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

79 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

26 May 1940
I am in general agreement with the contents of your most secret telegram of 26 May (No. 78) and will communicate them to the Commander-in-Chief, who is in accord with your views. For the information of Cabinet, there are ample war reserves of ammunition and equipment here and the men are well trained and fit for the limited operations contemplated by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. In the event of war with Italy the situation in Egypt is giving no anxiety. The Italian forces are unlikely to take the offensive due to Libya's geographical position between Tunis and Egypt; they have no sea communications with Italy, and the lack of drinking water and roads across the desert between Libya and the Nile valley would prevent operations by an army of any size. Although mobilisation equipment for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force has not yet arrived, the garrison of Egypt is adequately equipped and large reserves of troops are available for Palestine and Syria. I am not anxious about arrangements for the reception, accommodation, and comfort of the Second Echelon in the United Kingdom. MacCormick1 and Greville know every detail, and I am sending

1 Brigadier K. MacCormick, CB, CBE, DSO, ED; at this time Assistant Director of Medical Services, New Zealand Division; on 1 Oct 1940 became Deputy Director of Medical Services, 2nd NZEF (later Director of Medical Services), with rank of Brigadier.

page 66 King1 and Crump for Ordnance and RASC problems, making a strong team under Falla. The troops are in great heart and are longing to get to the active work for which they are being trained. One month with full-scale equipment would fit these men for France. From all accounts the Second Echelon have benefited from the new training syllabus and I feel that with two months' collective training they would be fit for war. What I wish my Minister to realise is that none of the senior officers of the Second Echelon are fit to start unit or collective training without first being trained themselves. Every day I am kept from taking their preparation in hand will delay the ultimate preparedness of the troops. While for the present I agree that I should stay here, the situation vis-à-vis the Allies and Italy may ease or be precipitated in the next few days, and the question whether my presence is most useful here or in the United Kingdom could then be reconsidered. As you will no doubt appreciate, splitting a force always raises problems of this kind.

1 Brigadier T. J. King, CBE, New Zealand Ordnance Corps; at this time a Lieutenenant-Colonel.