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

Overseas Operations

Overseas Operations

1. With reference to my memorandum S. 25/18 of 31 July, from a preliminary study of the problem I have the following observations to submit.

2. From the outset, it was clear that in view of the present state of the forces, the problem was a major one requiring very considerable energy and concentration in order to have the proposed force ready at the date suggested. Among the major difficulties involved are the following:


Distribution of manpower within the Army.

As has been previously reported to War Cabinet, all formations and units in New Zealand—with the exception of the Tank Brigade and 3rd Division—include many men under or over age and of medical categories below NZEF requirements. Any of these formations or units chosen for overseas must have such men replaced.

Measures have already been taken in this direction under the scheme providing for all men of Grade I, 20–41 years of age, being concentrated in divisions and the remainder in garrison units. This action has just been commenced and will take probably two months to complete.


NZEF Reinforcements.

The 3rd Division was built up almost entirely from NZEF reinforcements. The 9th Reinforcements after training were posted to various units throughout New Zealand but care has been taken to keep a record of them so that they could be assembled if necessary.

If it is decided to send reinforcements to Middle East the withdrawal of 9th Reinforcements will further reduce the present under-strength units of the New Zealand Army. Any withdrawal of NZEF reinforcements from 3rd Division would naturally disorganise that Division and is not recommended. Any number required in excess of 9th Reinforcements should be obtained more or less equally from the other divisions and the garrison troops….1

1 Several paragraphs have been omitted. They dealt with inoculation arrangements, appeal procedure, final leave, age limits for 2nd NZEF, equipment, secrecy, unit strengths, and with a proposed rearrangement of Home Defence forces in the Auckland province after the departure of the force.

page 355

Return of 3rd Division from Fiji.

Some 2000 men of all arms will not have returned until about 9 August. This means that they will not complete their leave till about 30 August. If the force is to be ready by 25 August, these men will not be available but they will replace units and sub-units that will have to be taken from the other divisions….



It is clear from the circumstances outlined in the preceding paragraphs that there will be little time available for additional training. Until the various units are made up to strength with men of the proper category I will not be able to form an opinion as to the efficiency of the units. As however the men will come from various sources, there will not be such cohesion as I would desire and I would expect that the training of some of the men will be found deficient in certain respects. This situation illustrates firstly the necessity for completing with all speed the measures already in train to have our divisions made up solely of men suitable for overseas in all respects, secondly the importance of avoiding as far as possible any interference with their personnel once they are so made up, and thirdly the urgency involved in all matters relating to the force now under consideration.

As regards possible deficiencies in training, the units likely to be most affected are the artillery (of all natures) though it is expected that in this arm and all others there will be a considerable proportion of men who have had a good deal of training.

Whether or not deficiencies in training should be accepted depends upon the nature of the task for which the troops are required initially, and the urgency that may be involved in effecting a relief of United States troops for further offensive operations.

I estimate that the urgency is likely to be great and that this may be one of those occasions where the scope and nature of the operations justifies the acceptance of such risks as are involved in the employment of incompletely trained troops.

Our observations of the United States troops in Fiji suggest that these troops were not particularly well-trained and that probably they were regarded as suitable, in their present state, only for garrison duties.

It is dangerous to assume that troops will be used only for the restricted operations for which they have been page 356 despatched, such as garrison duties, as the course of operations may require their employment otherwise. An example of this is the British garrison units sent to Egypt in 1915, who had to be employed in active operations against the Senussi, for which they were unsuitable.

Nevertheless, circumstances may require the acceptance of this risk, but every effort should be made by all concerned, both before and after the despatch of the troops, to fit them for all operations of war.

3. Effect of the despatch of Force ‘D’ on defence of New Zealand

Omitting any consideration of the effect the operations may have in increasing the security of New Zealand, I now submit some observations on the effect the despatch of Force ‘D’ will have on the forces available for Home Defence:


On the return of the 3rd Division from Fiji, the state of the forces in New Zealand, provided establishments are filled, will be approximately as under:

Approved establishment 75,000
Tank Brigade 4,000
3rd Division 10,000
Deduct ‘D’ Force 20,000
Remaining in New Zealand 69,000

On present strengths, i.e., without deducting men absent from units for leave, sickness, and industry, the position is:

Strength 66,000
Tank Brigade 4,000
3rd Division 10,000
Deduct ‘D’ Force 20,000
With units in New Zealand 60,000

If men absent from units are deducted (12,000) the strength actually with units would be approximately 48,000, but the effect of the draw-off for industry is not yet fully known and may reduce this figure by another 4000 to 44,000. In emergency the men absent from units (less page 357 4500 sick) would rejoin, increasing the above totals of men with units to 55,000. Men from the last ballot are not included in the strengths and these, together with men from future ballots, would of course improve the position.


The principal effect of the despatch of ‘D’ Force, however, would be the disappearance of the Army Reserve Brigade Group, and a weakening of the forces in the immediate vicinity of Auckland through the absorption of the 3rd Division in ‘D’ Force. A somewhat similar situation at Auckland was created on the despatch of the 37th United States Division to Fiji and it was met to some extent by the transfer of an Army Tank battalion from Waiouru to Papakura area. If ‘D’ Force proceeds, I tentatively propose to strengthen the position near Auckland by the following measures, or some such re-arrangement of the forces: …1

1 Details omitted.