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

341 — Special Order of the Day by General Freyberg to 2nd New Zealand Division — SPECIAL ORDER UPON SAILING FOR GREECE

page 244

Special Order of the Day by General Freyberg to 2nd New Zealand Division

In the Desert,
Helwan Camp
1 March 1941

Dear Sir


Before leaving Egypt for the battlefront I had planned to say a last word to you.1 I find that events have moved quickly and I am prevented from doing so. I therefore send this message to you in a sealed envelope to be opened on the transport after you have started on your journey.

In the course of the next few days you may be fighting in defence of Greece, the birthplace of culture and learning. We shall be meeting our real enemy, the Germans, who have set out with the avowed object of smashing the British Empire. It is clear therefore that wherever we fight them we shall be fighting not only for Greece, but also in defence of our own homes.

A word to you about your enemy. The German soldier is a brave fighter so do not underestimate the difficulties that face us. On the other hand, remember that this time he is fighting with difficult communications, in country where he cannot use his strong armoured forces to their full advantage. Further, you should remember that your fathers of the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force defeated the Germans during the last war whenever they met them. I am certain that in this campaign in Greece the Germans will be meeting men who are fitter, stronger, and better trained than they are. I have never seen troops that impressed me more. You can shoot and you can march long distances without fatigue. By your resolute shooting and sniping and by fierce patrolling by night you can tame any enemy you may encounter.

A further word to you, many of whom, I realise, will be facing the ordeal of battle for the first time. Do not be caught unprepared. In war, conditions will always be difficult, especially in the encounter battle; time will always be against you, there will always be noise and confusion, orders may arrive late, nerves will be strained, you will be attacked from the air. All these factors and others must be expected on the field of battle. But you have been trained physically to endure long marches and fatigue and you must steel yourselves to overcome the ordeal of the modern battlefield.

page 245

One last word. You will be fighting in a foreign land and the eyes of many nations will be upon you. The honour of the New Zealand Division is in your keeping. It could not be in better hands.

1 General Freyberg and party left Alexandria in HMS York on 6 Mar, arriving in Athens next day.