Obituary: Lord Porritt

IN THEIR interesting obituaries of Arthur Porritt (4 January), writes Raymond Bonham Carter, HH Eastcott and Michael Fathers both made the point that, in contrast to his predecessors, Porritt was the first native-born New Zealander to be governor-general of his country.

This could usefully be put into perspective by explaining that Sir Bernard, later Lord, Freyberg, the first New Zealander to hold that post, had been born in England, emigrating to New Zealand with his family as a child of two. It was to be the country of his upbringing.

Arguably he was better known to many, if not most, of his fellow countrymen when he arrived after the war to take up that post than was Porritt when he did so later. Thousands of them had served under Freyberg in the New Zealand Division in Greece, the Middle East and Italy - a division which he had commanded as a general in the New Zealand, not British, Army. He had been a familiar figure to his troops being, par excellence, a 'front-line general'.

Englishness was not Freyberg's exclusive 'cultural baggage'. His accent was not that of the English upper class and he was not 'anglocentric'. This was illustrated by his response to General Alexander when the latter remarked as they drove past some New Zealand troops, 'Your men don't seem to salute you much, Bernard.' 'Oh, now and then they give me a wave.' Both were ex-Guardsmen.

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