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

263 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

22 May 1943

Further to my earlier telegram (No. 262). I have examined the scheme for returning either 4000 or 6000 all ranks by the Nieuw Amsterdam, leaving Suez on 14 June. It is based on your telegram of 14 May (No. 259).

I feel that the smaller draft may be just possible, but if 6000 are sent it will have an effect on efficiency and will cause considerable delay. While there can be no doubt that the long-term policy of relief of war-weary personnel is wise, the loss of such great numbers must inevitably lead to some disorganisation in view of the large proportion of men holding key positions who come from the first three echelons. We have seen here how inexperienced divisions have had considerable casualties which are avoided by battle-worthy formations, and I know you would wish me to ensure that the fighting efficiency and esprit de corps of your Division are unimpaired. After careful investigation I feel that, although it is possible to return the full quota of private soldiers in either the 6000 or 4000 draft, the change-over of officers, NCOs, and certain technicians must be more gradual. I have therefore fixed what I consider are safe proportions for the return of officers, NCOs, and technical personnel, and have provided that officers of the rank of substantive major and above will be deemed key personnel and will not be eligible for the ballot. To meet this case it has already been agreed by the New Zealand Government that I can send for short leave in New Zealand a small quota of senior officers who require a change of climate.

The following is an outline of the scheme for the return of a draft of 4000:


The draft will comprise 200 officers and 3800 other ranks.

(2) All married other ranks (including all married NCOs)

of the first three echelons will return. Total, 1538.

page 238

After deducting married other ranks, there will be vacancies for approximately 35 per cent of unmarried other ranks with field service who are eligible under the scheme.


It is not considered that it would be possible to send 35 per cent of eligible unmarried NCOs and technicians, and a smaller proportion will be fixed.


Selection will be by ballot by arms of the service.


It is considered that one officer to 20 other ranks can be spared.


All married officers below the rank of substantive major and not in special technical employment will be returned. Total, 120.


It is considered that approximately half of the technical officers below the rank of substantive major can be spared. Total, 30.


Approximately 50 vacancies remain for ballot by arms of the service for unmarried officers below the rank of substantive major.


A small number of officers of the rank of substantive major and above who are deemed to hold key positions will be selected for periods of short leave in New Zealand, on the expiration of which they will return to the Division.


Doctors and nurses are covered by separate cables from New Zealand.1 Dental officers are provided for by the existing system of exchange.


Once selected in the ballot return to New Zealand will be compulsory.


After three months' leave on full pay in New Zealand, all ranks who are medically fit will be eligible for return to the 2nd New Zealand Division.

It is felt that this scheme is as fair and straightforward as possible. If the New Zealand Government agrees with the general outline of the policy, would you please let me know if we can proceed to work out details?

I am going into the question of a cover scheme here to keep secret this large-scale move of troops in a single ship. No announcement will be made here until after the arrival of the men in New Zealand. It will be for your consideration whether any similar step should be taken in New Zealand.

1 Not published. The number of doctors and nurses able to return on furlough was dependent on the replacements which could be provided from New Zealand.