Bernard Cyril Freyberg, Lieutenant General 1st Baron Freyberg, VC, GCMG, KCB, KBE, DSO & Three Bars, 7th Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946 to 1952.
Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg was a dentist from Wellington who joined the Royal Naval Division in 1914, serving in Gallipoli and France, before transferring to the Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1916.
Bernard Freyberg was born in Richmond. There is a blue plaque on the house he was born in, in Dynevor Road, along with a V.C commemorative paving stone outside Richmond station. His parents emigrated to New Zealand when he was two years old.
Freyberg’s actions at Gallipoli were one of the most astonishing individual feats of courage and endurance of the whole Gallipoli campaign. An accomplished swimmer, he swam in bitterly cold water in the gulf of Xeros towing a waterproof canvas bag containing flares to a beach at Bulair where he set them off. His object was to light the flares to divert Turkish attention from the main landing. He then managed to swim back in the dark, icy waters, suffering from cramp and hypothermia and find a boat. A remarkable act of heroism, bravery and physical endurance.
He was wounded twice at Gallipoli, eventually being evacuated in January 1916.
Bernhard was awarded his V.C for his actions on 13th/14th November 1916 when his regiment, the Queen’s Royal West Surrey regiment captured the village of Beaucourt on the Somme. Seriously wounded in this action he was evacuated to the U.K.
He was mentioned in despatches five times during the Great War.
Three of his brothers also served in the war and two died. Oscar was killed on the 04/06/1915 at Gallipoli when the Collingwoods were decimated. His name is in the Helles memorial. Paul died on the 18/06/1917 and is buried in Boulogne East Cemetery.
Bernard also served in the Second World War, performing well during the evacuation to Crete. He was admired, respected, compassionate and approachable.
Wounded again in 1942, Winston Churchill would later describe him as “the salamander of the British empire,” like the mythical creature who could pass through fire unharmed. Altogether he was wounded nine times.
After the wars Bernhard became New Zealand’s Governor General. He eventually returned to England and died at Windsor on 4 July 1963 following the rupture of one of his Gallipoli war wounds.
He is buried next to his wife Barbara and his son Paul in the churchyard where he was married.