FREYBERG, Bernard Cyril
4006, Lieutenant Commander, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division
Captain and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, Royal West Surrey Regiment,
General Officer Commanding the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force (WW2)
For most conspicuous bravery and brilliant leading as a Battalion Commander. By his splendid personal gallantry he carried the initial attack straight through the enemy's front system of trenches. Owing to mist and heavy fire O'f all descriptions, Lieutenant-Colonel Freyberg's command was much disorganised after the capture of the first objective. He personally rallied and re-formed his men, including men from other units who had become intermixed. He inspired all with his own contempt of danger. At the appointed time he led his men to the successful assault of the second objective, many prisoners being captured. During this advance he was twice wounded. He again rallied and re-formed all who were with him, and although unsupported in a very advanced position, he held his ground for the remainder of the day, and throughout the night, under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. When reinforced on the following morning, he organised the attack on a strongly fortified village and showed a fine example of dash in personally leading the assault, capturing the village and five hundred prisoners. In this operation he was again wounded. Later in the afternoon, he was again wounded severely, but refused to leave the line till he had issued final instructions. The personality, valour and utter contempt of danger on the part of this single Officer enabled the lodgment in the most advanced objective of the Corps to be permanently held, and on this point d'appui the line was eventually formed.
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG)
CHANCERY OF THE ORDER OF
ST. MICHAEL AND ST. GEORGE,
Downing Street, S.W.1
29th January, 1946.
The KING has been graciously pleased to- give directions for the following appointment to, and promotion in, the.Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.: —
To be Additional Memhers of the First Class, or Knights Grand Cross, of the said Most Distinguished Order: —
Field-Marshal the Honourable Sir Harold Rupert Leofric George ALEXANDER, G.C.B., C.S.I., D.S.O., M.C., Governor General and Commander-in-Chief Designate of Canada.
Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Cyril FREYBERG, V.C., K.C.B., K.B.E., C.M.G., D.S.O., Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief Designate of New Zealand.
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB)
CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS
St. James's Palace, S.W.1
24th November, 1942.
The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the 'following promotion in, and appointments to, the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, in recognition of the supreme gallantry and magnificent achievements of British and Dominion Troops and their Commanders in the present operations in the Middle East: —
To be Additional Members of the Military Division of the Second Class, or Knights Commanders, of the said Most Honourable Order:—
Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Cyril Freyberg, ........
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE)
Was made a KBE and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in early 1942
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Freyberg, was made a CB in 1936
Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG)
Distinguished Service Order
D.S.O. gazetted 3 June 1915
In recognition of his services with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the landing on the peninsula the night of 24-25 April 1915, when he swam ashore at night, alone, and lit flares on the beach to distract attention from the landing operations which were happening elsewhere. He was several hours in the water befotre being picked up (Gallipoli)
1st Bar gazetted 1 February 1919
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the attacks which led up to the capture of Gheluvelt on 28 September 1918, where the success of the operations was greatly due to his dash and leading power. Wherever the fighting was thickest he was always to be found leading and encouraging the troops
2nd bar gazetted 8 March 1919
For marked gallantry and initiative on 11 November 1918 at Lessines. He personally led the cavalry, and though at the time he only had nine men with him, he rushed the town, capturing 100 of the enemy and preventing the blowing up of the important road bridges over the Dendre
3rd bar gazetted 5 July 1945
In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Italy
Mentioned in Despatches
WW1 = 6 mentions
11 July 1916 - Freyberg BC, Commander, DSO, RNVR (Hood Bn.).
WW2 = mentions
15 December 1942 - Lieutenant General Sir Bernard C. Freyberg, VC, KCB, KBE, CMG, DSO. (4006).
Royal Order of George I, Grand Commander with Swords
4006 Major General Sir Bernard Cyril FREYBERG VC Commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and General Officer Commanding 'Creforce' May 1941.
Greek Gold Cross of Valour
4006 Major General Sir Bernard Cyril FREYBERG VC For assisting 3 Greek Mounted Brigade in training and during the battles of Rimini, Bellaria and Rubicone in Italy 1944, as General Officer Commanding 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Greek War Cross 1940, First Class, in gold
4006 Major General Sir Bernard Cyril FREYBERG VC
Commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and General Officer Commanding 'Creforce' May 1941. Incorrectly Gazetted in the London Gazette 16 June 1944 as Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix.
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG)
Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB)
Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE)
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG)
Distinguished Service Order and three bars
Knight Justice of the Venerable Order of St. John (KStJ)
War Medal 1914-19
Mention in Despatches (6 times)
Africa Star with
War Medal 1939-45
Mention in Despatches
NZ War Service Medal
Coronation Medal 1937
Coronation Medal 1953
Croix de Guerre (France)
Royal Order of George I, Grand Commander with Swords (Greece)
Greek Gold Cross of Valour (Greece)
Greek War Cross 1940, First Class, in gold (Greece)
Legion of Merit (Commander) (United States)
Courtesy Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
Seventh Governor-General of New Zealand. Bernard Cyril Freyberg was born in London on 21 March 1889 and was the son of James Freyberg and of his second wife, Julia née Hamilton, of an Argyllshire family. When he was two years old his parents emigrated to New Zealand, where his father joined the Public Service in Wellington as a surveyor. Freyberg was educated at Wellington College, where he became noted for his prowess at sports. He excelled at swimming and won the New Zealand junior swimming title in 1905 and the senior title five years later. When he left school he took up dentistry and, after training with J. S. Fairchild, of Wellington, acted as locum tenens for A. L. Yule in Morrinsville. While there he swam down the Waihou River from Te Aroha to Paeroa – a distance of about 14 miles. On 18 January 1912 he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Hauraki Regiment (Territorials), but relinquished this a month later when he accepted a position at Levin where he remained, with one interruption – a trip to Australia as a stoker in the Maunganui – until early in 1914, when he went to San Francisco.
Immediately on the outbreak of the First World War Freyberg went to England and volunteered for service. G. S. Richardson arranged for him to join the 7th “Hood” Battalion of the Royal Naval Brigade, and he was on the Belgian front in September 1914. Rupert Brooke, the poet, was an officer in the 2nd “Anson” Battalion and he and Freyberg began a friendship which lasted until the former's death at Lemnos. In April 1915 the Brigade was sent to the Dardanelles. There, on the night of 24 April 1915, Freyberg volunteered to swim ashore in the Gulf of Saros to divert the Turks' attention from the main landing. Although under heavy firing, he escaped unscathed and his successful exploit earned him his first D.S.O. After the Gallipoli campaign Freyberg was sent to France. On 13 November 1916, when he was in command of the “Hood” Battalion near Beaumont Hamel, he won the Victoria Cross “by his splendid personal gallantry”. In the words of the official citation: “The personality, valour, and utter contempt of danger on the part of this single Officer enabled the lodgement in the most advanced objective of the Corps to be permanently held, and on this point d'appui the line was eventually formed”. He was wounded four times in this engagement. When the war ended Freyberg was a Temporary Brigadier with the 29th Division. He had won the V.C., the D.S.O. and two bars, the C.M.G., was mentioned six times in dispatches, and had been wounded nine times.
After the war Freyberg attended the Staff College at Camberley. From 1929 to 1931 he commanded the 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment, and he was Assistant Quartermaster-General, Southern Command (1931–33), before becoming a General Staff Officer (first class) at the War Office. He retired from the Army in 1934, but was recalled in September 1939 to become General Officer Commanding the Salisbury Plains Area. In November 1939 the New Zealand Government invited him to command the New Zealand Division in the Middle East. For a short time in 1941 he was Allied Commander-in-Chief in Crete and was responsible for evacuating the troops there. He led the New Zealand Division through the Greek, African, and Italian campaigns, winning a third bar to his D.S.O. in Italy in 1945.
On 17 June 1946 Freyberg succeeded Lord Newall as Governor-General of New Zealand. He held this office, having his term extended, until 15 August 1952. In 1951 he was elevated to the peerage and took the style “Baron Freyberg of Wellington, New Zealand and Munstead, Surrey”.
From 1953 until his death Freyberg was Deputy Constable and Lieutenant-Governor of Windsor Castle. In addition to his military honours Freyberg was awarded the following honorary degrees: LL.D. (St. Andrews, 1922, and New Zealand, 1953) and D.C.L. (Oxford, 1945).
On 14 June 1922 Freyberg married Barbara, widow of the Hon. Francis Walter Stafford Maclaren, M.P., daughter of Sir Herbert Jekyll, K.C.M.G., of Munstead, Surrey. Freyberg died at Windsor on 4 July 1963 and was succeeded in his title by his only son.
As a soldier Freyberg became a legend in his own lifetime. Although his men thought him formidable, he won and retained their devotion, not only because he shared their dangers and discomforts but also because he was ever solicitous of their welfare. He would be found in the thick of any battle in which his troops were engaged and his apparent indifference to danger led Sir Winston Churchill to describe him as a “Salamander” – because he seemed to thrive in fire. A war correspondent who met him during the African campaign has left the following pen portrait of Freyberg the General: “He is a big man, over 6 feet, built like a Rugby forward. He has keen eyes which he squints suspiciously, a broad, red, fleshy face, sharp, hard mouth, and a curious high-pitched voice”. During his period as Commander of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Freyberg won the confidence of the New Zealand Government and people to a remarkable degree and his choice as Governor-General was a popular one.
Although Freyberg's fame will inevitably rest upon his military career, two further facets of his life deserve passing mention. In 1922 he stood as Liberal candidate at the Cardiff-South parliamentary election. He polled second in the three-cornered contest, being defeated by the Conservative sitting member by 900 votes. During the war those privileged to read Freyberg's reports to the New Zealand Government were impressed by his fine style of writing and by his accurate and economical use of words. In 1933 Freyberg published A Study of Unit Administration, which became a staff college textbook on quarter-masters' logistics. In addition he wrote a book on wines, a subject on which he was an authority.
He was created a baron (with the title Baron Freyberg of Wellington, New Zealand and Munstead, Surrey) in 1951. Upon his death the title passed to his son Paul, Paul Richard Freyberg, 2nd Baron Freyberg (27 May 1923 - 26 May 1993), and is now currently held by his grandson Valerian Bernard Freyberg, 3rd Baron Freyberg (born 15 December 1970).
On the March 1 1953 he was made the deputy constable and lieutenant governor of Windsor Castle, he took up residence in the Norman Gateway the following year. He died at Windsor on July 4, 1963 following the rupture of one of his war wounds, and was buried in the churchyard of St Martha on the Hill, Guildford Surrey. His wife is buried at his side, and their son Paul, who was awarded the Military Cross, lies buried at the foot of their graves.