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

98 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

19 September 1941

Your telegram of 16 September (No. 96).

My telegram of 13 September (No. 95) was intended to notify you that the period of refitting and training the Division was over and that we were moving to the Western Desert for a possible operational role.

The answers to your questions are:


We are at present engaged in intensive desert training for defensive or offensive operations.


Our role has not yet been disclosed. As you will realise, it depends on many circumstances.


The Division is probably the best-equipped unit in the Middle East and is right up to War Establishment except for items which are not available here or are at present in process of being made up.


Deficiencies at present are twenty-eight light tanks for the Divisional Cavalry and a proportion of light anti-aircraft guns, both of which will shortly be supplied. The Anti-Aircraft Regiment is at present on aerodrome defence duties but is returning to the Division shortly for training in mobile desert operations. The shortage of anti-tank rifles in the 5th Brigade is to be made up shortly.

page 72
(5) Yes. The Division is trained, and when the deficiencies mentioned in paragraph (4)

are made up it will be fit for war in every way.


The importance of armoured fighting vehicles is fully realised, and our strength is now much greater and adequate to deal with the estimated situation in the Western Desert.


The importance of air support is realised and no operations could be contemplated unless it is adequate. The situation, of course, is entirely different from Crete, as fighter aerodromes are available at all stages. Since your visit here the attitude to air co-operation between the Royal Air Force and the Army has completely changed. The Royal Air Force are doing their utmost, and combined exercises are being carried out.

I do not think there is any division in the Middle East superior to ours. I am certain that as a force we have been treated better than any other in respect of equipment, and when we get our light tanks, which are promised, and our Anti-Aircraft Regiment is trained and desert-worthy, we shall be well trained and fit for war. As may be realised, there is a vital need for secrecy at the moment, and I earnestly ask that no public statement be made just now other than that the Division is in good heart. The Commander-in-Chief has seen a copy of your telegram and of this reply.

A reply to your telegram of 17 September (No. 97) will be sent shortly.