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

357 — Letter from Major-General Barrowclough to Lieutenant-General Puttick

Letter from Major-General Barrowclough to Lieutenant-General Puttick

30 May 1943

My Dear [General]


Bassett2 and another officer from General Harmon's Headquarters came up here on Friday and spent all Saturday with us. Bassett was able to give me confidentially a statement as to the plans that were in contemplation for the conduct of the War in the South Pacific area for the balance of this year and in the course of his conversation he told me that General Harmon was counting on the employment of this Division in the not very distant future. The tentative date set was the end of July but I think it probable that actual events will be behind the programme by as much as two or three weeks. General page 384 Harmon was apparently anxious that this Division should be completed as soon as possible so that it would be ready for that role. The General fully understands that the consent of the New Zealand Government would first be required and I understand he proposes shortly to discuss the proposed operation with me so that I can report thereon to you for the information of War Cabinet.

I asked Bassett whether this information could be passed on to New Zealand as it seemed to me that it should have a very great bearing on the questions which are now being considered, or possibly have been considered, in relation to the 2nd and 3rd Divisions. Bassett explained that it would be in order for me to apprise you of the situation but, in the meantime, it must not go beyond you. General Harmon's plans have yet to be submitted to comsopac and it is thought that unfavourable repercussions might arise if the proposals came back to comsopac from War Cabinet before they had been finally approved by comsopac.

I therefore immediately drafted a cable to give you such information as I could regarding the proposals so that you at least would appreciate this new aspect of the problem. I regret that at the moment my hands are tied and I have to stipulate that the information is for you only and not to be passed on to War Cabinet. I hope, however, that in the near future it may be possible to explain the situation to War Cabinet.

I am not able to say anything more about the contemplated operation, and, indeed, I am not further informed on the matter; but I understand the proposals for this Division would involve a complete Division of full strength. I cannot help feeling that it would be a serious setback to our prestige in this part of the world if, after some of us had been in New Caledonia for six months, we were compelled to decline the offer of a combat role at such a time as the present. I gather from Bassett that no other Division will be available to undertake this role if we cannot accept it and comsopac's plans would therefore be very seriously curtailed by our inability to participate. I cannot help feeling that this would put us considerably offside with the Americans and that we might thereby lose a good deal of the prestige that has been won for us in another part of the globe by the very great performances of the 2nd Division.

Once again I am compelled by circumstances to require that the contents of this letter should be communicated to no one other than yourself, in the meantime.

With kind regards,


(Sgd) H. E. Barrowclough

2 Col W. Bassett, Legion of Merit (US); NZ Liaison Officer with Headquarters US Army Forces in South Pacific Area.