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

256 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

22 November 1940

There is every likelihood of the New Zealand Division concentrating at Helwan and Maadi in January and moving out as a Division in February and March to complete Divisional training. The dates are dependent on the arrival of the Second Echelon.

The present state of equipment and training is as follows:

Unit State of training State of equipment, excluding transport
4th Infantry Brigade Fit for war 90 per cent
5th Infantry Brigade, Maori Battalion, and reinforcement battalion. Fit for war 100 per cent
6th Infantry Brigade Under training, fit in one month 60 per centpage 197
4th Field Regiment Fit for war 65 per cent 25–pounders.
5th Field Regiment Fit for war 100 per cent 25–pounders
6th Field Regiment Under training, fit for war in two months Training scale 18–pounders
7th Anti-Tank Regiment, less 33rd Battery Fit for war 100 per cent
33rd Battery, Anti-Tank Regiment Under training, fit for war in two months Low training scale
Divisional Signals, less Third Echelon Fit for war 70 per cent
Divisional Signals, Third Echelon Fit in two months 1 per cent
Divisional Royal Army Service Corps Fit for war 100 per cent
Divisional Royal Engineers Fit for war 60 per cent
Divisional Cavalry Fit for war Short of tanks, signal equipment, and spares.
Divisional Reconnaissance Unit Under training, not fit for war for four months Short of all equipment.
4th Field Ambulance Fit for war 100 per cent
5th Field Ambulance Fit for war 100 per cent
6th Field Ambulance Fit in one month 70 per cent
Other units Fit for war 80 per cent

Medium regiment, Royal Artillery, light anti-aircraft regiment, Royal Artillery, and medium tank battalion, recommended by the Bartholomew report and sanctioned by the New Zealand Government, have still to be formed but no equipment is yet available.1

The question of 25-pounders and transport vehicles is on a sound footing and these will be available for Divisional training next February.

I am greatly concerned about the early provision of equipment for two Divisional reconnaissance and protection units, namely the Divisional Cavalry Regiment and the new Divisional Reconnaissance Unit, which are vital either in the exploitation of success or in defence. With the support of General Wavell, I have urged the War Office to provide twenty-eight light tanks with anti-tank guns for the page 198 Divisional Cavalry, if possible light tanks, wheeled, with 2-pounder, or light tanks, tracked, with 15-millimetre gun; failing either, cruiser tanks; also signal equipment and spares for armoured fighting vehicles.

I have asked the War Office in respect of the Divisional Reconnaissance Unit, for which no establishment has been agreed upon, to work out a provisional establishment and scale of equipment on a four-company basis, each company composed of one platoon of scout cars, one platoon of carriers, and two platoons of infantry in trucks; also one year's spares for armoured fighting vehicles and essential signal equipment. I have asked for this equipment to be issued in time to accompany the Second Echelon from the United Kingdom. Would much appreciate, in view of the urgency, if you could bring pressure to bear on London through Government channels.

1 A committee under General Sir William Bartholomew, GCB, CMG, DSO, was set up to consider the reorganisation of the British Army in the light of the campaigns in Poland and France in 1939–40. Its recommendations on the organisation of a division are published in Volume II, Formation of New Zealand Armoured Brigade.