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

418 — The Prime Minister to Major-General Barrowclough

The Prime Minister to Major-General Barrowclough

10 March 1944

1. With reference to my telegram to Admiral Halsey, repeated to you through Colonel Salmon, the Government have found it necessary to raise with the highest United Kingdom and United States authorities the question of the future employment of the New Zealand Forces in relation to manpower, both as regards reinforcements for overseas and the urgent needs of food production. Over the past few weeks we have received a number of urgent requests from the United Kingdom Government to increase food production. The Minister of Food advised us that the meat and dairy produce position was becoming worse as each day passes, and New Zealand's production was of vital importance to the people of the United Kingdom and to the Armed Forces. He states if this production declines there is no hope of making good the prospective deficiencies from any other source and it will mean a curtailment for civilian and service rations alike.

2. Both the United Kingdom and United States Chiefs of Staff have examined the case put forward through Mr Nash, and the balance of opinion is in favour of retention of the Mediterranean forces. The relevant paragraph in the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff memorandum is repeated for your information:

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‘Turning to the force of two brigade groups which has been taking part in operations in the Solomon Islands, apart from the fact that operations in this theatre are of secondary importance compared with those in which the New Zealand Division in Italy is engaged, it appears to us that, with the successful conclusion of the Solomon Islands campaign, the immediate need for the maintenance of this force may have diminished. The Pacific war is one in which the availability of land forces is not likely to be a governing factor. Moreover, the transference to New Zealand of these two brigade groups would present less of a shipping problem than any large-scale withdrawal from the Mediterranean and could be carried out in the time available. Our conclusion therefore is that the immediate need for manpower for the production of meat and dairy produce should be met by the temporary withdrawal of the two New Zealand brigade groups engaged in the Solomon Islands. This would enable New Zealand to tide over the period when labour demands are at their highest, namely from August to December. We may reasonably hope that developments in the European theatre will be such as to allow of the later withdrawal of part or all of the New Zealand Division in time enough to constitute a complete division for further operations in the Pacific in 1945. We realise the importance which the New Zealand Government attaches to New Zealand forces playing their full part in the Pacific war. We suggest, however, that there will be ample scope for the employment there of a New Zealand Division in 1945, and that in the meanwhile New Zealand can be well represented in that theatre by her Navy and Air Force.’

3. The text of the United States Chiefs of Staff's comments are as follows:

‘Reference OZ 995.1 We have studied CCS 4992 and concur in the recommendations contained therein, subject to the following:


The New Zealand Government should be requested to furnish the Combined Chiefs of Staff with definite figures on the number of men required to be withdrawn from the armed forces for the purposes indicated.


Such withdrawals should be made from the New Zealand Army forces in the South-West Pacific considered as a whole rather than limiting consideration solely to the 3rd New Zealand Division. The New Zealand Government and the Commander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Forces should confer and jointly determine the units from which these withdrawals will be made.

1 The British Chiefs of Staff's memorandum of 23 February.

2 See Vol. II, No. 375. CCS 499 was a memorandum dated 26 Feb 1944 from the British Chiefs of Staff to the British representatives on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It contained a summary of the British Chiefs of Staff's recommendations.

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The withdrawals should not be made prior to the completion of forearm and mercantile1 and the consolidation of those positions.’

4. The whole question is being discussed by Parliament in secret session and with farmers' organisations, who are being asked to institute a new production programme based on the release of men from the Armed Forces referred to in my message to Admiral Halsey. I have learned from General Puttick of comsopac's plans for the future employment of the 3rd Division, but before consenting to such use we must know that the actions contemplated will not interfere with the need for having the proportion of the men most urgently required back in New Zealand for the beginning of the production year next July. I would be grateful for your immediate comments on these points.

1 These were the code-names for operations against Kavieng airfield on New Ireland and against Manus (Admiralty) Island respectively.