Awarded VC
Home Up



General Freyberg was considered by Churchill to be a 'man's soldier', he was awarded the VC in the First World War.  The following is from Liddle's book on the Battle of The Somme.

Site Map

Colonel Freyberg, now leading a mixed force of men from his own battalion, from the Drake Battalion (RND) and from the 1st Battalion HAC, had moved on towards the second objective, Beaucourt, before the shelling of both sides forced a retirement to a position he ordered consolidated among the shell holes.  The CO wanted to take Beaucourt but the British barrage did not lift and he was informed that this was because the situation on the left was as yet unclear.  On the right, actually at the crossing of the Ancre, contact had been made with the 1st Battalion Cambridge Regiment so an important link had been established there.  However, for the afternoon and night there could be only the holding of what had been taken and the organization of an attacking force from the men he had and those who had joined him from his left, or were sent up to reinforce him.
In the morning the order to attack was given and at 7.45 Freyberg led forward a mixed body of men from battalions of the Royal Naval Division and from other units.  The Second-in-Command of the Hood Battalion, Major L. Montagu, in a letter written six days later, described what happened.  He saw Freyberg jump out of his trench and wave the men on, Montagu and three men beside him followed.  They came under heavy small arms fire and the first wave stopped three times.  Freyberg was knocked clean over by a bullet which hit his helmet but he got up again.  "I and my runner dived into a shell hole and waited about half a minute.  I said I would go back and get some more men out of the trench and crawled about ten yards back to do so.  Then about a dozen men came out and I got up and waved the rest on, they all followed.  We soon got in to Beaucourt (of course absolute ruins) and found that the Germans could not face our men and were surrendering in hundreds.  It was an amazing sight, they came out of their holes, tearing off their equipment."  Freyberg arranged the consolidation of the village and there was even some opportunity for refreshment and celebratory conversation before fearfully heavy German shelling fell upon their immediate vicinity.  They were awaiting a counter-attack when 'I heard Freyberg say "Goodbye Montagu" and then "Steady Hood" and I saw he was hit and going a very bad colour.  He asked me if I had any morphine he then produced a tube and asked me to give him some, I gave him 1/4 grain and labelled him to say I had done so.'  The CO had been wounded in the neck and was bleeding profusely.  Montagu had been wounded too, another man killed and one wounded.  To Montagu's surprise, Freyberg did not die.  In fact he continued to give instructions until he asked his Second-in-Command if he could walk to an Aid Post.  Under shellfire, the two men completed the 300 yard journey back, the worst part for Montagu being the wounded men they passed, imploring him for help.
Freyberg's leadership and personal gallantry were to result in the award of the Victoria Cross.
Freyberg was to make mistakes in the defence of Crete, but his own personal bravery was not at issue.