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

449 — New Zealand Military Liaison Officer (London) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (San Francisco)1

page 475

New Zealand Military Liaison Officer (London) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand (San Francisco)1

21 May 1945

Your telegram No. 11 of 8 May.2

The following appreciation concerning the future employment of the 2nd New Zealand Division is forwarded by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and dated 18 May:

‘1. In the war against Japan the course of operations may shape as follows:


Operations against the mainland of Japan. In addition to the British Pacific Fleet, it is possible that British Empire land and air forces will take part in these operations.


Operations into Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and Sumatra under South-East Asia Command.


Operations in the South-West Pacific area in the main Dutch islands of the East Indies.


Operations into the lesser islands of the East Indies, the completion of clearance of the Japanese from the islands around New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific such as Ocean and Nauru.

‘2. New Zealand was one of the countries most closely threatened by the advance of the Japanese in 1945–43. As a Pacific power she is vitally interested in the fate of Japan. It would be fitting were she to take part in operations against the Japanese. It would not, however, be easy for her to operate with the Americans, by reason of the difference of equipment and organisation, unless her Division formed part of a larger British Empire force.

‘3. There are important and arduous campaigns ahead of the South-East Asia Command in Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and Sumatra. The clearance of these areas is of importance not only from a military but also from an economic point of view. World conditions cannot get back to normal until the resources of this area are again available. In this theatre the 2nd New Zealand Division would be operating, as it has done for so long, alongside British and Indian armies and would be most appreciated.

‘4. Assuming that the 2nd New Zealand Division is to take part in operations in the Far East, the most convenient and logical place for reorganisation and training would be in the Middle East. This would probably enable the Division to become operational in the Far East

1 Repeated to the acting Prime Minister.

2 Not published. In this telegram to Brigadier Park the Prime Minister asked what was the position regarding the Chiefs of Staff appreciation and requested that it be repeated to the acting Prime Minister in Wellington.

page 476 early in 1946 and to take an important part in operations. If, on the other hand, it was necessary to return the Division to New Zealand for leave, reorganisation and training, considerable delay would result and the Division might only be able to take part in the closing stages of the war against Japan, and then only in subsidiary mopping-up operations.

‘5. If it should later prove possible for a British land force to take part in the assault on Japan, the New Zealand Division, if reorganised in the Middle East and employed in South-East Asia Command, would be well positioned to take part in this project.

‘6. The New Zealand forces under Field Marshal Alexander1 [in Italy] and in the Middle East consist of a composite division of one armoured brigade and three infantry brigades, together with a fairly comprehensive Base layout. It is understood that neither the Division nor its administrative tail could be maintained at present strength. In operations in the Pacific there is no opportunity for the employment of armour on the same scale as in Europe. The reduction of the Division by the removal of its armoured component would therefore be quite in keeping with the requirements of this theatre. If further reductions were necessary one more infantry brigade could be cut. Though this would have some adverse effect on the tactical handling of the Division, this disadvantage can be accepted. The size of the administrative tail would require adjustment to the availability of manpower and to the assistance which could be given to the Division by South-East Asia Command.

‘7. Conclusion. The 2nd New Zealand Division, reduced to two-brigade strength and backed by a reasonable administrative tail, could be used most effectively against the Japanese in South-East Asia Command, and possibly later as part of a British Empire force against Japan. It would be an advantage if it could be reorganised in the Middle East and moved thence to its new operational area.’

1 Field Marshal Earl Alexander, KG, PC, GCB, GCMG, CSI, DSO, MC; Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre, 1944–45.