Freyberg Street

Figure 1: Council decision to name the new street Freyberg Street, December 1948. Reference: Minutes of Council Meetings,, Volume 23, Series 1/1/1, Ian Matheson City Archives.

Freyberg Street was created as a new road running off Featherston Street within the Bodell subdivision by order of the Palmerston North City Council. After both the First and Second World Wars, the Palmerston North City Council sought to honour prominent New Zealand war heroes through the naming of streets. The Council Street Naming Committee agreed to the naming of Freyberg Street on 14 December 1948, and the name was formally adopted on 20 December 1948.

Freyberg Street is located on the north-eastern edge of Palmerston North. The street is located in close proximity to Palmerston North Hospital and is surrounded by Vautier Park, Skoglund Park and Edwards Pit Park. Freyberg High School, which runs off Freyberg Street, was named in honour of him in 1955

Figure 2: Picture of Freyberg Street, Palmerston North looking east towards Freyberg High School.

About Bernard Cyril Freyberg

Figure 3: Painting by Peter McIntyre (March 1943) entitled, “Major General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC”. Reference: Archives New Zealand/Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga Wellington Office [Archives Reference: AAAC 898 NCWA 15]

Sir Bernard Cyril Freyberg, born March 21, 1889 in Richmond, Surrey, England, was the General Officer Commanding of New Zealand forces in World War II and Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946 to 1952.

In 1891 Freyberg immigrated with his parents to New Zealand and was educated at Wellington College. He soldiered in the New Zealand Territorial Army from 1911–12, and later secured a commission in the newly formed Royal Naval Division’s Hood Battalion. He was gazetted as a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and given command of a company. Relishing the opportunity presented by the war (‘I am in this with all my heart’), he took part in the brief, unsuccessful attempt to defend Antwerp in October 1914. Early in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 he won a Distinguished Service Order for swimming ashore and setting diversionary flares at Bulair (Bolayir). He was wounded at Helles, returning to Gallipoli in June to become commander of the Hood Battalion. He was badly wounded again in July, and eventually left the peninsula when the division was evacuated in January 1916.

Transferring to the British Army, Freyberg was posted to the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, but remained seconded to the Royal Naval Division, with which he proceeded to France in May 1916. During the final stages of the first battle of the Somme, he distinguished himself in the capture of Beaucourt Village where he was awarded a Victoria Cross. He was again wounded in this action and evacuated to Britain. Returning to the front in February 1917, he was two months later appointed to command a territorial brigade in the 58th Division – reputedly becoming the youngest general in the British Army. In September a shell exploding at his feet inflicted the worst of his many wounds. When he resumed duty in January 1918 he again commanded a brigade (in 29th Division), performing with distinction during the German offensive of March–April 1918. He won a bar to his DSO in September that year. Freyberg ended the war by leading a squadron to seize a bridge at Lessines, which was achieved one minute before the armistice came into effect and which earned him another DSO. He had been made a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1917, and was mentioned in dispatches no fewer than five times during the war. Three of his brothers had also served in the war and two died: Oscar at Gallipoli in 1915 and Paul in France in 1917.

Between the wars he held senior staff appointments and a command in England before being forced to retire because of a heart murmur in 1935. When war broke out in 1939 he took up a reserve appointment as General Officer Commanding, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, eventually commanding the Allied forces during the battle for control of Crete in 1941. In fighting near Minqār Qaʿīm, in Egypt, in June 1942, Freyberg was wounded, but he recovered in time to lead the breakout at the Second Battle of El Alamein. 

An extremely competent commander, Freyberg later fought in North Africa and in Italy under generals Montgomery, Alexander, and the American Mark Clark. In 1942 he received a knighthood. Freyberg in 1946 became governor-general of New Zealand, an appointment he held for six years. In 1951 he was made a baron.


Honours and Awards

Sir Bernard Freyberg stands out as one of the most decorated officers of the First World War, most conspicuously earning a Victoria Cross and three Distinguished Service Orders while serving in the Gallipoli Campaign and Western Front.
 

Figure 4: Ribbon set for Sir Bernard Freyberg

  • Victoria Cross (VC)
  • 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 Distinguished Service Order and 3 bars (DSO***)
  • Knight of Justice of the Order of St John (KStJ)
  • 1914 Star (5th Aug-22nd Nov 1914 clasp)
  • British War Medal (1914-1920)
  • Victory Medal
  • 1939-1945 Star
  • Africa Star (8th Army clasp)
  • Italy Star
  • Defence Medal
  • War Medal 1939-1945
  • New Zealand War Service
  • Mentioned in Despatches x 7
  • Coronation Medal 1953
  • Cross of Valour (Greece)
  • Military Cross (Greece)
  • Legion of Merit: Degree of Commander (USA)

Research by Evan Greensides, Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services


References

Cole, Matthew, ‘Bernard Cyril Freyberg’, from Auckland War Memorial Museum, Online Cenotaph, updated 18 April 2015. http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C36437

Encyclopedia Britannica. ‘Bernard Cyril Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg’, updated 9 October 2014. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Bernard-Cyril-Freyberg-1st-Baron-Freyberg-of-Wellington-and-of-Munstead

Klijn, Tjisse. ‘Lord Bernard Freyberg (1889-1963)’ in Freyberg High School 50th Jubilee, 1955-2005.

McGibbon, Ian. 'Freyberg, Bernard Cyril', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 25-Sep-2014. http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/5f14/freyberg-bernard-cyril

Tonkin-Covell, John. ‘Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg: A Necessary Commander?” in Portraits of New Zealand Commanders. Edited by Glyn Harper and Joel Hayward. Exisle Publishing Limited, Auckland, 2005, pp 97 to 119.

Wikipedia, ‘Bernard Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg’, updated 4 May 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Freyberg,_1st_Baron_Freyberg

Wright, Matthew. Freyberg’s War – The Man, The Legend and Reality. Penguin Group, Auckland, 2005