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Problems of 2 NZEF

CHAPTER 10 — Relations with the Government of New Zealand and with Army Headquarters

page 152

Relations with the Government of New Zealand and with Army Headquarters

IT is proposed in this chapter to discuss the relations between the Expeditionary Force on the one side and, first, the Government of New Zealand, and then Army Headquarters, on the other. In all matters of day-to-day administration it was Army Headquarters with which we communicated. However, in all matters of policy the originator in New Zealand was more often than not the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Defence as his ‘alternate’. If the Prime Minister chose to communicate with the GOC direct, the answer perforce had to go the same way. This method of communication was in fact in order, as will be seen from a reference to paragraphs (b) and (c) of the charter given on pages 93 and 94. Sometimes we were not sure if Army Headquarters had been consulted: but as what happened in the procedure in Wellington was not our concern, and as it was satisfactory and gratifying that the highest authority in the land was directly interested in our problems, it was not for us to raise any objections. The volumes of documents that have been published relating to New Zealand's participation in the war make fascinating reading, and should be read by any New Zealander who feels a pride in his country.

It is not intended in anything said here to trespass into political matters, or to take anything away from the unfettered authority and responsibility of the Government of the day; but it may have some small value to mention one or two things that appear to have some relevance to the control of an Expeditionary Force.

It should be unnecessary to say that the Government must have confidence in its commander, considering that in our case it had the fullest confidence. The national temperament of New Zealanders makes it necessary to stress this point. It is ingrained in the New Zealand character that no one has such marked superiority over his fellow men as to justify his being put in command over them, especially when the command is a military one subject to that suspect thing military discipline. Leadership is thus regarded with suspicion; but if the commander of a force is to give of his best, there is no room for such feelings on the part of the Government at home. During the First World War there were cases where the United Kingdom Government lost confidence in a commander but page 153 still kept him in his post, a position unsatisfactory to both parties. In the second war the United Kingdom Government had greater courage, and removed commanders in whom it had lost confidence. The action taken may be unfair; but beyond all doubt it is correct in a time of national crisis.

At a critical stage in the early years of the American Civil War, a very good Southern general, Joseph E. Johnston, was wounded in the midst of a great battle. He had never been able to co-operate with the Southern President, and there had been a mutual lack of confidence. His successor was Robert E. Lee. ‘When told by a friend that his wounding was a calamity to the South, Johnston manfully answered, “No sir. The shot that struck me down is the very best that has been fired for the Southern cause yet. For I possess in no degree the confidence of our Government, and now they have in my place one who does possess it, and who can accomplish what I never could have done – the concentration of our armies for the defence of the capital.”’1

It may appear that the point is being laboured; but the reason is this. The Government in 1939 did not think that any officer then serving in New Zealand, regular or territorial, was sufficiently experienced to command the Expeditionary Force. They had recourse to an officer who by upbringing had associations with New Zealand, and of whose eminence there was no doubt, but all of whose service from first to last had been with the British Army. The appointment was not at the time enthusiastically welcomed by senior New Zealand officers. During the war New Zealand commanders and New Zealand staff officers proved themselves equal to any occasion, and their reputation now stands high with the people of the country. If a commander is ever wanted again in similar circumstances, the appointment is likely to go to a serving New Zealand officer; and if all is to go well, the Government of the day must be prepared to give him the same confidence as was given to the GOC in the recent war. The point is of such importance not only to the Government and the commander, but to the force also – its morale and its success – that it cannot be too much stressed. The results achieved by 2 NZEF owed something to the full confidence the GOC received from the Government.

There is, of course, a reverse side to the picture – that the commander in turn must co-operate loyally with the Government, consult it on his problems, and keep it fully informed. An examination of the cables that passed between the Government and the GOC may serve as models of the kind that should be followed, for

1 R. E. Lee – A Biography, by Douglas Southall Freeman.

page 154 they show (inter alia) the high sense of his responsibilities that was held by the GOC.

As it happened, there was a second occasion during the war when the Government had to despatch an expeditionary force overseas, namely that sent to the Pacific in late 1942. The charter given to the commander of that force bears distinct traces of the influence of that given to the GOC of the Mediterranean force, the wording in some cases being almost the same. One feels when reading it that the Government had been placed in a position when it could scarcely be less generous to the second commander than to the first; but despite this the second charter is more restricted than the first, and the Government obviously intended to keep a closer hold over the operations, and indeed the administration, of the Pacific force. It would be unfair and unwarranted to deduce that the restrictions were because the commander of the Pacific force was a New Zealand officer. The reasons were the increasing shortage of manpower, the greater need for economy, the nearness of the force to New Zealand, the restricted operational tasks likely to confront it, and, reading between the lines, the fact that the higher command was to be exercised by United States officers. Taking it all in all, the charter was a generous one.

To leave this somewhat rarefied atmosphere and return to practical matters – we received excellent support from the Government throughout. Reinforcement drafts were provided to the best of the country's ability, the only time that there was a real shortage being in 1942, when home defence for a while took priority even over the Expeditionary Force. We understood this, and had no complaints. The Government showed real concern over the failure to send the first furlough draft back to us in 1943, and took steps to increase reinforcement drafts to compensate for the deficiency. There were one or two cases where the Government might have kept us better advised of action taken, but none was of vital importance. It was a long time before we were told the details of the financial arrangements with the United Kingdom Government for the costs of the force, a matter of some interest to us, even of some moment. After the entry of Japan into the war, we were told nothing of what was going on in New Zealand. Admittedly, a lot of this was top secret and could not be spread abroad; but a good deal could not be concealed, and might have been conveyed to us in a form that could, in turn, be passed on to the men. As it was, only the disturbing points came to the men's knowledge – that United States troops were in New Zealand, for instance.

The Government stood manfully between the force and either well-meaning or critical people in New Zealand. We were, however, embarrassed by receiving one or two unwanted gifts to be page 155 used as trophies, with the blessing of the Government, it must be said. The intentions of the senders were of the best; but the trophies were only a nuisance in a time of rapid movement and continual campaigning, for competitions, even football competitions, could rarely be carried to a finish. The National Patriotic Fund Board had achieved wonders in canalising moneys and gifts for the forces, but there was this little leak that might have been stopped up.

During the war we had very few ‘please explains’ of any kind, the Government presumably providing the answer itself to the points raised by critics in New Zealand. For this we were very grateful. It is a fact, incidentally, that so many queries of this kind are ‘dead mutton’ by the time they reach the force overseas, and even ‘deader’ by the time the reply reaches New Zealand. This is not to say that the force overseas should not give the fullest possible answer to any query received. Our rule was that any letter or cable from New Zealand should be read most carefully, and every word examined to see if it called for an answer. It would be fatal if the belief grew up in the homeland that the overseas force was evading the issue.

The only query ever received of any note was one about the conduct of the beer bar in Cairo in late 1942. It will be dealt with in Chapter 16.

There were occasions when the New Zealand custom of ‘considering every case on its merits’ was in conflict with reasonably speedy action by the Government when considering some query or recommendation we had made. Once or twice there were long delays in giving us a ruling for which we had asked; but even more exasperating were cases where the Government, having given a ruling, and even reaffirmed it, went back on it when a concrete case came to its notice. It will be argued in Chapter 17 that in time of war, even if not in time of peace, some simple rules are unavoidable, and must be adhered to if the administrative machine is not to break down. However, the instances were few; and we had cause many times to be grateful for the support we received and for the help in solving some knotty problems.

Ministers should exercise caution when making promises to troops about some future action, especially when the promise is to be implemented overseas. One or two promises of this nature turned out to be incapable of fulfilment, for the circumstances overseas were not as imagined when the promise was made. The extra-duty pay imbroglio (see page 118 et seq) was made worse by an unfortunate ‘promise’ made to certain troops before they embarked.

During the war we held a number of by-elections and one general election. On the whole these caused no trouble, the controversy in New Zealand over the destruction of the ballot papers being none page 156 of our making; but sometimes the course of the war made it impossible for men to vote. One by-election came right in the midst of the Libyan campaign of November–December 1941, and voting was out of the question for the men of the Division. In this and other cases the position was explained to the Government and was accepted.

In 1943 the Government placed some restrictions on the number of men that could travel in unescorted merchant vessels. If the unescorted vessel was under 15 knots in speed, the maximum was to be 25; if over 15 knots then 100. Any greater number must travel in escorted vessels. The numbers were considered not in their absolute aspect of so many men, but in their relation to the total manpower of New Zealand, where statistically a loss of 1000 men would mean more than such a loss to the United Kingdom. The Government's attitude was sound; but the restriction had the effect of slowing down the return of parties under the replacement scheme.

In 1943 and 1944 there was a reluctance shown by the Government to send women clerical staff overseas, even though their employment was one clear way of easing the strain on manpower, and even though we had already received a number of girls for duty in clubs and hospitals. It may have been that the Government thought that the atmosphere of army offices was not so suitable for girls, bearing in mind that they would probably have to live in Maadi Camp. We did in the end get some women clerks, but only after a long delay. Since that time the employment of women in the services has become more and more common, so that presumably there will not be the same reluctance in the future. The question is discussed further in Chapter 14.

The Government was strangely reluctant to allow officers from Army Headquarters to visit the force, so producing a lack of personal liaison which is referred to later in this chapter. Whether or not the reason was that such trips were looked on as ‘joyrides’ is not known, but it was to be regretted.

Over a period of six years we had four visits from members of the Government – twice from the Prime Minister, and once from each of two ministers, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Munitions and Supplies. It cannot then be said that the visits were overdone, and in fact it would have been better for all concerned if more ministers had visited us. We took care to make sure that ministers absorbed the real atmosphere of the force, even to the extent on occasion of telling officers to stand aside and let the visitors speak to the men without lookers on, a course of action that scandalised the purists. The visits were a little unsettling to the troops; but on the other hand they got a lot off their chests and felt better afterwards. Most of their queries and complaints had little page 157 or nothing to do with service overseas, but referred to matters in New Zealand. Our political visitors were appreciative of all that was done for them, and caused us no trouble – except for the inability of the Prime Minister to adhere to any timetable, no matter how carefully drawn up.

The average New Zealander has little reverence for his political leaders in normal times, a feeling that was accentuated during the war by absence from the country. Troops are always ready to believe the worst, and to give credence to the tales that reach them about what is happening in the homeland – that everyone at home is having a soft time, that no one is doing anything towards winning the war, that the men overseas are forgotten. Little by little there grows up a contempt for the ‘home front’, including in this the Government first of all, for in the eyes of the troops the Government is doing nothing for them at all. This may serve to explain why the troops treated the visits of politicians, at least after 1941, with some amount of derision, and took all they heard from the visitors as political clap-trap. In 1944, when it was known that the Prime Minister would be visiting us, the attitude of the troops, gathered from censorship reports and first-hand experience, caused us some concern; and in the end discreet steps had to be taken to tell troops that, after all, our visitor was the Prime Minister of the country and merited a dignified welcome and a respectful hearing. Despite this there were some cases of impolite behaviour by individuals.

To sum up – in matters both of policy and cf detail the relationship between the Government and the Expeditionary Force was excellent.

With one body in New Zealand, coming directly under the Government, our relations were not so good – namely the Director of Publicity. Our complaint was lack of support for our requests for material, and, what was more important, lack of advice of what use was made of the material we sent back, and lack of information about activities in New Zealand – such activities as could be made public. It has already been admitted that the handling of the publicity at our end was not perfect, and doubtless the Director of Publicity had complaints against us. The whole regrettable business was due to a mutual lack of understanding of the problems of the two sides. It would have saved a lot of heartburning if someone from the Director's office had visited us overseas.

With Army Headquarters from first to last our relations were also excellent. We received the best of support and understanding, even though sometimes we must have shaken the staff there badly, and even though we were occasionally what can only be called naughty. The GOC's charter gave him extensive powers, as has been page 158 seen, to form and disband units and to reorganise the force; and these powers were used to the full. Sometimes we went a bit too far and bent the law a little even if we did not break it; but with few exceptions Army Headquarters accepted the position, or at most remonstrated mildly. On one occasion there was a little acerbity shown, and that was over the comparatively minor matter of our creation of a ‘Postal Corps’. We were in the wrong, for the corps did not exist in the New Zealand Army; but our reason was to create some esprit de corps in the men handling the mails, instead of their being odd personnel drafted from other corps. This caused a sharp, but luckily short, exchange of cables, finishing with one from HQ 2 NZEF saying that it was sure that Army Headquarters must have its hands full with other more important matters, so that there did not seem to be sufficient justification for going on with the argument. We deserved the cane.

It should be mentioned at this stage that the policy adopted by HQ 2 NZEF was to try to settle our problems overseas and not refer them to Army Headquarters. Given good will on all sides among the mixed lot of authorities already discussed in Chapters 7 and 8, it was surprising how much was settled in this way.

It was always in our minds that Army Headquarters was for many purposes our ‘superior authority’ to which we owed at least full respect if not obedience. There were strict orders at Headquarters that any letter or cable from Army Headquarters should be read carefully, and every point answered. We realised that Army Headquarters had other occupations than merely looking after us, especially after Japan entered the war, and despite what has been said above we tried not to be a nuisance. It appears today, however, that we overdid this in that we never kept Army Headquarters advised of what we were doing to anything like the desirable extent. The constitution of the force was always changing, every monthly issue of orders showing additions or subtractions; and the general administration was always leading to the introduction of new rules and the alteration or deletion of old ones; but it does not appear that, save in special cases, we ever bothered to write to Army Headquarters separately telling it the reasons for all this. Admittedly Army Headquarters received copies of our orders and, in due course, copies of our war diaries; but out of this mass of straw, it was left to it to extract the wheat. We should have sent back clear periodic reports on the action we had taken and the reasons for it. Once or twice during the war there were faint murmurings from Army Headquarters, but not the definite complaint that in this case was probably called for. OICA and the Adjutant-General exchanged throughout the war a series of personal or semi-personal letters which were of value to both sides; but page 159 this was not enough. Headquarters 2 NZEF on its level in fact broke one of the rules laid down earlier for the GOC on his level – that authorities in the homeland should be kept fully informed.

There is no doubt that the GOC's charter prevented misunderstandings on the whole instead of creating them. Had he not been granted such extensive powers, HQ 2 NZEF would have been compelled to ask the prior concurrence of Army Headquarters for many of our activities, with every chance then of lack of understanding. Despite what has been said above, it may be claimed that the GOC's powers were used with restraint.

Occasionally there was a bit of sparring for position which, even at the time, caused us nothing but amusement. An example was the discussion about which of the two sides was to appoint the commanders and other officers for the new units to be formed under FFC 36. Another example – and one that occurred more than once – took place when for some reason we were to exchange personnel, and a decision had to be made which side moved first. Such differences, if they can be called differences, were always settled amicably.

The numbering of units remained an Army Headquarters responsibility throughout, i.e., if we were forming a new unit that required a number we asked Army Headquarters for it. The units were thus as much part of the New Zealand Military Forces as of the Expeditionary Force. On one occasion in England in 1940 some temporary units were formed and given numbers without consultation with Army Headquarters, with the result that for a while there was duplication between the units overseas and others bearing the same numbers in New Zealand. Nothing disastrous happened; but it was a mistake on our part.

There were one or two cases where apparently some military authority in New Zealand had made promises to troops which could only be implemented overseas – action similar to that sometimes taken by politicians. We made it clear to Army Headquarters that any recommendation it forwarded to us would always receive the most sympathetic consideration; but it was irritating to us, and no doubt when it heard of it irritating to Army Headquarters also, to be informed by troops arriving from New Zealand that this, that, and the other had been promised to them. Often the promise was impossible of fulfilment.

From first to last we had only three visits from members of the Army Board – one from the CGS in late 1940, one from the Adjutant-General in 1941, and one from a later CGS in 1944. The only service heads to visit us were the Director-General of Medical Services and the Director of the Army Education and Welfare Service. This was a totally inadequate liaison, even when allowance page 160 is made for the many other duties of Army Headquarters. Part of the blame must be given to the Government, which, as already mentioned, did not favour trips overseas by the army staff – a shortsighted point of view. Heads of branches of the staff and senior service heads should all have visited the force freely, or if they could not really be spared then well-briefed liaison officers would have sufficed. Certainly not a year should have passed without a visit from a member of the Army Board. The time spent in personal discussion with members of HQ 2 NZEF and HQ 2 NZ Division would have taken the place of a lot of correspondence, and would have given New Zealand a more vivid idea of our activities and our troubles. Difficulties of transportation are not a sufficient answer, for one way or another air transport was always available. It is not too much to say that this weakness in personal liaison was the greatest deficiency in the relations between Army Headquarters and 2 NZEF.

Liaison the other way – from the force back to New Zealand – has some value, but it is slight compared with the value of the reverse. As it happened, all senior members of the staff and services in 2 NZEF did visit New Zealand during the war; and in other cases officers went back to New Zealand on duty and later returned to the force, such being the case with those who went to New Zealand in late 1941 to help with the Army Tank Brigade; but none of this compensated for the loss of liaison the other way.

Our relations with the heads of services at Army Headquarters on the whole ran smoothly, such differences of opinion as did occur arising from our belief that the heads in New Zealand tried to keep too close a control over the service overseas. With some hesitation, and affirming that personal relations were always good, the case of the DGMS may be quoted. It was our opinion that he tried to exercise too great a measure of authority over the DMS 2 NZEF. The responsibility of the DMS was first and foremost to the GOC, whom he advised how best to maintain the health of the force and how best to effect the recovery of the sick and wounded. Possibly it could be left at that; but it would be wrong to deny that the DMS had some responsibility to the DGMS in the homeland, for it was from the homeland after all that the medical staff was supplied. However, we thought that the DGMS interpreted his authority too widely, to the extent of taking the DMS to task for some of his actions – actions taken in accordance with the needs of the Division at the moment, and therefore, in effect, at the wish of the GOC. It was a difficult position for the DMS. The DGMS had in one respect a complaint against us that appeared warranted, namely that we had too many hospital beds – were ‘over-hospitalised’ – and so were making demands on the medical personnel in New page 161 Zealand that were unjustified. If this was so – and it cannot be argued here – an answer is given in part in an extract from the War History volume War Surgery and Medicine, where the author says that 2 NZEF ‘contributed practically nothing to the common pool of administrative medical personnel’1 – an opinion which will be discussed in broader terms in Chapter 11. Our excess hospitalisation, if any, could thus be taken as one form of contribution to the common cause. The real point of this little controversy comes at the last. When finally, and far too late, the DGMS visited us in 1944, he agreed that we had made our case and that he could not support a reduction in hospitals.

We had a similar feeling about one or two other service heads – the Director of Dental Services and the Director of the Army Education and Welfare Service for example. The cases are quoted here not to show that there was friction – that would be too strong a word to use – not even so much to show that there were almost inevitable differences of opinion, but to underline the enormous advantage to be gained from personal liaison. If these heads of services – and others – could only have visited us at an early stage, the relations would have been free of even the small differences that did occur. It should be said that the Director of the Army Education and Welfare Service did finally visit us, but again far too late.

So much for the relations between Army Headquarters and 2 NZEF. It is time to turn to another aspect of the relations between an overseas force and the homeland.

The last paragraph of the charter given to the GOC by the Prime Minister in 1940 reads as follows:

After the Third Echelon has left New Zealand no officer above the substantive rank of captain will be sent overseas without the concurrence of the General Officer Commanding.

This paragraph was included in the draft drawn up by the GOC and presented to the Government, as the result of conversations with officers who had served in the First World War and remembered the hard words that had been said when relatively senior officers came out from New Zealand in 1917 and 1918. Quite frankly, the paragraph slipped through the net without the authorities in New Zealand fully realising what it implied, namely that after a year they would in effect be deprived of the power to change officers over, because those already in the Expeditionary Force would wish to stay there indefinitely and not be called back to New Zealand on duty and replaced by others. This sentiment against late arrivals in the field is strong with New Zealanders, much stronger than with United Kingdom forces, where there is always page 162 a steady movement of officers between field units and the homeland, or from appointment to appointment. In the British service, with a large number of overseas formations and a far closer control from the homeland, the exchange of officers was a commonplace, both by sending new blood out from England and by withdrawing those who had served overseas for a period. Several times in North Africa and Italy, officers were even sent out from England to take command of divisions in the field.

Those officers who were lucky enough to get overseas in the early stages soon felt that they had a pre-emptive right to remain there, that no one in New Zealand had a right to recall them, and certainly that they could not be replaced by other officers from New Zealand. This feeling was held by all, regulars and non-regulars alike, engendering resistance to returning to New Zealand on any form of duty, unless, as with the officers for the armoured brigade, the intention was that they should come back to the Expeditionary Force. On at least one occasion during the war, at the urgent request of Army Headquarters, the GOC sent drafts of officers back to help, the time being early 1942 when officers were badly wanted for home defence and for the Pacific. Among some of the officers selected there was the uneasy feeling that somehow or other they had failed overseas and were going home almost under a cloud. Many took it badly. In some ways it was a tribute to the feeling they all had for the Expeditionary Force, where morale was high, the sense of unity strong, and all felt that they were doing work that was well worth while. When the time came for furlough in 1943–44, many senior officers would not take it until they were assured beyond doubt that they would be allowed to rejoin the force.

It is not easy to condemn this viewpoint outright, and indeed it could be taken to reflect credit on the officers concerned; but from the broadest standpoint of national interest it must be adjudged as mistaken. In principle, if the services of any officer are required in his homeland, or anywhere else for that matter, they must be made available, always with the reservation that the opinion of the GOC of the Expeditionary Force must be considered, as he cannot be expected to agree to such a withdrawal of officers as might wreck the force. In the last war, the GOC was always sympathetic to appeals from New Zealand.

It can be argued, therefore, that the paragraph in the GOC's charter was a mistake, for it produced the result that good brigade commanders and commanding officers, inexperienced through no fault of their own, were retained in New Zealand without the chance of overseas service in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, it would require great firmness to override the opinion in any Expeditionary Force in favour of the paragraph in question. No one page 163 in the force would ever have believed, for instance, that the officers mentioned above would have been capable of carrying out their duties adequately if they had joined the force after its first campaigns. However, if from the first there were to be a free and frequent exchange – and the adjectives must be stressed – there could never be the same objections, nor the need for such a paragraph, nor would the feeling arise that it was in some way a disgrace to be sent back to New Zealand on duty.

Associated in some ways with the feelings referred to in preceding paragraphs was the feeling about junior officers. The diehards in the force – and they did exist – maintained that all commissions should come from the ranks in the force, and that no second-lieutenants or lieutenants should be sent from New Zealand with reinforcement drafts. It must be remembered that this view did not completely exclude personnel from New Zealand indefinitely. All that it meant was that personnel, instead of obtaining commissions in New Zealand, would have to wait until they had served for a while in the ranks overseas and proved their fitness. The alternative view was that it was only fair that officers who had already been tried out in training periods in New Zealand, and whose services had already been made use of for home defence, for instance, should be allowed to retain their commissions and join the Expeditionary Force as officers. It was this view that prevailed.

With every reinforcement draft, therefore, a number of junior officers did come out from New Zealand, while the balance of our requirements was found from those trained in OCTU overseas. It is difficult to say exactly what proportion was found from each source. Various factors influenced the figure of total requirements. The wastage rate for officers was greater than for other ranks (with the artillery, for instance, twice as great); sometimes we had difficulty in finding as much ‘officer timber’ from within the force as we would have liked; sometimes there were circumstances that really compelled us to accept extra officers from New Zealand, e.g., those who had previously served in the Pacific and who came to us in 1944–45. In addition we felt some obligation to the large number of personnel who had held commissions in New Zealand, often for long periods, but who had had to revert when the home defence forces were reduced in 1943, and had then been drafted to the Expeditionary Force in the ranks. After a short spell overseas, many of these had their commissions restored. Their deflation, and subsequent re-inflation, explains the use of the term ‘dehydrated’ for their new status.

All these and other factors prescribed the number of officers we wanted and the proportion we could absorb from New Zealand at any one time. Before the figures for each draft were settled, we had page 164 discussions with Army Headquarters and always managed to come to an agreement about their proportion. It would require today the services of an actuary to say how many officers we were really short of at any time, and so to determine what proportion New Zealand should have supplied; but a rough guess would be that it supplied one-third to half of the total. Whether or not this is too great a share is left to readers to decide.

When new units were to be formed in New Zealand, it was agreed that the primary right to find the officers lay with Army Headquarters; but in the one notable case, the formation of the Army Tank Brigade and the other units to be formed under scheme FFC 36, Army Headquarters itself asked for a proportion of the officers to be sent back from the Middle East, including the commander of the brigade and a number of commanding officers. The respective shares were determined amicably between the two headquarters; but HQ 2 NZEF had trouble with the heads of arms and services in the force, many of whom thought that 2 NZEF should supply all requirements.

When vacancies for promotion occurred in units overseas it was of course understood that the primary right to fill them lay with the GOC. Promotions were thus made to replace losses without our ever thinking of asking New Zealand to supply a replacement. It was a purely automatic procedure. No case ever occurred in combatant units of our asking New Zealand to supply an officer because we could not find a suitable one ourselves. Occasionally the DMS had to ask the DGMS to find a replacement for a medical specialist, as no officer with the necessary qualifications was available within the force; but this was an exceptional occurrence. Our reaction to any attempt from New Zealand to force even a junior officer on us would have been violent – was violent on one occasion, occurring of all things in the YMCA. The Commissioner of the moment – early 1943 – was a prisoner of war. The machinery was set in motion to promote the member of our YMCA staff whom we thought the most suitable; and with a sense of courtesy possibly mistaken, we asked Army Headquarters to obtain the concurrence of the YMCA in New Zealand. In reply we were told that they could not agree to our nominee, but proposed to send someone from New Zealand. Our reply was firm, and in fact could have been called insubordinate. It was to the effect that we could not accept anyone who would be put over the head of an officer who had already been with us for some years. The exchange of cables was prolonged and slightly acrimonious; but in the end the New Zealand authorities bowed to our opinion, and the proposal to send someone from New Zealand was dropped. To be fair, it must be stated that this was not a full 100 per cent military appointment, and to some page 165 extent Army Headquarters was purely a channel of communication between 2 NZEF and the YMCA.

All this can be summarised when it is said that 2 NZEF looked on itself as a closed shop, as indeed it was, and that this was good for the morale of the force. Whether or not it was good for the New Zealand Army as a whole is left for the reader to decide. One thing is certain – that the Government of the day, and its military advisers, should appreciate the full consequences of such powers before granting them.