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

413 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

page 383

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

27 December 1944

Reference your telegram of 18 December. I realise that there must be great difficulties in New Zealand which have forced War Cabinet to alter their original proposals.

Despite changes in the replacement plan I feel that the Tongariro personnel should be released from the field as soon as the 13th Reinforcements are available in Italy, as any further delay would have an adverse effect. They will then be ready to leave Italy as planned. You will realise, however, that our resources will be severely strained by the release of the 4th and 5th Reinforcements, plus returned furlough personnel, plus Pacific personnel, total 9300, while receiving only the 13th and 14th Reinforcements, total 5600. When the Tongariro draft leaves, the Division will be between 1000 and 2000 under strength until the 14th Reinforcements arrive in Italy. When the 14th Reinforcements arrive here in February I estimate that we will have a reinforcement pool of 2100, less whatever we lose in current battles.

I felt when the plans were made that we could accept this situation because 3500 15th Reinforcements were due in March. On arrival we would have been able to balance the reinforcement pool and release the 6th Reinforcements, totalling about 1200. As a result of the new arrangements we will have to face campaigns in the spring with 1000 to 1500 in the pool. The position may become very difficult in the event of heavy fighting. The reinforcement pool will be exhausted and we shall be faced with having to fight below strength until the 15th Reinforcements arrive towards the end of June. In the event of heavy casualties or epidemic it would not be possible to remain operational.

You will realise that it will not be possible now to release the 6th Reinforcements until the 15th Reinforcements arrive in Italy, and similarly we cannot release the 7th Reinforcements until the 16th Reinforcements arrive.

There is another factor which may affect adversely our replacement scheme and our reorganisation, viz., the trouble in Greece, which will make it difficult for the Army Commander to release us from an operational role as early as was anticipated. Our move to the rest area in January may well be delayed since troops have been taken from Italy to Greece. We are faced with a great shortage of troops in Italy and I know that they are counting on your Division more than ever.

page 384

The figures given above are only approximate. I am sending this cable from Faenza during operations.

I will take the first opportunity of seeing Field-Marshal Alexander regarding future policy and will advise you further after I have seen him.