Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
354 — Letter from Lieutenant-General Puttick to Major-General Barrowclough — [Extract]
Letter from Lieutenant-General Puttick to Major-General Barrowclough
My Dear Barrowclough,
Fijian Units. Your memo of 6 May (received 14 May).1
1. There are likely to be fresh developments re above. Firstly, I hear Mitchell has offered New Zealand a brigade, and secondly, arrangements have been completed to bring back old hands from 2nd Division for furlough, involving on account of shipping the most urgent provision of reliefs for them, which may cause your reinforcements to be taken and which in any case creates an acute shortage of A grade men.
2. This shortage may make it impossible fully to complete your Division or, if completed, to maintain it. There are many factors and happenings involved, including the decision of Parliament re future of 2nd Division.2
3. My views are—
That 2nd and 3rd Divisions should be maintained to the last gasp, even after reduction of war establishment becomes necessary.
To achieve (a) I am prepared to go right back to pre-Japan Territorial Force, plus certain additions and coast defence units in our Home Defence forces.
Rather than imperil either Division or delay completion of yours, I would accept Fijian brigade at once in substitution for two of your New Zealand battalions, these two to go to Mid-East as reinforcements rather than be absorbed as your reinforcements. This would reduce heart-burning a bit.
I would reduce Norfolk by half (manning only half the 155-mm and 25-pounders and reducing infantry still further), lower overseas age to 19 or 19½, convert Home Guard to voluntary basis and reduce permanent personnel now serving with it, further reduce Guards on Vital Points, try to reduce equipment here by making it available elsewhere and so save personnel, and stop any munitions industry not engaged on overseas production.
1 Not published.
2 See Vol. II, p. 214. The Government decided on 21 May to retain the 2nd Division in the Middle East ‘with increasingly smaller establishments' and to reorganise the 3rd Division on a reduced scale. Neither division would receive reinforcements in 1943. The 2nd Division was to be made available for operations in Europe and a furlough scheme instituted for selected men from the first three echelons. It was also decided to complete negotiations for the incorporation of a Fijian mobile brigade in the 3rd Division ‘subject to discussion with Halsey and Barrowclough’.
4. Those are about all the manpower saving devices I can think of. It is a case of first things first. The sudden necessity for providing about 6000 men to relieve 6000 in 2nd Division has, of course, created an emergency.
5. I am likely to be asked, almost at any moment today, to talk to the Prime Minister or War Cabinet re the offer of the Fijian brigade. I shall state your views as expressed to me in your letters, but shall urge that the offer be accepted forthwith (as otherwise we will in all probability lose them to the Americans and then may find it impossible to complete your division) and reserve for discussion with you and possibly for developments in the manpower situation the question as to whether they form part of or are to be additional to your division. I will emphasise that you, being responsible for the division, must be consulted on this matter and that War Cabinet must give considerable weight to your opinion. But for my part, if I had the responsibility I would certainly accept the Fijian brigade in preference to having a division short of establishment or an early shortage of reinforcements. I would endeavour to have, I think, one Fijian battalion in each brigade, but if that proved a real obstacle so far as Fiji is concerned, I would give the Fijian brigade a trial.
6. There is a point about the relief of 6000 men in 2nd Division. Strong feeling has grown up in various quarters that this should be done while others think the whole division should return. The former if it avoids the latter is therefore justifiable on military grounds, despite the trouble it creates.
7. My proposals under 3 (b) would mean the abandonment of our present out-of-camp training and re-mobilization scheme, substituting compulsory training for 18–20 years men, volunteers to Territorial Force over that age, and relying on our previous experience and methods to re-create a Home Defence Army of 100,000, plus the Home Guard, in an emergency. The strategical situation justifies I consider the acceptance of any slight risk involved in those measures.
8. There are very real problems ahead in this manpower business. Higher authority abroad has not decided or advised whether New Zealand can best help with armed men or supplies, so we are trying to do our maximum in both, with increasing demands for the latter from UK, USA, and Eastern Supply Council.
I think our present military commitments are right for this stage of the war but it is evident that the pinch will be tighter as time goes on, and this Fijian brigade has therefore a very high importance and page 379 in fact may be a fairly complete answer to the difficulties for some time to come.
I will keep you advised of developments….1
(Sgd) E. Puttick
1 Personal material omitted.