Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

332 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

13 September 1944

In view of BBC broadcasts concerning the heavy fighting on the Eighth Army front, I feel that you would wish to know the present position here as it affects your Division. The fortunes of the battle have fluctuated but at no time have we looked like breaking through. As you know, the original plan to break the Gothic Line involved attacking due north from Florence across to Bologna. This meant attacking positions running along very steep hills comparable in strength to Cassino. As there was no element of surprise, the chances of a quick and cheap success were not great. I personally was strongly against it at this stage, and in my opinion the plan to attack on the Adriatic front, which was eventually adopted, had a greater chance of success. The initial attack of the Eighth Army drove the enemy off his main defences, but no gap was made and the advantage of surprise has gone. I feel that the enemy will now endeavour to hold on in the hope that bad weather will intervene as it did last autumn. When wet weather comes in October the Po Valley will no longer be possible for armour. If the operations at present in progress do not result in a break-through, I do not think any quick or decisive success in this theatre can be expected. There is, however, a chance that events in the Balkans and elsewhere will cause the enemy to fall back behind the Po sooner than we can force him back by attacking here.

The Division has moved forward and is now under the command of the Canadian Corps. The Greek Brigade1 are already holding page 304 part of the line. They are shaping well and their presence with the Division in the next battle will enable us to spread our infantry casualties over three instead of two infantry brigades. Our Divisional Artillery has also moved forward to support the Canadian Corps in the present battle, but the remainder of the Division is still in the rest area training and also making good use of the excellent bathing beaches. It is not possible to estimate how long the Division will be out of actual battle, but I trust it will be for some time as casualties in the present type of fighting are not light.

We have opened a luxury hotel in Florence in which other ranks have 95 per cent of the bedroom accommodation.

I am writing this from hospital, where I am making satisfactory progress.1

1 General Freyberg had been injured on the morning of 3 Sep when the reconnaissance aircraft in which he was travelling crashed on landing. While he was in hospital Major-General C. E. Weir was in temporary command of the Division (5 Sep – 14 Oct 1944).