Sir Bernard Freyberg speaking on Empire Day

Hear Sir Bernard Freyberg's 1944 Empire Day speech to the South African Forces (broadcast from Italy).

Sir Bernard Freyberg (Governor-General of New Zealand 1946-52) used Empire Day to deliver some of his more significant speeches. 'We know that in this country are people who would like to see the British Empire fall to pieces', he warned in 1949. 'We must see that these people are kept in their places and are not allowed to interfere ? [and] when that time comes, those who do not abide by any laws and who do not know where the belt is, should not themselves be treated under Marquess of Queensberry rules'


Calling our comrades from the South African forces at home and overseas, all ranks of the Second Expeditionary Force in Italy send greeting to you on this Empire Day.

Before the War, Empire Day may not have meant much to some of us, but in the last four years that has changed. From service together in this war the bonds of empire have become very real and we look back with pride to victories in which the forces of the empire have played so worthy a part. The old hands in the Middle East look back with still greater pride to those early campaigns when, short of equipment and supplies, we stood together in the battle for Egypt and the Suez Canal.

These are one's thoughts on Empire Day 1944. Thoughts which renew confidence in the great part that the empire has played and will play, not only during the hard fighting still ahead, but also in the post-war world.

When I was asked to speak in this Empire Day broadcast to people in South Africa and began to think about what I should say to you, the first thoughts that came into my mind as a New Zealander is the great link which has existed in peacetime between New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. Probably there is not a man in our forces who hasn't seen Springboks in action, and many will remember the last matches when the All Blacks were beaten in New Zealand by a better team. We have to a certain extent evened things up with our very spirited matches in the Middle East. Among them one I will always remember in 1941, on a desert ground near Mersa Matruh on the eve of the Libyan campaign. Football I know will always be a great link between us...

On many occasions New Zealand troop ships have called at your ports and have been welcomed most hospitably by the people of South Africa. May I, as the commander, thank you all. I hope your recollections are happy ones and I trust you will make a due allowance for the festive spirit as a large body of men come ashore from the troopships.

To our friends in the Union of South Africa, and particularly to our comrades in arms, wherever they are serving, I send to you from the battlefields of Italy a message of good wishes from all ranks of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Good luck, God speed.

Kia ora katoa.

Would you like me to do it again? I'll do it once again...

Sir Bernard Freyberg (Governor-General of New Zealand 1946-52, but photographed c.a. 1925)

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