A Hero’s Painful Memories
Bernard “Tiny” Freyberg VC, CMG, DSO ended World War One a highly decorated hero – celebrated in Britain as well as his homeland of New Zealand. He had served with the British forces: his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was won at Gallipoli, his Victoria Cross (VC) on the Somme and, at the age of 27, he was made the youngest Brigadier-General in the British Army. He would go on to command the 2nd New Zealand Division in World War Two and become Governor-General of New Zealand.
Born in London, he grew up in New Zealand after his family emigrated and he attended Wellington College, in the capital city.
In 1921, still suffering from the many wounds he received during the war, he returned to New Zealand for several weeks to recuperate. He turned down all requests for public appearances and a civic reception, but he did take time to visit his old school and address an assembly of the boys.
One of those schoolboys, Max Riske, vividly recalled the event some 60 years later in a radio interview. As Max explains, the boys were expecting a stirring speech from a glorious war hero – but got something quite different from the man who had lost two brothers and many friends in the war.
King George V inspects 7,000 New Zealand troops at Bulford Field on 1 May 1917. New Zealand’s high command did not miss the opportunity and also present were Generals, Brigadiers, the Prime Minister William Massey, Joseph Ward – Leader of the Opposition and their wives and daughters and other dignitaries.
The 7,000 New Zealand troops on parade included: 4,000 from 4th Brigade; 1,500 from Sling Camp; 1,000 from Codford Command along with Engineers, ASC, Cadets and a few mounted rifles. After inspecting the troops, the King took the march-past and presented medals.
France’s South Pacific Soldiers in Sydney
The First World War was truly a global war. What brought this home to Australians was seeing troops from other countries, including France’s Pacific colonies, passing through their country on their way to the Front.
Anzac football in London
During their war service, Australian troops organised Australian Rules football matches across Europe. The highest profile matches were played in the United Kingdom but one-off matches were also played in other countries, including Belgium and France in 1919.
Troops needed to practice warfare before experiencing the real thing. But they probably didn’t expect to have children walking around the ‘battlefield’ watching them!