Barbara, Lady Freyberg

The Times 26th September and 3rd October 1973

Barbara Lady Freyberg, GBE, widow of General Lord Freyberg, VC, the famous soldier, died on Monday. She was Barbara, daughter of the late Sir Herbert Jekyll, KCMG. She married first, in 1911, the Hon Francis McLaren, MP, who was killed in action in 1917; they had two sons. Lord Freyberg, whom she married in 1922, died in 1963; they had a son. She served during the Second World War with the Welfare Branch of the New Zealand Division in Egypt, Italy and London; she was mentioned in despatches in 1943.

Barbara Lady Freyberg was buried on September 28 in the churchyard of St Martha’s-on-the-Hill, which straddles the Pilgrims’ Way. It was in this church that she was married 51 years ago to Bernard Freyberg, VC, whom Winston Churchill described as “the Salamander” and to whom she always referred as “My General”.

She was a woman far beyond the ordinary, small in stature but great in resource. She sprang from a family, the Jekylls, fastidious in its tastes, deeply skilled in the niceties of the kitchen and the herbaceous border; her first husband, Francis McLaren, having been killed in 1917, she married as her second husband the gallant (but far from fastidious) soldier who will long be remembered for his exploits in the First War, for his command of the New Zealanders in the Second, and for his six years as one of the most popular Governors-General that New Zealand has ever had.

It was as superbly happy a combination as it was a marriage. During the war she raised and ran a body of devoted New Zealand women known as “the Tuis”, who followed and supported their menfolk throughout those dire campaigns in Egypt, North Africa and Italy. She was adored by New Zealanders then, and she continued to be adored throughout Lord Freyberg’s term as Governor-General. Only a couple of years ago she returned to that country on a visit and received an affectionate welcome which astonished her, but nobody else.

She was, in fact, a very remarkable woman. Up to the end of her life she attended without fail every New Zealand occasion in London: shrinking physically, though never mentally; ever welcome, ever up to date, and on the spot. She slipped her cable easily, as she and all her family and friends would wish.