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

253 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

8 November 1940

In reply to your telegram dated 8 November (No. 252), I have seen Generals Wavell and Blamey. The proposal under consideration by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom appears to be to relieve Greek troops in Crete by sending troops that are on a low scale of equipment and partially trained. I gather that the Australians have been asked, and understand from Blamey that they are willing to carry out the duty. I understand that the units for Crete would not be found from their fighting formations but from reinforcements already in Palestine.

The situation in the Middle East is that General Wavell is having to fight with inadequate resources, and any additional restriction placed upon his troops makes the situation for him more difficult. While I still consider that our basic aim should be to concentrate the Division and train it, and resist all efforts made to split it or use it piecemeal, I feel that in a period such as this we should be willing to compromise and meet the British Government. Therefore, I would advise that, if you see fit, a reply should be sent on the following lines:

Understand that the proposal to send troops to Crete envisages using troops on a low scale of training equipment and partially trained to avoid breaking into the divisions being concentrated and trained in Egypt. The role envisaged in Crete is more or less that of garrison troops and this could be carried out by reinforcements undergoing training. The New Zealand Government agree in principle and are prepared to allow units to be formed with their reinforcements, as and when they become available, to take over garrison duties in Crete while they complete their training. However, the New Zealand Government are most anxious that the New Zealand Division, which is at present split into three parts, should be concentrated as soon as possible so that it can be trained ready to operate as a complete division early in 1941.