Major General Bernard Cyril Freyberg, VC (1889 – 1963)
Freyberg was one of the Second World War's most charismatic leaders and although born in Richmond, London on 21 March 1889, spent most of his childhood in New Zealand, attending Wellington College from 1897 to 1904 and showed his talents for swimming in becoming New Zealand 100 yards Champion in 1906 and 1910. He became a qualified dentist in 1911 and secured a commission into the New Zealand Territorials in 1912. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he came back to Britain and managed to fight at Antwerp in the Hood Battalion of the newly raised Royal Naval Division after gaining a commission. He also fought at Gallipoli, where he used his swimming skills to swim between ships lighting flares to distract the enemy and where he was awarded the first of four DSOs. On the Western Front, was wounded a number of times and was awarded the Victoria Cross at the Battle of the Somme in November 1916 where he led his battalion's attack at Beaucourt sur Ancre and was wounded four times in twenty-four hours. He was promoted to Brigadier General on 21 April 1917 at the age of 29 (commanding a brigade in the 59th Division) and became commander of the 29th Division soon after. He stayed in the Army during the interwar years but was finally forced to retire due to ill health. Even so, he offered his services to the New Zealand Government in 1939 and due to his reputation, was given command of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force. It was these same qualities, as well as his personal relationship with Winston Churchill that led to his selection as overall commander of the ‘Creforce’ garrison on Crete just before Operation Mercury in May 1941. After the campaign, he remained the commander of the New Zealand Division through its involvement in North Africa and Italy. After the war he became his country’s Governor-General from 1946 until 1952 and was made a Baron (of Wellington, New Zealand and Munstead, Surrey) in 1951. He was appointed Deputy Constable and Lieutenant Governor of Windsor Castle on 1 March 1953, taking up residence in the Norman Gateway the following year. He died on 4 July 1963 and was buried in the churchyard of St Martha on the Hill, Guildford, Surrey.
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How to cite this article:Antill, P. (7 May 2005), Major General Bernard Cyril Freyberg, VC (1889 – 1963), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_freyberg.html