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

454 — General Freyberg to the acting Prime Minister — [Extract]

General Freyberg to the acting Prime Minister

14 June 1945

Reference your telegram of 9 June [No. 452].

Your manpower difficulties, together with the necessity for New Zealand to send a force against the Japanese, will necessitate our accepting a smaller force and a lower standard of rearward services. I am therefore suggesting further cuts in the establishments of the Division and Line of Communication units. I consider that with 16,000 it will be possible to organise a division of two infantry brigades with the necessary supporting arms and its own Line of Communication. Five thousand reinforcements will enable us to carry on through 1946 and leave a small surplus to meet the increases in war establishments which always occur.

In my telegram of 11 April [No. 445] I questioned the numbers in your telegram of 8 April [No. 444]. I doubted whether your estimate of 15,000 would be available at the end of the war with Germany after the departure of the 6th to 10th Reinforcements. My reason was that you allowed 3000 for wastage to the end of 1945 in the 11th to 16th Reinforcements who would remain. I had to take a conservative view and I calculated that wastage would be 2000 greater as reclassified ex-3rd Division men alone totalled 3133. The early page 482 finish of the war in Europe eases the situation. We know now that firm figures for those remaining are:

11th to 15th Reinforcements, plus 400 entitled officers 12,000
16th Reinforcements (still to come) 3,000 to 4,000
Total available 15,000 to 16,000

Note: It is to be urged that the 16th Reinforcements should be kept as high as possible.

With these figures it is possible to organise a force comprising a two-brigade division, plus Line of Communication, and to provide for sick permanently in hospital. It will be necessary, however, to have first reinforcements for 1946 ready and trained in our training depots before the force takes the field. Totals are:

Division (two infantry brigades), detailed War Establishment later in cable1 12,622
Line of Communication 2,500
Sick in hospital (at 5 per cent) 800
Total 15,922
First reinforcements for 1946 2,500

If only 15,000 are available we shall have to make further reductions as follows, but in my opinion this is a most inadvisable step:

One Field Regiment 641
One Field Company, Royal Engineers 259
Total 900

These figures can only be taken as approximately correct.

Dealing with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff's appreciation,2 I have the following observations to make. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff does not know that the third New Zealand infantry brigade was formed not by increasing the strength of the Division but by cutting out units no longer effective in the Italian theatre. Some of these units, however, may be required in South-East Asia Command. We disbanded or changed the following to form the third infantry brigade: Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, part of the Anti-Tank Regiment, 22nd Motor Battalion, Machine Gun Battalion, Divisional Cavalry Regiment. If we now give up this brigade plus all

1 The War Establishment is not published.

2 No. 449.

page 483 our tanks we shall become tactically unbalanced as a force. We shall in any case have to re-form an armoured reconnaissance unit and may have to increase some of our defensive weapons.

In his appreciation the Chief of the Imperial General Staff considered that 15,000 will be sufficient to form a two-infantry brigade division with the necessary ancillaries. With this we agree, but it will not be sufficient to form the Division, plus the force necessary to maintain it overseas, and leave any margin. He must realise this, but hopes we can contract the administrative tail by using South-East Asia Command aid. We all know that this would not be a success. His desire to get a New Zealand force under any conditions has led him to urge a weak case. The New Zealand War Cabinet will, after seeing the figures, realise the very narrow margin and the difficulties that will face the Commander of the new force in the field during the early stages. A generous scale of reinforcement will correct this position later in 1946.

I am glad that War Cabinet have decided that we should form our own rearward services within the limit of our manpower, and this we are proposing should be done. I will examine the South-East Asia Command rearward services and see if further savings can be made.

Your suggested proposal to send a Fijian brigade may enable us to solve many of our difficulties. I do not of course know the Fijians as soldiers. I have spoken on this subject with Brigadier Gentry and he bears out all I have heard of them, and I feel that they might be used in our existing organisation. General Puttick would be able to say if my proposals here would appear practical. If the Fijians are in addition to the 16,000 it will enable us to form a three infantry brigade division.

In any case we can make additional savings in existing war establishments by disbanding the existing Armoured Brigade; disbanding the Anti-Tank Regiment; reducing the Army Service Corps; cutting Line of Communication to 2500; disbanding one infantry battalion per brigade; making three-battalion brigades by placing one Fijian battalion with each of our three infantry brigades; substituting Fijians for New Zealanders in a company of Divisional Engineers and in defence platoons for the brigades and the Division.

But we should have to provide men for re-forming an armoured reconnaissance unit.

The suggested reorganisation of the Division would then be as follows:

[A detailed schedule showing by units the numbers of New Zealand personnel required for a two-brigade division and New Zealand and Fijian personnel for a three-brigade division has been omitted.]

page 484

…. The division so planned would still keep the bulk of its heavy weapons such as a full Divisional Artillery and Mechanical Equipment Company, and would still have light and medium tanks in its Reconnaissance Regiment.

This proposal involves a far-reaching reorganisation, and a great deal of training would be required before the new division could take the field. But given time, and with the retention of experienced brigade, unit and sub-unit commanders, it could be achieved and would produce a fighting formation worthy of upholding the traditions of the 2nd New Zealand Division.

The smooth working of the reorganisation would be greatly assisted by getting our first reinforcements over in the Middle East in time to complete their training before the Division took the field early in 1946.

As you realise, this establishment is provisional, and it would have to be considered in the light of my visit to South-East Asia Command. Time presses, and when I have your views upon these outline proposals I will fly to South-East Asia Command to go more closely into all questions of organisation.

The situation here is quiet. The Yugoslavs left Trieste last Tuesday.1 All our plans for the move back to Egypt are in train. We await confirmation of shipping dates.

I do not want to move the force from this healthy area to a malarial one until necessary.

Would you please acknowledge this cable.

1 See Vol. II, Trieste.