Appreciation of the Situation Regarding Strength of New Zealand Army Overseas
4 August 1944
1. To reduce NZ Army overseas to one division plus detachments in UK, Fiji and miscellaneous.
(a) Withdraw 2 Div, or
(b) Complete withdrawal of 3 Div, including cadres of approximately 6000 all ranks, which under existing decision is to be retained to assist in re-forming the division.
3. It is the policy of the Government that NZ should maintain one division in the field until the conclusion of hostilities. Therefore, if the 2nd Division is withdrawn, the 3rd Division should be re-formed; if the 3rd Division is disbanded, the 2nd Division should be retained.
4. The withdrawal of the 2nd Division involves its disbandment. It would not be possible to move the division to NZ and re-employ it against Japan, though a proportion of officers, NCOs, and men would be available for such operations.
5. The decision to withdraw the cadres (6000 all ranks) of 3 Division from New Caledonia to NZ will lead to the following results:
(a) Constant demands for the release to civil life of considerable numbers of men from the cadres.
(b) The retention of 6000 men for several months in NZ camps with consequent boredom and unrest.
These men can only be employed on the following tasks:
Training, especially officers, NCOs, and prospective NCOs.
Seasonal work as units.
If employed to any great extent on seasonal work, or if released from the Army for any lengthy periods, the value of the officers, NCOs, and men as cadres on which to reform will deteriorate considerably.
6. The withdrawal of the 2nd Division has the following disadvantages:
(a) Strategical situation in Italy: Allied strength in Italy would be reduced to the very considerable detriment of the full success of operations there, which, as part of the whole strategy of the war against Germany, have an important effect on the operations in France and Russia and on the duration of the war against Germany and consequently on the war against Japan.
The reduction of Allied strength in Italy through withdrawal of 2nd Division is, therefore, a matter of high importance, and becomes more so if any reduction takes place there for other causes, such as, for example, to support or to conduct operations elsewhere.
This disadvantage applies at any stage of the operations in Italy, as the Allied forces there, whatever success they attain territorially or in the destruction of Axis forces, remain a constant threat to the Axis, offensively, because of their ability to operate through France or round the North of the Adriatic into Yugoslavia and beyond. Defensively, the Allied forces in Italy may be required to contain or hold German forces in Northern Italy or vicinity which could be reinforced to dangerous strength if a stalemate occurred in France, or if the Russian operations were halted on the borders of Germany. In either of these cases, the Axis might well be able to form strategic reserves for employment against Italy.
(b) Shipping, which is still a vital factor in operations, would be withdrawn for a considerable period, to move the 35,000 men of the 2nd Division from Italy and Egypt to NZ. In view of the shipping situation and impending operations, this movement would probably be slow, leading to the NZ troops being held in base camps overseas for a lengthy period, thus causing discontent and waste of manpower resources. During this period NZ would have no Army participation in either theatre of war, and if, as has been stated, a new division could not be raised until the 2nd Division returns, the raising of the new division would be delayed accordingly.
(c) Manpower wastage: The disbandment of 2nd and 3rd Divisions and the raising of a fresh division would cause a heavy waste of manpower, in addition to that referred to in sub-para (b) above. From the time the decision is taken to raise a fresh division until its appearance on the battlefield, approximately 12 months would elapse. During this period, approximately 25,000 men would be neither producing nor fighting.
Assuming the strength of the new division, plus corps and base troops to be 25,000 men and that it would take six months to return the 2nd Division to NZ, the total manpower wastage would be:
New division = 25,000 for 12 months
2nd Division (35,000 return over 6 months) = 8,750 [for]  [months]
Total wastage = 33,750 men for 12 months
Such a loss of manpower resources to either the fighting or production forces of the country at this stage in the war, and having regard to the heavy demands for production, merits the fullest consideration.
On the other hand, while a decision to retain the 2nd Division in Europe would avoid this waste of manpower in the meantime, a decision to raise a new division on the conclusion of the European campaign would create more or less the same situation.
There are two reasons, however, why it is advisable to postpone any wastage of manpower as long as possible:
(i) At the end of the German war there should be less need for NZ to produce munitions and war equipment, since British and US production should be sufficient
to meet the reduced requirements at that stage, consequently, the manpower situation in NZ should then be eased to some extent.
(ii) By the time Germany is defeated, the war against Japan may have developed in such a way as to make it unnecessary for NZ to provide a new division.
The retention of 2nd Division in Europe would therefore offer at the least some prospect of avoiding a heavy wastage of manpower and also the possibility that if it did occur, the manpower situation would then be easier.
(d) Sentiment: The withdrawal of the 2nd Division if decided upon might well be in progress just as victory in Europe is achieved, leading to NZ troops being deprived of participation in the spectacular and easy final stages of the campaign after having fought through the hard stages up to that point. To see their comrades of the Eighth Army participate and be publicised while the NZ troops are in base camps awaiting ships might possibly cause bitterness both amongst the troops and the NZ public. On the other hand, this would presumably be reduced by the prospects of an early return to NZ, and it is only fair to say that in a somewhat similar situation in 1918 the men of the 1st NZ Division showed considerable objection to participating in the advance into Germany after the Armistice. One factor in the present war which may, however, alter the situation is the fact that very few of the troops of 2nd Division have seen Great Britain, whereas the 1st NZ Division of 1914–18 was based there, and the prospects of visiting Great Britain, France, and other European countries may have a strong appeal, and would not be without considerable value to NZ generally in various directions.
7. The withdrawal of 2nd Division has the following advantages:
(a) Sentiment: The feeling sometimes expressed that the 2nd Division has been too long in the field and that fit men who have not yet served overseas should take their share of the fighting would be fully met.
It is commonly stated that the division has been overseas for 4 ½ years. This is only partly true since through casualties and discharge in NZ the majority of the long-service men, i.e., over 3 years’ service, are no longer with the division, and the greater number of those who are still on the strength have had a recent and lengthy furlough in NZ.
This feeling regarding length of service can be adequately met without withdrawing the division, by the adoption of a replacement policy, under which men who have served for a prescribed period are replaced and returned to civil life. As this policy would require an increased call-up of men who have not yet served overseas, that point also would be met to a considerable degree, but not to the same extent as if a fresh division were formed.
On the other hand, a large number of men of the 2nd Division have had little service and should be required to continue service in a new division if one were formed.
(b) NZ Participation against Japan: Withdrawal of 2nd Division would enable a fresh division to be raised at an earlier date than would otherwise be possible, since the new division could not be formed until the 2nd Division returned.
This earlier participation in the war against Japan would depend upon where the new division would be used, since if it were required to fight alongside British troops, it might be ready before such troops could reach the new theatre. In that event, the new division might be required to await the arrival of the British forces, or possibly it could be employed with the Australians, which in the more probable future strategical developments, does not appear to be likely.
While there seems little likelihood that the presence or absence of an NZ division in the war against Japan would have much strategical importance, in view of the large forces likely to be available from elsewhere at that stage—and certainly an importance not comparable with the importance of the 2nd Division in Europe—it would have some political advantage. The early participation of an NZ division in the Japanese war would be welcomed by Australian statesmen and it would increase NZ's claim to be heard on Pacific policy when the war ends. On the other hand, even without an NZ division participating in the final stages of the war against Japan, NZ has a notable contribution to the global war against Germany, Italy, and Japan to rely upon, together with a casualty list which, on the basis of population, is unlikely to be exceeded by any nation. In addition, NZ would be strongly represented by powerful air forces and very useful naval forces in a war which we and US Commanders have recognised as predominantly a naval and air war.
(c) Delay in return: Withdrawal of 2nd Division before the end of the war with Germany might possibly reduce the lengthy delay which seems certain to occur in the return of the division after the end of the German war, when shipping will be fully engaged in movements of troops and stores to America and the Japanese area, and in the repatriation of prisoners of war.
8. The advantages and disadvantages of the withdrawal of the 3rd Division need not be discussed, since in actual fact the withdrawal has already taken place.
The factors connected with the retention of the cadres for this division—6000 all ranks—have been mentioned in para 5. There is no doubt that these cadres would be of the greatest value in the reforming of the 3rd Division or of a new division, but in view of the time that is likely to elapse before the cadres could be expanded to a full division, the unrest caused by a long waiting period, and the certain attrition due to pressure for men to be released to civil life, it is at least doubtful whether much of this value will not be dissipated to such an extent as to make it inadvisable to accept the disadvantages mentioned.
If, however, the 2nd Division is to be withdrawn in the near future, the cadres of the 3rd Division should be retained and the new division built up immediately; if the 2nd Division is to remain in Europe the cadres of 3rd Division, less the strength required to take care of the equipment, should be disbanded.
9. Apart from the participation of one NZ division in the war, there are other directions in which the NZ Army can give a most valuable contribution to victory. These are:
(a) Increased assistance to Fijian and Tongan forces by provision of officers, NCOs, and technical personnel, to enable an infantry brigade to proceed to an active theatre of war, plus a Fijian-Tongan infantry battalion for garrison duty in the Pacific, or alternatively two Fijian-Tongan brigades to be provided for garrison work.
(b) Provision of NZ officers and NCOs as instructors for British troops in Australia.
(c) Provision of NZ officers for British forces in India, or wherever required by the British authorities.
Requests have already been received for assistance in these directions and if acceded to on the largest possible scale would have the highest value in the successful prosecution of the war.
10. Withdrawal of 2nd Division before the end of the European war would have an adverse effect on the war against Germany (para 6 (a)).
It would increase shipping difficulties (para 6 (b)).
It would create an immediate manpower wastage equivalent to 8750 men for 12 months, or a total wastage of 33,750 men for 12 months if a new division were raised to keep NZ army participation at the level of one division (para 6 (c)).
It would deny the 2nd Division participating in the final victory against Germany (para 6 (d)).
On the other hand, it would meet popular feeling that the division should be withdrawn and that men who have not yet fought should be sent overseas (para 7 (a)).
It would enable a new division to be raised against Japan at an earlier date than would otherwise be possible, but this does not necessarily mean earlier operations against Japan (para 7 (b)).
Whether, in the event that 2nd Division remains in Europe till the end of the German war, a new division should be raised against Japan, depends upon the strategical situation obtaining at the time (para 6 (c)).
While NZ participation in the final stages of the war against Japan is desirable on political grounds, NZ's record in the war, together with continuing naval and air forces, is sufficiently noteworthy to date to support political objections, and the withdrawal of 2nd Division and the raising of a new division does not necessarily ensure that an NZ division would, in fact, participate against Japan. Such a course might conceivably lead to NZ Army forces not being present at the final stages of either the German or the Japanese war (para 7 (b)).
Apart from a division participating in the war, there are other directions in which NZ can make a notable contribution to the early and successful conclusion of the war (para 9).
11. From the above survey, I come to the conclusion that the best course for NZ to follow, in all the circumstances, known and probable, is as follows:
(a) Retain 2nd Division in Europe till the end of the war against Germany.
(b) Disband the cadres of the 3rd Division, with the exception of the personnel required to guard and maintain equipment.
(c) Provide officers, NCOs, and technical personnel to the extent required by –
(i) Fijian and Tongan forces.
(ii) British forces, as instructors and/or leaders for British units in Australia.
(iii) India, for any purposes required.
(d) Adopt a liberal replacement policy to replace men of long service in the 2nd Division, the replacements to be provided from men in civil life who have not yet served abroad, from short-service personnel of 3rd Division, and from other officers, NCOs, and men of 3rd Division who volunteer for such service.
(sgd) E. Puttick,
Chief of the General Staff