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

439 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom — [Extract]

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

9 September 1944

pefraNo. 4.

Thank you for making available to us your message to Mr Curtin, winch No. 3, the implications of which are of immediate concern to New Zealand.

You are well aware of the problem we face in regard to our two divisions, and I appreciate the ready acceptance given by yourself and the Chiefs of Staff to the general understanding that our 2nd Division should return from Italy, when it could be spared, in order to enable us to build up a new division for service in the war against Japan….1

From the tentative plans being discussed while I was in London it was assumed that a New Zealand division would take its place with United Kingdom and Australian divisions in a British Commonwealth force, but it would appear from your telegram to Mr Curtin that the British Commonwealth task force—land, sea and air—is now rated only as a second alternative to a British naval force, which it is desired should serve with the Americans.

This continued lack of certainty as to the probable future use of our men, and the rapidly changing circumstances in Europe, have rendered it impracticable to reach any final decision. At this stage, however, we page 462 have come to the conclusion we should decide that our Division in Europe should continue to be maintained and that its future should be reviewed at the close of the Italian campaign, and further, that the cadres of the 3rd (Pacific) Division should therefore be disbanded and the men used as replacements and reinforcements for the 2nd Division. It will be appreciated that this course will necessarily delay the building up of another Pacific division should such a force be required.

In view of its bearing on the future participation of New Zealand troops in the war, I would be glad to have at the earliest possible opportunity the decision of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as to their present plans for the participation of British Commonwealth forces in the Pacific.

1 See Withdrawal of 2nd NZEF IP, No. 433, for this portion of the text.