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

123 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

1 February 1942

Major-General Freyberg has just advised us that the New Zealand Division has again been ordered to move for a full operational role in the Western Desert. We have of course told him that we must page 93 accept the position, but that we are most disappointed that circumstances already require further operations by the New Zealand Division so soon after its recent heavy losses, and that we assume that nothing but the serious nature of the emergency has made this step necessary. We have also asked him to convey this communication to the Commander-in-Chief.

I feel you should be told that the ill-informed comments emanating recently from America and elsewhere concerning the very large forces retained inactive in the United Kingdom as compared with the needs elsewhere, the despatch of American troops to Northern Ireland, and the use of Dominion forces in the Middle East have been taken up with some force in this Dominion and were indeed reflected, with some degree of embarrassment to us, at the secret session of Parliament yesterday. The New Zealand Forces certainly have had their full share of heavy fighting and have, as you know, suffered very grievous losses, and I greatly fear that their renewed employment will add weight to this point of view, especially since their employment now will be misrepresented here as an indication that their last campaign was useless and that the job must be done again. Indeed, point may well be added to a demand that the New Zealand Forces should be returned to the Pacific area to meet the danger nearer home. As you know, such consensus of sentiments may have mischievous results. To counter any such propaganda and to allay any possible public feeling, I should be most grateful if you would let me have, as far as possible for public use, a full statement of the number of troops at present held in the United Kingdom and of the reasons for their retention—reasons which I do not for a moment suggest are not completely conclusive.