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

426 — Letter from Major-General Barrowclough to the acting Prime Minister1

page 441

Letter from Major-General Barrowclough to the acting Prime Minister1

30 June 19442



I have the honour to write to you regarding a recent development which may have an important bearing on the question of leave for members of this Force, and on the question of the manner in which drafts returning to industry should be handled.

2Correspondence between General Barrowclough and Army Headquarters and between the General and the Prime Minister (or acting Prime Minister) in the period April – June 1944 was largely concerned with details of the release and return of men of 2nd NZEF IP for employment in New Zealand. These letters have not been reproduced in this volume.

A few days ago I received advice through Army Headquarters that War Cabinet had approved of the general principle that members of this Force might be granted leave in New Zealand, as and when shipping became available. I also received instructions to make enquiries as to whether the necessary shipping for these leave men could be provided by the American authorities, and so obviate the necessity for providing a leave ship such as the Wahine. I therefore came down to Noumea yesterday and this morning I called on Admiral Newton, with the object of obtaining his agreement that our tactical role was over for the time being, and that he would therefore have no objection to our sending men on leave. At the same time I asked whether he could arrange the necessary shipping to transport the leave men to New Zealand, and back again on the termination of their leave. Admiral Newton, as you know, has succeeded Admiral Halsey as Commander South Pacific.3

The Admiral told me that he was quite agreeable that leave should now be taken, provided of course that I had the approval of the New Zealand Government. He said also that we could have the use of American shipping, but pointed out that accommodation could be allotted to us only when it was not required elsewhere on more important tasks. From such further enquiries as I have been able to make, I anticipate no great difficulty in getting the men back to New Zealand as rapidly as they can be handled there. Indeed we shall have to be careful that we do not send them back in such numbers as would cause embarrassment to the railway and ferry services in New Zealand. The provision of shipping to bring the men back to New Caledonia at the conclusion of their leave was not so definite. The Admiral said he could bring them back, but he was by no means certain when. The men might have to be held for some time in camps in New Zealand pending the availability of shipping. This is a situation which is anything but desirable, but it may be inevitable.

1 Hon. D. G. Sullivan. At this date Mr Fraser was on his way back to New Zealand after attending a conference of Dominion Prime Ministers in London.

3 This change in command was announced on 15 June.

page 442

It was whilst we were discussing this aspect of the matter that the Admiral told me that he was preparing a recommendation that the whole Force (or rather the remnants of it) should be maintained in New Zealand rather than in New Caledonia. He explained that he had recently received advice that he would have to hold in New Caledonia considerably larger forces of American troops than had hitherto been planned. The limited port facilities in this country and the still more limited road facilities create a really major logistic problem in maintaining and supplying these additional troops. The Admiral thought it uneconomical and perhaps quite impracticable to maintain in New Caledonia a Force which has no immediate fighting role, and as to which there is at present no certainty as to whether it will or will not be reconstituted and built up to strength. He was therefore of opinion that the whole Force, with all its equipment, should be shipped back to New Zealand and maintained there until such time as it should again be ready for active employment.

Admiral Newton added that he did not wish it to be thought that they wanted to get rid of the 3rd New Zealand Division. He said he was sure that if it were reconstituted Admirals Halsey and Nimitz would be delighted to have us back again. He also pointed out that he could not estimate at present when shipping would be available to transport our ammunition and equipment.

This proposal is of course at variance with War Cabinet's present policy that in the meantime the Division should remain in New Caledonia in skeleton form, until a final decision should be made as to its future. I therefore thought it advisable to apprise you at once of what was in the Admiral's mind. I asked him if I might pass on what he had said, and he requested me to do so, but pointed out that the matter was still only in the planning stage and that the New Zealand Government would be approached officially on the subject in due course. I gathered that Admiral Newton would have to consult his immediate superiors before putting any formal proposals before you.

The Admiral said that it might be preferable if the proposal for the recall of the Force came from New Zealand. I did not gather that this was a fully considered observation, and I made no response to it, as I had no means of knowing your views upon the subject, and indeed I thought you would not wish to act upon such a vague suggestion, at all events until future policy had been decided in the light of the Prime Minister's conversations in England.

The fact that the temporary recall of this Force is a possibility will no doubt have important repercussions. It is obvious that over here I shall have to keep down to a minimum any camp installations that cannot readily be moved. In New Zealand it may be necessary to maintain camps which otherwise might have been pulled down. page 443 If a Division has to be concentrated and trained in New Zealand in preparation for its future employment in the Pacific war, extensive camp facilities would have to be maintained somewhere in New Zealand. I would respectfully draw your attention to the paramount importance of such a Division being concentrated in one area, and not being dispersed over two or three military districts.

The implications for New Zealand of Admiral Newton's proposals will be more apparent to you than they can be to me. I am sending over to Wellington my AA & QMG (Colonel Bennett).1 He is going primarily to discuss with Army Headquarters the question of the leave drafts, and particularly the numbers that can be accommodated at one time in New Zealand. Colonel Bennett was present during my discussions with Admiral Newton, and is more fully in touch with this position than any other member of my staff. This letter is being entrusted to his care for delivery to you, and should you desire to obtain any further information as to Admiral Newton's remarks, he will be available to you. Colonel Bennett is also particularly familiar with our administrative problems here.



(Sgd) H. E. Barrowclough


goc 2 nzef in the pacific

1 Col P. L. Bennett, DSO, MC, ED; AA & QMG, 3 NZ Div, 1943–44.