Problems of 2 NZEF
ON his way out to New Zealand in December 1939 the GOC prepared a series of notes on certain policy and administrative matters. After his arrival in Wellington he consulted with Army Headquarters and other authorities, and as a result embodied some of his notes into two documents which were submitted to the Government. With slight alterations the documents were approved, and were then given to the GOC in the form, first, of a charter over the signature of the Prime Minister, and second, a schedule of authorities over the signature of the Minister of Defence – both dated 5 January 1940, the day the First Echelon embarked. They are of such importance that they are included here instead of in an appendix.
The first and more important was as follows:
Prime Minister's Office
Wellington 5th January 1940
The General Officer for the time being
Commanding the Second New Zealand
Expeditionary Force Overseas.
The General Officer Commanding will act in accordance with the instructions he receives from the Commander-in-Chief under whose command he is serving, subject only to the requirements of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand. He will, in addition to powers appearing in any relevant statute or regulations, be vested with the following powers:
In case of sufficiently grave emergency or in special circumstances of which he must be the sole judge, to make decisions as to the employment of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and to communicate such decisions directly to the New Zealand Government, notwithstanding that in the absence of that extraordinary cause such communication would not be in accordance with the normal channels of communication indicated in the following paragraphs and which for greater clearness are also indicated in the attached diagram.1
To communicate directly with the New Zealand Government and with the Army Department concerning any matter connected with the training and administration of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
1 Not included in this volume.
To communicate directly either with the New Zealand Government or with the Commander-in-Chief under whose command he is serving, in respect of all details leading up to and arising from policy decisions.
In all matters pertaining to equipment to communicate with the War Office through normal channels, and through the liaison officer of the High Commissioner's office in London, the former to be the official channel.
In matters of command to adhere to the normal military channels between the War Office and the General Officer Commanding the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force overseas.
To establish such administrative headquarters and base and line of communication units as are necessary for the functions of command, organisation, including training, and administration with which he has been invested.
To organise, train, vary or group units and formations in such manner as he considers expedient from time to time.
To fix and alter the establishment and composition of units and formations as the exigencies of the service may in his opinion require from time to time.
After the Third Echelon has left New Zealand no officer above the substantive rank of captain will be sent overseas without the concurrence of the General Officer Commanding.
(Sgd) M. J. Savage,
The second paper is as follows:
5th January 1940
General Officer Commanding,
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force Overseas,
The General Officer Commanding is hereby vested with the following powers:
Authority to increase the scale of ration, if necessary.
Authority to procure equipment (shown on equipment tables) that cannot be supplied through official channels. Such equipment to be bought through Ordnance channels where possible.
Authority to incur expenditures which cannot be foreseen at present, and which the General Officer Commanding considers necessary for protection of the health of the Force.
Authority to incur expenditure not exceeding £500 for any one transaction for the recreation or other amenities of the Force.
Authority to disburse, at the discretion of the General Officer Commanding, from an entertainment fund which will be provided, to an amount not exceeding £1,000 per annum.
(Sgd) F. Jones
Minister of Defencepage 95
Following on a request from the GOC, a cabled authority was given from New Zealand, dated 18 April 1940, adding an additional paragraph to the above memorandum, to read:
Authority to incur expenditure not exceeding £100 sterling for any one transaction to cover items which cannot be foreseen at present, but which he considers essential for the better training or security of the Force.
In January 1940 there was also promulgated an issue of Expeditionary Force Emergency Regulations (made under a special act of Parliament), some of the paragraphs of which gave the GOC statutory powers to command, organise, and administer the force, appoint and promote officers, return personnel to New Zealand for a variety of reasons (of which sickness and duty were two), and appoint, promote, or reduce warrant officers and non-commissioned officers.
To return to the two documents given to the GOC, paragraph (a) of the first paper deals with operational matters, and so, although it is of the first importance, is not the concern of this volume. Paragraphs (b), (c), (d), and (e) cover the procedure to be followed in communications passing between the GOC and various authorities, the only ones the concern of this volume being (b) and (c). The paragraphs to which special attention is drawn are (f), (g), and (h), for they constituted the authority under which HQ 2 NZEF came into being and functioned. The last (unlettered) paragraph is discussed in Chapter 10.
Paragraphs (f), (g), and (h) gave the GOC extensive powers, which were the envy of the staff of other Dominion forces and, indeed, of the staff of GHQ also. They meant that the GOC had full powers to modify the Expeditionary Force as he wished without having to obtain the prior approval of any authority in New Zealand. The one restriction on the full 100 per cent implementation of these powers was that men had to be found by New Zealand, and that it was no use forming new units unless the men were going to be available, not only for initial formation but for subsequent maintenance. In the vast majority of cases men could be found from our reinforcement pool; but on occasions when the reorganisation was extensive – the proposed changes in late 1940, the proposed additions under FFC 36, and the formation of the armoured brigade – the prior approval of New Zealand had to be obtained. It may be claimed that the GOC's powers were used with restraint and with a due sense of responsibility, the number of occasions when Army Headquarters – the New Zealand authority most affected – made any form of protest or comment being remarkably few. There was, in fact, no case of real difference of opinion. Occasionally we were aware of a gasp coming overseas from the homeland over some page 96 action we had taken; but that was about as far as they ever got to remonstrating with us.
Provided that the Government of a country is prepared to trust the commander of an expeditionary force, the grant of such extensive powers is all to the good, if for no other reason than that there is an enormous saving in correspondence. The only risk is that the powers will be misused; but if this occurs, then the commander has been unworthy of the trust and must be replaced. It has already been mentioned that as a result of his visit to New Zealand in 1939–40 the GOC established a remarkable confidence by the Government in their commander, from which 2 NZEF profited beyond measure. On his side the GOC fully justified the confidence.
The second paper is of less importance. As it happened, there was little or no need to invoke some of these authorities, as normal military administration was adequate. We drew the British ration throughout with no augmentation; expenditures under paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (6) were minor ones. The GOC made full use of paragraph (5), his custom being to allocate part of the amount to the officers holding the rank of brigadier.
It will be noted that in these charters the terminology used was ‘2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force’. There is no mention of the Division. At this stage the greater, the Expeditionary Force, included the lesser, the Division. The same form of words can be noticed in all the correspondence that took place in late 1939 while the appointment of GOC was being discussed by Mr Fraser with authorities in England. The point is not of sufficient importance to be analysed further, for it was always clear to all concerned that the GOC was being appointed to command the Division just as much as the Expeditionary Force; but in the early stages no one had considered how this dual role was to be exercised.
Nor had anyone any time to envisage the full layout of the Expeditionary Force overseas. The United Kingdom Government had been informed that New Zealand's contribution would be a division. In the telegram notifying the War Office of the constitution of the First Echelon, ‘Base Details’ appears as one item, and later on there is a request for recommendations for any corps or army troop units which should be provided in proportion. The War Office in its reply specified certain units as being most needed, but of these only one (a survey battery) was ever supplied, and in any case the units were for the benefit of the army at large and not specially for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. There was no mention on either side of any base or training units or any indication of the extent to which the force would be self-contained. Later on it was made clear that New Zealand would provide certain medical units, including three hospitals; but beyond this nothing was settled.page 97
The war showed that the fighting formation overseas – the Division – was about three-fifths of the total force. Towards the end of 1941 there were as many troops outside the Division as inside it; but for most of the war the other ratio prevailed – for every three men in the Division there were two outside it. This portion outside the Division was made up partly of non-divisional units and of men in hospital, but mainly of reinforcement drafts and base and line-of-communication units. The excessive number outside the Division in late 1941 came from an accumulation of reinforcements at the time.
However, in 1940 we had not realised this in Maadi, and only came to full realisation as the year went on. At an early stage the need was felt for some sort of training establishment, and for a holding depot for men awaiting return to New Zealand. We could not wait for the arrival of our first hospital, but had to form one out of such bits and pieces as were available. By the late summer the outline of an extensive base training camp was emerging, necessitating the formation also of a number of service units to maintain it. The training depots envisaged were also to be the homes at the base of the various corps in the force, the place to which personnel from hospital or awaiting posting would be sent. At the time we did not have enough men to man all these new units, for beyond the first echelon of the Division we had nothing, so that improvisation was the order of the day.
The formation of a base organisation was the first link in a chain of events that led to development in our ideas about the command of the Expeditionary Force. A second link was formed by the fact that an army is really an example of complete state socialism, meaning that every aspect of life is the concern of the controlling authority – not only food, clothing, health, shelter, amusement, but also the domestic and personal problems that afflict mankind. Sooner or later, and indeed most of the time, all these or some of them are making work for the headquarters of the force. In our case, that of a small national army a long way from its homeland, most of these points meant communicating with New Zealand, in addition to the communications that must pass concerning the normal military administration of the force.
Neither of the two points mentioned above – the control of the base organisation and communications with New Zealand, especially on personal problems – had strictly speaking anything to do with the staff of the Division, the task of which was first to train a fighting machine, and later direct its operations in the field. These were full-time tasks in themselves.
In the latter half of 1940 we became aware of the imminent arrival of a number of non-divisional units, these being New Zealand's contribution to the common cause over and above the page 98 Division. These units by their very nature could have nothing to do with the Division.
It was thus becoming clear that the GOC was acting in two capacities: first as the commander of a division in the field, and second as commander of a military force consisting of a division plus an unspecified number of non-divisional, base and line-of-communication units, the whole creating a series of administrative problems, including domestic problems, which alone would necessitate a steady stream of communications to and from New Zealand. There was no thought in anyone's mind that the two roles to be filled by the GOC were incompatible one with the other, or that he should not continue to fill them; but it was agreed by all who were thinking about it that a divisional headquarters, engaged in conducting battles in the field, governed in its actions by operations against an enemy, and quite liable to be on the move for long periods, was not the place from which to control either non-divisional or base and line-of-communication units, or from which to engage in a mass of detailed correspondence with Army Headquarters in New Zealand.
The solution adopted was that a separate headquarters would be set up for ‘NZEF’ matters, that the GOC would always take the field with the Division, and that a senior staff officer would be appointed to the new headquarters to act for him when he was in the field. In September 1940 a memorandum was issued on the subject, the first two paragraphs reading as follows:
With effect from 5 Sep 40 it is proposed to separate to some extent the offices of HQ NZ Div and HQ 2 NZEF, the former being located as is best suited to the needs of the moment, the latter remaining at Maadi.
The subdivision of responsibilities will be:
It is not pretended that the wording of this memorandum is entirely clear, the use of the fatal ‘etc.’ conveying some degree of hesitancy. At the time everyone concerned was sure that the two headquarters were necessary; but when it came to putting it down on paper the results were not so good.
On 8 October 1940 an official 2 NZEF Order was issued, reading as follows:page 99
DAG 2nd Ech
Commissioner National Patriotic Fund
This was a bit better, and did show some attempt to restore order to what had been a rather confused situation. The very jumbled list of 2 NZEF ‘authorities’ set out in paragraph (3) comprises all those that existed at the time or were expected to arrive in the near future.
Between the publication of this order and of the next one given below, Divisional Headquarters moved to Helwan Camp to superintend the concentration of the Division, so exemplifying the state of affairs envisaged in paragraph 1 of the memorandum on page 98.
At a still later stage (27 November) yet another order was issued, reading as follows:
The organisation of headquarters in 2 NZEF is now as follows:
HQ 2 NZEF – responsible for policy and general administration as affecting 2 NZEF as a whole, and for the administration of GHQ troops (in so far as concerns 2 NZEF). It has no operational responsibility.
HQ NZ Div – responsible for normal duties of a divisional headquarters. In the meantime will continue to handle all courses of instruction including staff school and OCTU.
HQ 2 NZEF Base –
Administration of base camps and of 1 and 2 Gen Hosps.
Training of reinforcements, through a series of depots.
Command of all Base Administrative depots and units.
Movements between ports and Maadi Camp.
1 Mil Sec - Military Secretary; DDMS - Deputy Director of Medical Services; SCF - Senior Chaplain to the Forces; ADDS - Assistant Director of Dental Services; DAG - Deputy Adjutant-General; DJAG - Deputy Judge Advocate-General.
The only new development in this order is the appearance of HQ 2 NZEF Base, which took over all the detailed day-to-day administration of Maadi Camp. It had been in the process of formation for some months, but had not previously had its duties defined in orders. While the above order is not clear on the point, it was intended that HQ Base should deal with HQ 2 NZEF and not with HQ NZ Division. The Base Commander, in common with the formation commanders in the Division, was entitled to approach the GOC direct; but OICA would be the staff officer with whom he would subsequently deal, and not any of the divisional staff. In the rather confused period from September 1940 until the Division went to Greece in March 1941, when both HQ 2 NZEF and HQ Base were feeling their feet, the Base Commander, a distinguished officer from the First World War, acted as the GOC's adviser on matters of policy in addition to his duties in Maadi Camp, and there was a duplication in the activities of this officer and those of OICA; but as the relationship between the Base Commander and OICA was excellent, no harm was done – indeed quite the reverse, for the Base Commander had really something to contribute of value for the future, and gave advice which was appreciated as much by OICA as by anyone.
Such an indeterminate position could not continue indefinitely, however, and later in 1941 the respective duties of these two officers were clarified. Further attention is given later in this chapter to the duties of HQ 2 NZEF as compared with those of HQ Maadi Camp, the title adopted in August 1941.
For the purposes of command in its broadest sense, the GOC thereafter worked with two headquarters, HQ 2 NZEF and HQ NZ Division. He lived normally with Divisional Headquarters even when the Division was out of action, and only occasionally spent a day or so with HQ 2 NZEF. While engaged in active operations, he had to leave HQ 2 NZEF to its own devices. A heavy responsibility lay on the senior officer there, in part to carry on with normal routine as the GOC would wish, and in part to maintain contact with the GOC, keep him advised, and take his instructions.
The title chosen for this officer was ‘Officer in Charge of Administration’, that being the title usually held by the senior administrative staff officer in a British military command. It was suitable enough; but perhaps could have been improved. Later in the war a title grew up in the British service of ‘Chief Administrative Officer’, and this would have been better in our case also; but by then the other title had become well established. It was abbreviated to OICA.page 101
Before reviewing the adequacy or inadequacy of this method of command, some attention may be given to the question of the location of HQ 2 NZEF. The chief administrative officer in such cases has two functions, one as staff officer to his commander, and one as the overseer, even if not specifically the commander, of all the base and line-of-communication units. One view would place Headquarters at the rear of the line of communication, from which position it supervises the whole layout and sees the expeditionary force spread out in front of it. In such a location it is free to get on with its work, undisturbed by the ripples of war, but, for that very reason, out of touch with both commander and fighting formations. Another view looks on the Headquarters as part of the GOC's command organisation despite its separation from the fighting force; in which case it must be located where it can reach the GOC without too much delay, and moreover can keep in reasonable touch with the fighting troops. If the latter view is accepted, then Headquarters should be well forward in the line of communication, always bearing in mind that it is primarily an administrative office and should not get mixed up with operational movements. Moreover, when it moves, which should not be too frequently, it should go forward to the limits of reason. It is submitted that the second of the two views regarding location is the correct one.
From its formation in 1940 until the move to Italy in 1944, HQ 2 NZEF was in Maadi Camp. Had the campaign in Greece taken a different course, involving the Division in a permanent location in the Balkans, Headquarters would have had to move across the Mediterranean. But in both the Greece and Crete campaigns, and in the Libyan campaign of 1941, the Division moved out and back again so quickly that there was no question of a move for Headquarters. A fortnight after the beginning of the Libyan campaign, OICA and one or two other officers from Headquarters went forward to catch up with the Division and see what steps might have to be taken, only to meet the Division coming back to its starting point. Both before and after this Libyan campaign, the Division was in an area in the Western Desert not more than eight hours' car drive from Maadi.
When the Division moved to Syria in 1942 there was some talk of our moving, and indeed of closing down in Egypt altogether, for there was a vague idea that the Division would later be moving into Turkey or Persia; but again the Division remained in the area for a few months only. Nevertheless, HQ 2 NZEF was definitely too far away, for normally it took two days to go from Maadi to Divisional Headquarters at Baalbek.page 102
During the Battle for Egypt in the summer of 1942 the Division was never more than two or three hours away from Headquarters. As the victorious advance from Alamein continued, the Division became farther and farther away, until in early 1943 it became necessary to use air travel if the journey from Maadi to Divisional Headquarters was to be completed in reasonable time. Sometimes we could get through in one day, but often it took two. Had it not been clear from geography that sooner or later the advance must come to an end, we would have had to move HQ 2 NZEF. Luckily for this purpose, the Division came back to Maadi very quickly at the end of the campaign, and for a while the two headquarters were together again.
It has been mentioned in Chapter 5 that when the Division moved to Italy much thought was given to the action to be taken by HQ 2 NZEF and by Maadi Camp. About the move of Headquarters there was really little doubt, at least as soon as it was known that the Division would be continuing in the Italian theatre and not, for instance, moving to France. To be separated from the GOC for an indefinite period by either a sea journey, or a mixture of air and land travel taking at least two days, would have been impossible for the proper administration of the force, especially as the greater part was in Italy. When Headquarters moved in January-February 1944, it was already a month or two behindhand.
In accordance with the principle set out on page 101, Headquarters should have been located just as far forward in Italy as was possible. Unfortunately, we ran into some opposition from the new GHQ, or at least some failure to appreciate the position of the headquarters of a small national army, and it took us a little time to persuade GHQ that we must be accepted and accommodated reasonably well. The area on the east coast of Italy in advance of Bari was already congested with troops, including large units from the United States Air Force, so that the tendency was to push us towards the rear; but there is no doubt that OICA was wrong in accepting the site finally allotted to us, namely Santo Spirito, immediately north-west of Bari. We should have tried to get a more advanced site. Santo Spirito was quite suitable in itself, but was too far from the Division for an initial location. The distance was all the more noticeable when the Division moved across to the Cassino area, which it did almost as soon as HQ 2 NZEF arrived in Italy. However, the Division then stayed in this area until the end of May 1944.
From then onwards the Division moved farther north up the centre of Italy, by August it was in the Florence area, and it was obviously going farther north still. It was high time for Headquarters to move. At first we thought of following up behind the page 103 Division along the central axis; but just at that point the future plans for offensives in Italy involved the Division's moving over to the east coast, and thereafter advancing along the coast to the north of the Apennines. Initially it was moving to near Ancona, which was to be the advanced port for the new advance. We were told by GHQ that somewhere in this area would be a suitable spot for Headquarters.
It was the only time in the war that we put into force the principles governing the location of Headquarters, i.e., not to move too often, but to move far ahead when the time does come. In the end we chose the township of Senigallia, which when we first looked at it was only a few thousand yards behind the front troops. Even when we moved there in September 1944 the front line was only a few miles away; and the Division, then awaiting its turn to go into the line, was less than half an hour away.
Senigallia turned out to be a great success, and as a location was ideal. Right up to the opening of the last battle in April 1945, Divisional Headquarters was never more than two or three hours away, and we were on the axis of advance.
By the time the Division reached Trieste in May, Headquarters was too far behind; but we put up with some inconvenience, as we knew that the Division would soon be moving back. Probably the most inconvenient period was while the Division was in the Lake Trasimene area in July and August 1945; for although the distance was less than when it had been in Trieste, the roads between the two headquarters were inconvenient, involving a roundabout journey across the Apennines.
When the Division moved into the Florence area in October 1945 the two headquarters were amalgamated, and we were back where we had been in 1940.
So much for the location of HQ 2 NZEF; but now we must consider whether the system of having two headquarters worked. That two headquarters were necessary is beyond doubt, for the staff of the Division in the field had to be left free for operational duties, and could not handle the mass of administrative matter which passed through HQ 2 NZEF.
Our experience showed that such a system could work, provided that there is a dividing line between the duties of the two headquarters, and that the two staffs have a good understanding and co-operate to the full. The only danger – or perhaps difficulty is the better word – was that work properly the province of one headquarters would be done at the other; and as it was impossible for HQ 2 NZEF to trespass into the operational field, the hard fact was that the only trouble that did arise came from work being done at Divisional Headquarters that was really the task of HQ 2 NZEF, page 104 the reason of course being that the GOC was at Divisional Headquarters most of the time. There were occasions when OICA had to point out that some problem or other was strictly speaking a 2 NZEF one and not a divisional one, and that before any action was taken the 2 NZEF aspects should be borne in mind. If instructions were issued, or cables sent, without the staff of HQ 2 NZEF having the opportunity to express their views, there was a good chance that the action had been taken without a full knowledge of the circumstances, and that some confusion would follow; and this did occur. It must be remembered that the very existence of a separate Expeditionary Force Headquarters implies that the GOC will more often than not be otherwise occupied with operational matters, and during such time as he has been actively engaged in the field cannot possibly know all that has been happening in the rest of the force or in general administration. Nothing said here is intended to deprive the commander of a force of any of his authority; but if confusion is to be avoided it is better to work through the appropriate staff. It was with this object in view that an attempt was made to keep HQ 2 NZEF reasonably close to the GOC.
All that ever did happen was confusion, and nothing more serious. After all, the matters at issue were only administrative, and often long-term, and there was no question of operations in any form.
The relations of OICA with the GOC may perhaps be illustrated on their humorous side by the account of one incident. In December 1943 OICA was visiting Divisional Headquarters. It so happened that during his visit the new Corps Commander called. The GOC sent for OICA, and as the latter approached said to the Corps Commander, ‘I particularly want you to meet this officer. This is the officer who tells me all the things I can't do.’
There were one or two occasions during the war when the 2 NZEF aspects of operational activities of the Division were forgotten. The outstanding one was the failure to realise the full implications of the move of the Division from Egypt to Greece, and for this Divisional Headquarters and HQ 2 NZEF were equally responsible. Another less important case was the failure to advise HQ 2 NZEF of the secrecy of the move from the Sangro to Cassino. On the whole, however, the liaison between the two headquarters was good, and the two staffs co-operated well. This became progressively more necessary, as in the latter stages of the war we were more self-contained than in the early ones, and the moves of the Division had a correspondingly greater effect on rear NZEF units and installations.
Obviously, the one commander working through two headquarters can only work when the whole force is in one theatre of war, page 105 and when the field formation is at least half the total force. Had half the Expeditionary Force been in England and half in the Mediterranean, one commander in charge of the whole force and, at the same time, commander of one portion would have been an impossibility. Our brief experience in 1940 when the Second Echelon was in England would support this view. Similarly, had the Division not been the greater part of the force, and indeed the reason why the force existed at all, it would have been difficult for the commander of the field force to be commander of the whole.
It was sometimes suggested during the war that there should be an ‘Expeditionary Force Commander’ separate from the Divisional Commander, to be a full-time appointment in itself. The Divisional Commander would then be free to concentrate on operational matters, and as far as concerned the support to be given by rear echelons, would be no worse off than the commander of any British division, where support is given by the Corps or the Army Headquarters and the Divisional Commander has no powers himself. At first sight there may be something tempting in this suggestion; but closer inspection indicates weaknesses. The Division in our case was the only one to be considered, whereas in an army corps or an army there are many divisions. Our Division was three-fifths of the total force and, even more important, was the reason why the force existed at all, for apart from the group of non-divisional units, the sole task of the rest of the force was to support the Division. There was thus in this sphere a unity of objective in our small army. It is an accepted principle in British organisation that the commander of the nucleus formation commands the whole force, the commonest example being that of the brigade group, where the commander of the infantry brigade commands all the ancillary units also. In some ways our Expeditionary Force could be looked on as a ‘Divisional Group’. An ‘Expeditionary Force Commander’ would not ‘command’ the Division as an operational formation, but would merely be responsible for its non-operational administration. His only true command would be the base and line-of-communication units, so that while there might be some justification for making him of the same rank as the Divisional Commander, there could be none for making him senior in rank. Conflicts between him and the Divisional Commander would inevitably arise; for if the latter wished to make any alterations in equipment, establishments, location of rear units, etc., he would have to apply to, and then convince, an officer who had no responsibilities for the operations he was being asked to help. A normal divisional commander, when applying to his corps or army commander for help, is at least dealing with an officer who, on a higher level, is just as much responsible for the operations of the division as he is himself.page 106
An Expeditionary Force Commander in the circumstances of 2 NZEF would have been a fifth wheel to the coach and would have been a constant source of irritation to the Divisional Commander. The Expeditionary Force gained immensely in cohesion and flexibility by having one commander who could make adjustments if any were called for, without having to consult an independent authority.
Had the Expeditionary Force consisted of two or three parts with either the same or differing functions, and approximately equal in size, it would have been a different story, and a case could be made out for a separate non-operational Force Commander.
At a time in 1943 when it seemed likely that the GOC would be offered the appointment of Corps Commander as a permanency, the New Zealand Government was firm that it would wish him to continue as commander of the Expeditionary Force. The desire to retain in any capacity the services of an officer who had already rendered outstanding service can easily be understood, and the reverse of the picture, that the GOC should sever his connection with the force, would have given a shock to everyone concerned, both in New Zealand and outside it. Good will on all sides, together with memories of the past, would doubtless have made the scheme work; but the position of the new Divisional Commander would have been awkward. Sentiment would have been in conflict with efficiency. Luckily for the control of the force, nothing came of the proposal, as the GOC preferred to stay with the New Zealand Army.
The extra work placed on the commander from his dual role is eased by having a dual staff, and a senior staff officer for Expeditionary Force duties. In the future when any expeditionary force goes overseas as part of the country's commitments under some international agreement, it is probable that there will be some semi-diplomatic work, or at least inter-Allied discussions, separate from the operational activities of the force. While the principle that the commander of the nucleus field formation should also be the commander of the whole force should for choice be adhered to, it becomes even more important that the staff officer for Expeditionary Force duties should be of some standing, and fully qualified to speak for his commander.
It was a year before the commander and staff of 2 NZEF really knew each other and developed that mutual trust and understanding which is essential. From then on the position could not have been bettered, and both the Division and the Expeditionary Force profited thereby – which indicates that it would be desirable that commander and staff should have worked together in peacetime, if only for a few months, so as to smooth off the rough corners. The staff would then be in a position to take control from the outset instead of page 107 spending a period – as we did in 1940 – learning our own job at the same time as we were supposed to be teaching others theirs.
In the same degree of importance is the necessity from the outset of having a separate staff officer for Expeditionary Force duties. These duties will arise from the very beginning, and should be the task of a separate staff from the beginning. It is putting an unfair strain on the normal administrative staff of a division to expect them to carry the dual burden, and our experience shows that it cannot be done. The need for the separate Expeditionary Force staff is all the greater if, as will be recommended later in this volume, a large part of the base and line-of-communication troops goes overseas at the beginning.
It may be asked whether it would not have been possible for HQ 2 NZEF to be combined with HQ Maadi Camp instead of having two headquarters, each with a brigadier at the top. It can be pointed out with justice that for a year in 1942–43 the two headquarters were amalgamated; and it can be said now that when in 1941 the first commander of Maadi Camp left the force, and new arrangements were to be made, the intention was to have one headquarters only. A closer look at the position, however, caused this idea to be given up.
It is not difficult to draw the distinction between the roles of the two offices. Headquarters 2 NZEF was primarily a ‘staff’ office, and OICA was staff officer to the GOC for one side of the latter's work. It is true that OICA was ‘overseer’ of the lines of communication, and latterly even the commander of them by official appointment; but the command could only be exercised in a broad general way, for the units concerned were in part strewn all over Italy from the Po valley to Taranto, and in part away in Egypt. Headquarters 2 NZEF had to keep a broad view over 2 NZEF as a whole, and ensure continuity from rear to front. Its viewpoint overseas ran from Suez to the Turkish frontier, or to Tunis, or to Cassino, or to Trieste, depending upon where the Division was at the moment. And this was only part of the tale; for Headquarters was responsible for maintaining the vital link with New Zealand, a task of the first order in itself. Headquarters, moreover, was the co-ordinating authority for the large number of NZEF ‘controls’ or ‘authorities’, including Medical, Dental, Chaplains, Legal, Pay, Public Relations and so on – the full list appears in Chapter 8. The co-ordination might have been slight, almost impalpable, but it was nevertheless a necessity.
The work of HQ Maadi Camp bore the same relation to the work of HQ 2 NZEF as that of a commanding officer does to that of a formation commander. Headquarters Maadi Camp commanded directly many thousands of troops organised into a series of units, page 108 and was directly responsible for their training and administration, including their discipline – and it may be said that discipline in Cairo alone was a constant preoccupation. The work of HQ Maadi Camp was the detailed day-to-day work that always applies to direct command of troops.
Had the two headquarters been combined into one throughout there is no doubt that the detailed day-to-day work would have eclipsed the long-term work, a state of affairs that always happens if one office deals with both kinds of business. The head of the office would have had his hands full running Maadi Camp and would have had little time to travel round and keep personal touch with the GOC and the scattered parts of the force. When the Division moved to Italy, the position of OICA, tied to Maadi Camp, would have been an impossible one.
The explanation of the temporary amalgamation in 1942–43 is, in the first place, that it was an emergency measure to conserve manpower. The OC Maadi Camp at the beginning of the crisis was lent to GHQ for defence duties within Egypt, and no separate replacement was available; and throughout the camp officers and men were being released from administrative duties for employment as reinforcements, so that it was only proper that the two headquarters (HQ 2 NZEF and HQ Maadi Camp) should set an example of economy and exact harder work from those who remained. Moreover, the Division was nearer to Maadi than ever before during operations, so that the normal work of HQ 2 NZEF was reduced, the whole Expeditionary Force being in effect compulsorily concentrated. For the moment there was only one task in front of everyone, the defence of Egypt.
As soon as the advance started again after Alamein, and the canvas widened out, so did the work of HQ 2 NZEF change back again to what it had been before the crisis. The two headquarters remained amalgamated in appearance; but in fact the work was being done in two compartments, for a separate OC Troops was appointed for Maadi Camp, and another for the relief camp on the other side of Cairo. These officers, while subordinate to OICA, who continued to hold the dual role officially, were largely independent. The second role held by OICA was better expressed as ‘Officer Commanding the Lines of Communication’ than as ‘OC Maadi Camp’, i.e., he had supervisory powers over the real OC Maadi Camp without being actively engaged in the command himself. With the increasing dispersal of the Expeditionary Force, and the emergence of the furlough scheme, it would have been impossible for OICA to take an active or personal part in the running of the base camp.page 109
Nevertheless, despite what has been said above, it is probably safe to say that while the Division was in North Africa and Syria the two headquarters could have been run as one, the strains that would have emerged being balanced by the saving in overheads. When the Division went to Italy the possibility of amalgamation vanished.
Inadvertently we had found the best answer of all in the period from Alamein onwards, namely that the Chief Administrative Officer should also be the commander of all base and line-of-communication units, including the base camp, so ensuring cohesion from rear to front. The base camp, in turn, would have its own commander and staff, as would any other camps. It was mentioned on page 107 that OICA was ‘overseer’ of the lines of communication, this being a natural result of his official duties; but otherwise than in Italy, and then only latterly, he was never appointed as commander. Had this position prevailed during the time that the Division was in North Africa, the combined headquarters (2 NZEF and Maadi Camp) would have included a separate branch, under a senior officer, for the detailed command of the camp.
When in May 1943 the Division came back to Maadi, all our headquarters – Division, NZEF, and Maadi Camp – were in the one spot, and we had a little difficulty in deciding just who commanded whom. Headquarters 2 NZEF, still amalgamated in appearance with HQ Maadi Camp, controlled the furlough scheme, which was the main task at the moment, while Divisional Headquarters controlled the camp. The position was not entirely clear, but good will among all concerned prevented either duplication or omission in daily routine.
To sum up – the roles of HQ 2 NZEF and of HQ Maadi Camp were distinct and the two headquarters could not be completely merged into one; but it would have been possible for them to be combined while the Division was in North Africa, provided that a separate OC Camp was appointed and OICA was not required to command the camp directly.