters.


Battalion mortar platoons to be increased from two to six 3-inch mortars.


Two-inch mortars in battalions to be increased by one per section of carriers, that is, an extra four.


Infantry carrier platoons to be increased to fourteen carriers and some motor-cyclists.

My opinion is that the New Zealand Government should agree to these changes in principle, leaving the question of implementation to be decided by the availability of equipment.

1 General Sir William Henry Bartholomew, GCB, CMG, DSO; GOC-in-C, Northern Command, York, 1937–40; North Eastern Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence, 1940–45.

page 50

Details would require consideration but, generally speaking, (1) can be effected when equipment is available and I intend using infantry anti-tank personnel, (2) and (6) can be carried out immediately by me, (3), (7), (8), and (9) can be effected when equipment and personnel are available. While agreeing that the inclusion of (4) and (5) would increase the fighting power of the Division, I consider their provision at the moment, apart from additional expense, is not so important. They could be provided, starting with a battery of each. In any case, the weapons themselves will not be ready for many months.

While agreeing that New Zealand should adhere to the British organisation wherever possible, I feel that the above proposals do not go far enough in one respect as the Division would still lack mobile hitting and holding power. I suggest that a cruiser tank unit is wanted. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff1 originally suggested that although this would be an advantage it would be better to wait until a general change could be made. Later in the discussion he agreed that there was no reason why the New Zealand Expeditionary Force should not depart from the normal by adding a unit to the divisional organisation under the nomenclature of Corps troops, as already done by us in the case of the Machine Gun Battalion and Reserve Mechanical Transport Company, and by the Canadians who have already added brigade reconnaissance groups, &c. I strongly recommend therefore that, in addition to the nine agreed changes, the addition of a battalion of cruiser tanks be made enabling me to regroup the 2nd NZEF by making an armoured brigade consisting of:


Divisional Cavalry Regiment—already in existence but to be re-equipped with scout cars and carriers.


Cruiser tank battalion—additional.


27th Machine Gun Battalion—already in existence.


Battalion of infantry in the section existing for Reserve Mechanical Transport Company—this will not need any increase as there are already ten battalions in the Division.


To this group can be attached a regiment from the Divisional Artillery.

1 Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff during the war were:

7 Sep 1939 – 26 May 1940Field-Marshal Lord Ironside, GCB, CMG, DSO (then General Sir William Edmund Ironside).
27 May 1940 – 24 Dec 1941Field-Marshal Sir John Greer Dill, GCB, CMG, DSO (then General Sir John Dill). Head of British Joint Staff Mission, Washington, 1942–death, 4 Nov 1944.
25 Dec 1941 – 25 Jun 1946Field-Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke, KG, GCB, OM, DSO (in 1941, General Sir Alan Francis Brooke).
page 51

General Wavell, with whom I have talked over the above recommendations, is in complete agreement with the proposals as outlined by me. With such a brigade the Division would be a most formidable fighting formation, well fitted to undertake any operation in the Western Desert with an undoubted reduction in casualties. Doubtless you will receive through the Liaison Officer further advice from the War Office.1

1 Subsequent telegrams from the New Zealand Liaison Officer in London to Army Headquarters (Wellington) contained details of the reorganisation and have not been reproduced in this volume.