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

399 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

8 October 1944

I have made as thorough an examination as possible of the problems of reorganisation which face us, and the more I go into details the more certain I become that we shall have to replace at an early date all officers and other ranks who have taken part in the fighting up to and including the Battle of Alamein. Battle-weariness is by no means confined to junior ranks. We must consider up to lieutenant-colonels. If, therefore, everybody who came overseas with the first seven contingents is included, it will mean approximately 600 officers and 10,000 NCOs and men. In coming to this drastic conclusion, which accelerates your original proposals for sending replacement drafts overseas, I have taken all factors into consideration. In my telegram of 9 June (No. 382) I recommended that the 2nd NZEF should be withdrawn. I gave this advice because a large proportion of your Division was battle-weary after fighting hard for a longer period and after suffering greater casualties than any other division, and because it appeared that the manpower position in New Zealand would not allow a drastic replacement scheme. Since then my opinion has been strengthened by the experience of 30th Corps in France. The 30th Corps, composed of the 50th, 51st, and 7th Armoured Divisions, veterans from North Africa, have not done as well as fresh British and American troops. So far your Division has kept going and maintained its high standard, but only by the most careful page 367 nursing. We have had some cases of men going absent from their units on the eve of operations, a state of affairs which has not happened since before Alamein.

In view of the present situation, large-scale reorganisation with trained soldiers now becomes necessary, and the decision to break up the 3rd Division makes it practicable. Your statement on the replacement policy has already been published and has had a good reception generally by all ranks. Naturally, it will also have an unsettling effect until a further statement in greater detail can be made.

Set out below are tentative arrangements I have made for implementing your replacement policy.

I discussed reorganisation with the Commander-in-Chief and the Army Commander, who are in complete agreement with your outline plan and, in fact, have pressed the British Government to institute a similar system of replacement of long-service officers and men in the British Army.

I have arranged that the New Zealand Division, plus the Greek Brigade, will be relieved on 21 October by the Polish Corps and will be out of the line for about a month resting and training. Prior to that, on about the 10th or 12th, I will resume command1 and settle details of the replacement scheme with Brigadiers and unit commanders. Once these details are fixed and the New Zealand Government give their approval, the plan will be implemented and the first stage announced to the troops as soon as we are in our rest area. I have arranged that the Division should be out of the line in a rear area for training and reorganisation during February and March to enable the second phase of the replacement programme to be completed.

In the outline plan set out below you will note that I have based arrangements for implementing the scheme on the dates of arrival of the replacement drafts, and I am asking that the despatch of the drafts from New Zealand should be accelerated. If this is done I consider the Division can be reorganised and trained to take the field in April 1945. By that date all the long-service troops would be withdrawn and the majority would be en route to New Zealand.

page 368
Table of Arrival of Replacements
Estimated time of departure from New Zealand Estimated time of arrival in Italy Numbers available Remarks
15 October 1500 12th Reinforcements Trained ready to take the field.
7 December 2100 13th Reinforcements Trained ready to take the field.
31 October 7 January 3500 14th replacement draft Arrive Egypt 1 December. One month's training only as they will be trained soldiers.
15 December 30 January 3000 15th replacement draft Arrive Egypt 15 January. Complete training with units in Italy.
15 January 1 April 3000 16th replacement draft Arrive Egypt 15 February. Complete training in Egypt.

As you will realise, everything depends upon getting shipping to schedule, and the inclusion of as many trained officers and men from the 3rd Division, at least with the first two replacement drafts, will greatly assist us here. To help fill officer vacancies we would be prepared to accept lieutenant-colonels by arrangement, 30 young and specially recommended majors, 90 young captains, and 4301 subalterns who saw service in the Pacific with the 3rd Division, the bulk of these to come with the 14th replacement draft. We will also accept a full complement of NCOs, up to the rank of sergeant, who have similarly seen service in the Pacific. I know General Barrowclough will select only young, keen men at this late stage in the war. His co-operation will be invaluable.

Policy of Withdrawal from the Division


Men will be withdrawn to Advanced Base as soon as replacements are available in the field, preference being given to men in fighting units.

1 In a telegram on 10 Oct from HQ 2nd NZEF to Army Headquarters this figure was increased to 680.

page 369

The 12th and 13th Reinforcements will be put into units as soon as possible after their arrival in Italy. This will mean that by early December we will be able to release from field duty and send to Advanced Base all the first draft (Tongariro), which comprises all the Ruapehu and Wakatipu personnel, half the Fiji personnel, and portion of the 5th Reinforcements.


There may be casualties between 7 December and 7 January, in which case these men might have to be sent back into the line, but on the arrival in Italy of the 14th Reinforcements (7 January) this first draft can proceed to Egypt en route to New Zealand. A second draft comprising all the remaining Fiji personnel and 5th and 6th Reinforcements can be relieved from field duty and sent to Advanced Base.


With the arrival in Italy of the 15th Reinforcements at the end of January, the second draft referred to in (3) above can proceed to New Zealand. All 7th Reinforcements personnel can be relieved from field duty. The Division will be out of the line until the end of March, so allowing the 15th Reinforcements to train with units.


On the arrival in Italy of the 16th Reinforcements, the 7th Reinforcements personnel can be despatched to New Zealand.

To sum up, I have summarised in the following table the various phases in implementing the scheme during the next six months:

Date Remarks
10–21 October New Zealand Division in the line on the Adriatic coast. Details of replacement scheme to be settled with formation commanders.
21 October – 21 November Relief by Polish Corps. Greek Brigade to train and later return to Greece.1 We commence to implement the replacement scheme by bringing in the 12th Reinforcements.
21 November – 31 January Division in the line following up German Army in the Po Valley. Further phase of the scheme will be implemented, bringing in the 13th Reinforcements.
February-March Division will be out of the line. The 15th replacement draft will arrive—the replacement scheme will be completed and the force will reorganise and train.
April Reorganised Division will be ready to take the field with the 16th replacement draft available as reinforcements.
As you will realise, this is a major reorganisation proposal for the long-term policy which I have always thought would be necessary page 370 if the 2nd Division was to fight through 1945. I realise that the plan depends on the availability of shipping and, further, that War Cabinet may wish to make alterations in detail. I would be grateful for your observations on the outline plan, including comments on possible accelerated shipping of replacement drafts from New Zealand.