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

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

page 467

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

7 April 1945

My telegram [No. 442].

The general political issues involved in the proposals contained in my telegram were discussed generally in both Government and War Cabinets. On the place for the reorganisation of the land force, opinion was divided. The sentiment of both the men and their relatives would certainly be that it should be done here, particularly since it will be six months or more before the force can be ready for operations. If, however, the men return home, it is doubtful whether a force would ever become available at all. There would be pressure for the release of men and for the limitation of categories. There would be losses through questionable medical boardings, although we could take some measures to limit this. There would be incidents if men refused to proceed overseas. Shipping difficulties would certainly cause serious delays to the despatch of the force, assuming one could be marshalled, and it would be nearer to 1947 before it would be available for operations.

2. Reorganisation overseas would certainly cause disappointment to men and relatives alike. There may even be incidents, but discipline overseas can be more effective and the men more readily controlled. Moreover, training can be done with greater expedition and effect. A decision to adopt this course, particularly if it is announced at the same time that the force is limited in size, that no man over 35 years or with more than two children, and only men of two years' or less service will be employed, should prove generally acceptable. It would be clear that our action was consistent and fair to all men. It would mean that we had a force and that it was available on the earliest date for operations.

3. Caucus, while favouring return to New Zealand for reorganisation, would, I feel, in the light of our detailed proposals as to size and general qualifications for service, acquiesce in the general view of the Government and War Cabinets that the force should be reorganised overseas. We all agree that decisions as to our future course of action should be taken as soon as practicable and that they should then be communicated fully and frankly to the men and the public. There will be growls and complaints, but we shall have to meet these.

4. The area where the force might operate was discussed, and we all feel it would be more satisfactory as to command and otherwise if it served either under British command or with the Australians. We have no information as to the likely roles and cannot therefore assess which would be preferred. The United Kingdom authorities may be able to give you some information on which a decision could be taken.

page 468

5. There are strong reasons in favour of the force operating with the Australians. They are our nearest neighbours. We are close politically and will continue to be. It would renew and fortify the traditions and spirit of Anzac. There is, however, some doubt, and this particularly because of the fact that the force will not be more than two-brigade strength, whether we are likely to get the most effective employment for our force with the Australians. We have experience of operations with British units which have already been satisfactory.

6. It is of course not possible to carry the matter further until we have some appreciation of likely employment.

7. There is also the question of command. We would consider Freyberg's desires and views, as well as also the rigorous conditions of service which may exist in any part of the area of the war with Japan.