Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
207 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister
General Freyberg to the Prime Minister
There is no doubt that the German Army has suffered a disaster of the first magnitude in North Africa, second only to Stalingrad. The German General Staff clearly intended to hold here, and the speed with which they have been smashed is a great blow to their military prestige and the efficiency of their equipment.
The conclusion of the campaign here releases two British armies and French and American forces, together with immense air forces, for the next phase of the war. The stage has been reached where I felt that a review of the situation as I see it might be of assistance to the New Zealand Government.
In my opinion the forecast for the future is favourable provided full advantage is taken of our opportunities. We must ensure that Germany does not cripple Russia in the third offensive. The enemy's resources must be stretched by carrying out attacks wherever they can be launched successfully.
An important factor in opening a new front is the existence of a highly organised supply and maintenance system essential for a mechanised army. As we learnt in Algeria, a base system takes many months to build up and without it neither the Army nor the Air Force can operate successfully. The Allies now have three bases stocked and available—England, Egypt, and French North Africa. Without knowing future plans and expressing merely my own opinion, I feel that the opening of a Second Front in France at present would be unwise. The army in England lacks fighting experience while the veteran German Army mans the highly organised defences on the French coast. We cannot afford to make a mistake at this stage, and a safer plan would appear to be to stretch the enemy by carrying out attacks along the Mediterranean coast from bases in Egypt on the east and French North Africa on the west. A new front in France could be opened when the full force of these attacks has stretched Axis resources and weakened the Germany Army in France.page 175
To carry out this policy we have in the Middle East at present not only our best trained and most experienced troops but also a strong Navy and very powerful air forces, which up till now have been fully employed in North Africa. Italy is now at the mercy of the joint air forces, which will soon reduce her already low morale. Any anti-war movement in Italy will be reflected immediately throughout her war-weary and dispirited army in Albania, Greece, and Yugoslavia, where there are about twenty-eight Italian divisions.
I feel that the present initiative should be exploited and every opportunity taken to fight Germany quickly and fiercely on as broad a front as possible, and, in my opinion, if this is done the summer campaigning months of 1943 may prove decisive.