Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
38 — Report by the Hon. P. Fraser on his Visit to England in 1939 — [Extract] — APPOINTMENT OF GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING
Report by the Hon. P. Fraser on his Visit to England in 1939
APPOINTMENT OF GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING
….4 This again was one of the matters which I felt it essential to take up at the earliest possible moment and by the courtesy of the British authorities I was enabled to have a very early interview with General Ironside.
4 See Formation and Despatch of First Echelon (No. 66) for rest of text. As the original of this report could not be traced, this draft was supplied by courtesy of Mr. Fraser, who has partially reconstructed the report from notes made at the time.
Armed with these views and opinions, when I saw General Ironside I told him that we were considering him (Freyberg) for the post of General Officer Commanding the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He at once made it plain that in his opinion we could not make a better choice. He also spoke in the highest terms of Freyberg, whom he had known for a very lengthy period, and he expressed the opinion that Freyberg invariably took care of his men even at the risk of his own safety. He referred also to the wide experience which Freyberg had, not only in fighting but in the organisation of large bodies of men on a war basis. He regarded him as an admirable man to command a division, and indeed he had Freyberg on his own list, with five others, to be given command of an English division at a very early date. He made it plain that if we wanted Freyberg he would certainly allow us to have him, and that if we did not he would shortly be appointed to command an English division.
Subsequently, when in France, I had an opportunity of mentioning the matter to Lord Gort who also spoke in terms of high praise of Freyberg, though he thought he should have at least two months in France before assuming command of a division. At a later discussion I raised this aspect of the matter with General Ironside. He deprecated this on three grounds, firstly, that Freyberg would learn enough of the present method of operations in France in a week; secondly, that the present methods were as yet untried and might not be held to; and, thirdly, it was not impossible that the New Zealand Division would have to be employed in a totally different form of warfare in a totally different theatre of war.
1 Then First Lord of the Admiralty.
1 General Sir Charles Fergusson, GCB, GCMG, DSO, MVO, Governor-General of New Zealand, 1924–30.