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

1 — The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia1 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand2

The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia1 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand2

4 March 1940

The increase of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force to an Army Corps comprising two divisions with the necessary Corps troops is at present being considered by my Government. They desire to know whether your Government would be willing to combine the New Zealand Forces in an Australian and New Zealand Army Corps under the command of the General Officer Commanding, Australian Imperial Force.3

As the name Anzac has become synonymous with the highest degree of military prowess, the opportunity of recreating a force to carry on the traditions associated with this name has considerable appeal to us. Such a step would be inspiring to the national morale of Australia and New Zealand in particular and of the Empire generally. There is also a close psychological affinity between our

1 Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia during the war were:

Apr 1939 – Aug 1941Rt. Hon. Robert Gordon Menzies, PC, KC.
Aug 1941 – Oct 1941Rt. Hon. Arthur William Fadden, PC.
Oct 1941 – death, Jul 1945Rt. Hon. John Curtin, PC.
Jul 1945 – Dec 1949Rt. Hon. Joseph Benedict Chifley, PC. (Died 13 Jun 1951.)

2 Prime Ministers of New Zealand during the war were:

28 Nov 1935 – death, 26 Mar 1940Rt. Hon. Michael Joseph Savage, PC.
1 Apr 1940 – 13 Dec 1949Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser, PC, CH. (Died 12 Dec 1950.)

3 Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO; GOC 6th Division, AIF, 1939–40; GOC 1st Australian Corps, 1940–41; title altered in 1941 to GOC AIF in Middle East; commanded Anzac Corps in Greece, Apr 1941; Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, 1941; Commander-in-Chief, Allied Land Forces, South-West Pacific Area, 1942–45; died 27 May 1951.

page 2 troops. The effect of such a decision would certainly not be encouraging to the enemy and would be a further demonstration of the solidarity of ourselves with the United Kingdom. The concentration of our forces in one Army Corps has also mutual operational and administrative advantages.

The interests of your forces and your Government would be fully safeguarded in the organisation advocated for the administration of the Corps and by your senior officer's1 right of direct communication with the New Zealand Government.2

We would appreciate early advice of your views. If the proposal meets with your concurrence it is suggested that a staff representative be sent to Australia early to discuss the working out of details.

It is requested that this message be treated with the utmost secrecy, particularly the reference to the possible expansion of our forces, which will not be announced here before Wednesday evening.

1 Lieutenant-General Lord Freyberg, VC, GCMG, KCB, KBE, DSO, LL.D; GOC 2nd NZEF, 21 Nov 1939–22 Nov 1945; Governor-General of New Zealand 17 Jun 1946–; at time of reference Major-General B. C. Freyberg.

2 See Volume I, Appointment of Commander, 2nd NZEF (No. 39). The appropriate paragraph of the GOC's charter reads:

(b) To communicate directly with the New Zealand Government and with the Army Department concerning any matter connected with the training and administration of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.