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

378 — Letter from the Governor of Fiji to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

Letter from the Governor of Fiji to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

8 July 1943

My Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing about the matter of the Fiji Brigade, only to say how very sorry I am that, so early after the arrangements made with your General Staff to act as Godfather to the Brigade, there should have been a difference of opinion. I will not go over the ground again, but I should like to say that had we not last Autumn, on the advice of the Commandant here and the American Commanding General, and with the concurrence of the New Zealand Government, embarked on the formation of a Brigade, and had we not been engaged ever since with the greatest activity in training and preparing it for foreign service, it would have been at any rate possible for me to agree to what your C.G.S. now wants. I say possible advisedly, for I still think it would have been most unwise; for however excellent page 399 people's intentions are, small detached native units inevitably tend to become fatigue and labour units; they get homesick and misunderstandings occur with European officers and other ranks of the units to which they are attached, and the thing usually ends in a miserable story of bickering and recrimination and with what is usually called by soldiers a mutiny. That is to say the native troops get mulish, sit down and say they must go home.

It must be remembered after all that, with few exceptions, none of them can speak English and that the vast majority are simple-minded folks from the interior of the larger Islands or from the small Islands of the Group, who are very easily depressed in strange surroundings.

I had not myself ever thought that to break up the Brigade would be suggested now, especially as the question of the garrison of Fiji is in fact solving itself for, as far as we can now foresee, at least an American Division will always be recuperating here from malarial areas further forward, and once the present operations clear the Solomons to Bougainville such a Division will be ample and more than ample for the garrison of Fiji.

The matter must rest in abeyance at the moment, but when the offensive is a little further forward I will take it up myself with the American Commanders. There seems to be some misunderstanding in Puttick's mind, because the proposal that the Brigade complete should be attached to the New Zealand Forces has not, according to my information from Noumea, reached American Headquarters there. Be that as it may, however, the matter must now remain in abeyance.

With great good wishes and hopes for your success in the forth-coming election, together with grateful thanks for all you have done for us in the past,

Yours sincerely


(Sgd) P. E. Mitchell