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

70 — The Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (Cairo) to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand1

page 53

The Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (Cairo) to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand1

23 May 1941

General Williams's movements have now been altered,2 and he expects to leave Cairo on Friday 23 May, staying two days at Basra, a week at Singapore, and arriving at Darwin on 7 June and Sydney on 9 June. He will then stay a week in Australia, arriving in New Zealand on 15 June. I have had a preliminary discussion with him on general questions and in particular on manpower. He strongly recommends the immediate institution in New Zealand of a school of instruction for armoured fighting vehicles, which would give us the additional advantage of obtaining some forty tanks for training purposes in New Zealand, and which could be used in operations if the necessity arose. This would [mean] our agreeing to raise a tank brigade, for which about half the men required are already allowed for and are in Egypt. If the proposal to reform the Anzac Corps is adhered to we would be required to produce our proportion of Corps troops, and the additional commitment of manpower for these troops and for the complete tank brigade would amount to 7000 men to be allowed for this year. On the other hand, the return to active service of sick and wounded, which has not been provided for in our manpower calculations, will reduce the total number of 16,000 per annum formerly adopted to 10,000 per annum, and as the reinforcement required for Corps troops and the tank brigade would normally amount to 3000 per annum, this would make a total estimated annual reinforcement from 1942 onwards of 13,000, as against our previous estimate of 16,000.3

General Williams will also have proposals for an armoured division amounting to some 25,000 men to be supplied from New Zealand, probably from the Territorial forces, if and when the Far Eastern situation warrants sending these troops abroad. However, he has temporarily abandoned this proposal, which will, no doubt, be raised with me in London, and to which it seems to me there are insuperable objections. My own feeling is that we would be expected to provide our proportion of Corps troops, and I am favourably disposed towards the tank brigade proposals which have already been approved and partially provided for; further, training in New Zealand has clear defence advantages. But I think that these matters would be entirely page 54 for consideration in Wellington, and I am advising you of the facts in order that you may give the matter preliminary consideration before General Williams arrives. Meanwhile, as a tank brigade of some kind obviously will be required by the New Zealand Division, I have approved the training here of the necessary instructors, some 100 men, who, if the proposal to train the brigade in New Zealand is not proceeded with, will be utilised here. I have not yet discussed these proposals with Freyberg, who may perhaps object to the training of the tank brigade in New Zealand, but the advantages of this course are so great that I hope to obtain his approval when I meet him.

1 Hon. W. Nash.

2 A telegram from Mr. Fraser (in Cairo) on 19 May advised the New Zealand Government of the probable dates of General Williams's departure from the Middle East and arrival in Australia.