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

363 — Lieutenant-General Puttick to Admiral Halsey

page 388

Lieutenant-General Puttick to Admiral Halsey

19 June 1943

Your reply of 18 [17] June [No. 361] correctly states the understanding that the 3rd New Zealand Division would be brought to full strength, and in fact this had been approved some time ago by War Cabinet and all the units required, with the exception of one battalion of Maoris, were and still are awaiting shipment to New Caledonia. Since War Cabinet approval, however, strong public feeling arose that the 2nd New Zealand Division should return from Africa or, alternatively, that long-service men of that division should be given furlough here. After Cabinet discussions in which the Chiefs of Staff strongly recommended that the 2nd Division should remain overseas, the matter was discussed by Parliament in secret session and a War Cabinet proposal to adopt a furlough scheme was agreed to. The great strain on manpower was emphasised in Parliament, and the Prime Minister stated we could not provide furlough replacements of 2nd Division and expand the Air Force and at the same time complete the 3rd Division, but would make adjustments between troops awaiting embarkation and troops actually with the division. The urgent request of Fiji to employ one brigade of its force in the combat zone seemed to offer a good opportunity of completing the 3rd Division without breaking the Prime Minister's pledge, subject of course to your approval of this reduction in forces for the defence of Fiji. There is no prospect of completing the division from our own resources. The best we can do is to send the required artillery and services to balance the forces in exchange for two battalions now there, which has the effect of reducing the division to a two-combat-team or two-brigade division, and absorbing the two battalions as reinforcements. I cannot see how the use of Fiji troops to complete the 3rd Division in any way affects the interchangeability of the 3rd Division with an American division, but I readily recognise of course your responsibility to determine the strength of the garrison required in Fiji. Would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the question with you at your headquarters if you still feel unable to approve the proposal.