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

446 — The Prime Minister (London) to the Hon. W. Nash

page 471

The Prime Minister (London) to the Hon. W. Nash

20 April 1945

Your telegram of 7 April [No. 442].

I have today had talks with Field Marshal Brooke and Air Vice-Marshal Saunders.1 Field Marshal Brooke is preparing an appreciation which he will send on to me regarding the possible deployment of a two-brigade force. It seems clear that the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff would welcome the idea of any such New Zealand force, particularly if it could be reorganised in the Middle East for immediate transfer to the concentration area, which would probably be South-East Asia Command. From the military point of view they would greatly prefer such a course to our taking the division back to New Zealand for re-forming there. The matter is of course one for both the Government Cabinet and War Cabinet to decide in the light of the facts, and particularly the figures of manpower available. We cannot overlook Freyberg's condemnatory message, but the matter will have to be re-examined in the light of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff appreciation. When it is received, I consider that the whole manpower problem—land, sea and air—should be reviewed together.

If it should be decided that land forces cannot be made available, it would no doubt be advisable to increase the air effort. In that event I think the air policy indicated in your telegram [No. 442] is as good a one as we can devise, but if a new division is to be formed then obviously we must save every man that we possibly can, and air and naval commitments must be re-examined and readjustments made accordingly. Saunders, who is now in charge of postings on the personnel side, explained the difficulties which are confronting the United Kingdom, the chief of which is the apparent decision of the Canadian Government to withdraw all their airmen after the war with Germany, with the exception of their Article 15 squadrons. The result of this policy is that the RAF can no longer post Canadians to RAF aircrew since their withdrawal will mean breaking up units and will necessitate complete reorganisation. The Australians have not so far indicated what their policy is to be.

Saunders stated quite frankly that the difficulty was not so much one of manpower as the desire to obtain New Zealanders, who have proved themselves to be of outstanding merit. I can only say that the final decision must be made in New Zealand when consideration has been given to the future deployment of our land forces.

1 Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Director-General of Postings at the Air Ministry respectively.