Bernard Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg

The Rt Hon. Bernard Cyril Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg, VC, GCMG, KCB, KBE, DSO (March 21, 1889 - July 4, 1963) was a distinguished military leader of New Zealand forces during both World War I and World War II.


Personal details

Freyberg was born in Richmond, London, England and moved to New Zealand with his parents when he was two years old. He attended Wellington College (New Zealand) from 1897 to 1904.

A strong swimmer, he was New Zealand 100 yards champion in 1906 and 1910.

He left New Zealand in March 1914, and is known to have been in San Francisco and Mexico, where he may have been involved in the civil war then raging in that country. Upon hearing of the outbreak of World War I in Europe in August 1914, he travelled to England.

World War I

In 1914 Freyberg met and persuaded the then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to give him a commission into the Hood Battalion of the infant Royal Naval Division.

During the initial landing at Battle of Gallipoli Freyberg swam from ship to ship lighting flares to distract the enemy, for this he received his first Distinguished Service Order.

He attained command of a brigade (in the 58th Division) in April 1917, reportedly making him the youngest General in the British Army.

VC Details

Received the Victoria Cross during World War I at the Battle of the Somme.

On November 13,1916 at Beaucourt sur Ancre, France, after carrying the initial attack through the enemy's front system of trenches, Lieutenant Colonel Freyberg's battalion was much disorganised, but after rallying and re-forming his own men and some others, he led them on a successful assault of the second objective, during which he was twice wounded, but remained in command and held his ground throughout the day and the following night . When reinforced the next morning he attacked and captured a strongly fortified village, taking 500 prisoners. He was wounded twice more, the second time severely, but he refused to leave the line until he had issued final instructions.

World War II

Freyberg was classified as unfit for active service with the British Army in 1937. However following the outbreak of war in September 1939 he was placed back on the British Army active list. Following an approach from the New Zealand government, Freyberg offered his services and was subsequently appointed commander of the New Zealand 2nd Division and 2 NZEF.

In the chaos of the retreat from the Greek mainland campaign of 1941, Freyberg was given command of Allied forces during the Battle of Crete. Controversy surrounded his use of ULTRA intelligence messages during battle.

Freyberg continued to command the New Zealand 2nd Division through the North African and Italian campaigns of the British Eighth Army. He had become a popular commander with the New Zealand soldiers by the time he left his command in 1945 with the rank of Lieutenant General.

Post War

Served as Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946 until 1952.

He was raised to the peerage as Baron Freyberg, of Wellington in New Zealand and of Munstead in the County of Surrey, in 1951.

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.

Preceded by:
New Creation
Baron Freyberg Succeeded by:
Paul Freyberg

Preceded by:
Sir Cyril Newall
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by:
The Lord Norrie

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External links

This page has been migrated from the Victoria Cross Reference ( with permission and merged with already existing sketch.


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