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

77 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

25 May 1940

In the terms of the emergency powers given me by the New Zealand Cabinet as General Officer Commanding, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 2 I was empowered to commit the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to active operations in the event of page 64 an emergency. My move to the United Kingdom1 and Italy's possible action in the near future may necessitate fresh powers being given to a competent military commander on the spot. For the information of Cabinet, the training of the troops has progressed well, but it has been greatly handicapped by lack of equipment and latterly by very hot weather. Collective training upon a full scale has been handicapped by the absence of necessary instruments and signal equipment and by the shortage of many classes of weapons, in most cases only 25 per cent being available. Even if complete equipment is made available from the Middle East war reserve a further period of training is necessary before the force could be used for active operations. At present the New Zealand Expeditionary Force are responsible for the security of Cairo, where more than 30,000 Italians live and where fifth column activities may be attempted. Later, when Cairo is pacified, units may be required to garrison defences or have some other role connected with the internal security of Egypt. Had I been here and time did not permit the whole question being referred to the New Zealand Cabinet, I should have agreed to commit the force to the defence of Egypt. As speed is the essence of combating fifth column activities I recommend that in my absence authority be given to General Wilson, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief [British Troops in] Egypt, to use the 2nd NZEF in defence of our vital interests here.