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 III

348 — Letter from Major-General Barrowclough1 to Lieutenant-General Puttick — Composition and Organisation of 3rd Division

page 368

Letter from Major-General Barrowclough1 to Lieutenant-General Puttick

17 January 1943

Dear General


Composition and Organisation of 3rd Division

1. I have for a long time been giving consideration to the question of the composition of this Division, and I have read with a good deal of pleasure the information you have been able to give me regarding the plans which are now under consideration for making it a more balanced force than it was in its original conception. As you will remember the Force in its various forms—the Kiwi A, B, C, and D—was originally conceived as a Task Force to fulfil a particular role which Admiral Ghormley then had in mind. That particular task has probably long since ceased to be important, but the Force is still characterised on the one hand by the inclusion of Coast Defence and Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery2 which is not normally part of a British division, and on the other hand by the exclusion of other elements which are an essential part of a divisional organisation.

2. I have not forgotten your own efforts to make up these shortcomings when the situation permits and I am confident that the War Cabinet realises the position and is as anxious as you are to see that the 3rd Division is not endangered by the lack of any of those units which practice and experience have shown to be essential in a well balanced force. The difficulty—as I understand it—is the acute shortage of men to fill up the ranks and to keep them filled, and at the same time to ensure that the 2nd Division is not ‘let down’ for want of reinforcements. The purpose of this letter is to examine the position and to make certain proposals which may to some extent relieve the problem of finding men from the already seriously depleted resources of New Zealand.

3. I would draw your attention to the Coast Defence and Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiments. As you know, both these regiments have been assigned to tasks far removed from and quite unrelated to the tasks which have been allotted to 3rd Division. They are not under my tactical control and are an administrative burden without giving the Division any direct coverage as a counterpoise to the burden. I am not complaining of the way they have been disposed. On the contrary I concede that they have been quite properly so disposed

1 Maj-Gen Rt. Hon. Sir Harold Barrowclough, PC, KCMG, CB, DSO and bar, MC, ED, MC (Gk), Legion of Merit (US), Croix de Guerre (Fr); commanded 7 NZ Inf Bde in UK, 1940; 6 Bde, May 1940–Feb 1942; GOC 2 NZEF in Pacific and 3 NZ Div, Aug 1942–Oct 1944; Chief Justice of New Zealand.

2 Abbreviations used in the original text have been spelt in full.

page 369 and I readily agreed to the proposals as soon as they were submitted to me. I merely point out that they have passed out of my tactical control and they afford no direct protection to my Division. If 3rd Division were ordered into another theatre of operations I imagine it would be extremely likely that the Coast Defence and Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiments would not go with us but would be left in their present roles in this island. My administrative difficulties would be increased by the mere fact that I would be further removed from them, and New Zealand detachments and responsibilities in the Pacific would be still more scattered than they are at present.

4. In these circumstances I feel bound to suggest for your consideration and for that of the War Cabinet that steps might be taken to ask the United States authorities to take over these coast defence and heavy anti-aircraft guns and man them with their own personnel, thereby freeing New Zealand personnel who could be absorbed readily enough into our new field artillery units and thus facilitate the business of finding personnel for the additional field regiments that I ought to have in this force. If the Grade I personnel now manning the coast defence and anti-aircraft guns in Norfolk Island are being relieved by Grade II personnel (as is the case with the infantry) they too would constitute a reservoir to assist in making up my Division.

5. I am extremely anxious to get this Division concentrated in full over here as soon as possible. Naturally I have endeavoured to obtain from General Harmon1 such indications as he can give me of the probable date upon which he might wish to transfer us to a more active theatre. This information is highly desirable from my point of view so that I may know when my troops should be ready for such a move and so that I can give you some forecast of the plans in which we may be involved—especially as the War Cabinet must be consulted before we leave this station. So far, however, General Harmon has been unable to give me anything more than the general directive which he has issued to all troops under his command, i.e., a general instruction to fit ourselves for a move at short notice to any of the islands in the theatre of war. I am not surprised that usafispa2 is unable at present to give more precise information. There may be many good reasons for that.

6. There are, however, certain factors from which I can draw some pretty obvious conclusions. It seems to be generally accepted that the 1st Marine Division which was on Guadalcanal for just over three months was there too long and that the conditions under which they lived were such as to necessitate possibly six months' recuperation in Australia before the division can be used elsewhere. Conditions

1 Lt-Gen M. F. Harmon, US Army; Chief of Air Force, 1942–43; Commanding General, US Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, 1943–44; died 3 Mar 1945.

2 United States Army Forces in South Pacific Area.

page 370 on Guadalcanal are no doubt improving, but it seems quite probable that comsopac may adopt a policy of relieving divisions on Guadalcanal after a period of service there of from three to six months. If such were his policy he might well look to 3rd Division to effect one of these reliefs about April, May or June. This seems a by no means unlikely request. There are three divisions now in Guadalcanal and portions of them have already been there three months or nearly so. If they are to be relieved it would seem that 3rd Division will very likely be one of the relieving divisions. I could only be ready for such a task if two conditions are fulfilled:

The first condition is that I should have a full division. I cannot completely relieve an American division with two-thirds of a British division.


The second condition is that the balance of 3rd Division should be got over here with as little delay as possible so that it can be trained to work with the rest of us and understand our methods, and so that it can become acclimatised. I cannot over-emphasise this factor. There is an enormous difference between the troops who served in Fiji and those who were gathered together from all over the country to make up the new units of this force.

7. All this seems very elementary and is of course perfectly well understood by you as Chief of the General Staff. I refer to it only to lead logically to the conclusion which I now submit, namely, that we should get away from the Task Force idea with which we began and that we should make every endeavour to constitute ourselves as a normal division. The United States forces are organised as normal divisions and I think we should be too. General Patch's1 American Division came to necal2 as a Task Force, i.e., a division plus a number of units which would normally be regarded as Corps Troops. When he went to Guadalcanal he left these ‘extras’ behind and took only a normal division.

I urgently commend to the consideration of the War Cabinet the suggestion that the ‘extras’ in this force (coast defence and heavy anti-aircraft artillery) be eliminated at the earliest opportunity and that first priority be given to building up a normal division. These ‘extras’ are of course very useful but I do not think I should have them until the Division is complete. I should be very glad to retain, say, the mobile 155-millimetre battery if I was assured I could take it with me and away from its present coast defence role and if I were also assured that its retention would not leave me understrength elsewhere.

1 Lt-Gen A. M. Patch, US Army; appointed Commander US Forces on Guadalcanal, Dec 1942; commanded 14 US Corps 1943; commanded 7th Army, Southern France and Germany, 1944–45.

2 New Caledonia. General Patch's division was the Americal Division.

page 371 The scarcity of men in New Zealand may make this impracticable and I would rather do without this unit than be deprived of units in the normal divisional set-up.

8. In elaborating this argument I would remind you of the extremely unsatisfactory results that would follow if 15th Brigade is left with only two battalions. It can never fully relieve either of the other two brigades and within itself it is not big enough to protect satisfactorily its own defended area in an all-round system of defence. The Tank Battalion can never be a substitution for the missing infantry battalion. It may be said that a Tank Battalion is not, or at all events was not, a part of the normal British division. My reply to that is that some armour is now a necessity—that I have no reconnaissance regiment which is part of a normal division and that the Tank Battalion will have to accept the dual responsibility of undertaking reconnaissance and the armoured support of my infantry brigades. I think a very clear case has been made out for a Tank Battalion and that the decision to include it in the Division was rightly made and should be adhered to; but it should not (unless manpower shortages absolutely compel that course) be regarded as being in the Division in lieu of the third battalion of the 15th Brigade.

9. I concede that if I get my two additional field artillery units I cannot expect to retain the 3·7-inch light howitzer battery now in necal but as yet without its guns. Its personnel could no doubt be transferred to the light howitzer regiment that is being substituted for one 25-pounder regiment.

10. I should be greatly obliged if you would place these views before the War Cabinet, with of course your own comments on the points raised. I enclose an extra copy of this letter for that purpose. Whilst I realise that a definite answer may not immediately be available, I would welcome any statement indicating your and the War Cabinet's general approval of my aim to make 3rd Division as near as possible and as soon as possible a normal British division, and to eliminate those elements in my force which are essentially non-divisional and whose continued existence makes it more difficult (from a manpower point of view) to build up a normal division. I particularly invite your attention to the fact that the commanders and staffs of the Coast Defence Regiment and the Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment ought to be considered (if their guns are taken over by United States troops) when commanders and staffs of the new field artillery regiments are being selected.

Yours sincerely


(Sgd) H. E. Barrowclough