Bernard Fergusson, Baron Ballantrae bigraphy, stories - Military leader, historian, viceroy

Bernard Fergusson, Baron Ballantrae : biography

6 May 1911 - 28 November 1980

Brigadier Bernard Edward Fergusson, Baron Ballantrae, KT, GCMG, GCVO, DSO, OBE (6 May 1911 – 28 November 1980Ronald Lewin, ‘Fergusson, Bernard Edward, Baron Ballantrae (1911–1980)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 ) was a brigadier in the British Army, military historian and the last British-born Governor-General of New Zealand.

Memorial Scholarship

The Bernard Fergusson Memorial Scholarship was established in 1982 by the late Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, from a fund raised on her behalf in memory of Fergusson, as he was a particular friend of the Tainui people.

The purpose of the award is to assist a member of the Tainui Tribal Confederation resident in the Tainui Maori Trust Board area to enrol as an undergraduate student in the University of Waikato, who but for the award, might otherwise not be able to attend the University.

Service in the British Mandate of Palestine

In 1946, having failed his attempt to be elected to parliament, he returned to Palestine in the rank of a Brigadier, and was appointed to several positions in British Mandate of Palestine police and para-military forces. At first he served as the commander of the "Police Mobile Force", a police unit of 2,000 British soldiers, that was used as a strike force against the Jewish insurrection. By the end of 1946 the unit was disbanded, by the order of the Palestine Police commandant, Col. William Nicol Gray. Fergusson was appointed as the commander of a police school that was supposed to be created in Jenin, but soon he was appointed by Gray to be "Special assistant to the commandant of police".

Fergusson suggested to Gray, who was himself a former Royal Marine, that a special unit to fight Jewish insurrectionists be formed. This unit would include former soldiers who had served in the British special forces during the war. Gray accepted the idea and ordered the creation of two teams, whose members were chosen from Palestine policemen and Ex-SAS soldiers. One team would operate in Haifa and the north, while the second team would operate in the Jerusalem area. War hero Roy Farran was appointed as the commander of the second team. On 6 May 1947, Farran's unit arrested 16 year old Alexander Rubowitz, who was putting up posters in Jerusalem for the Jewish underground organisation the Lehi. Rubowitz was taken by Farran's team, and tortured to force him to surrender his friend's names. The boy did not survive the torture. His body was dumped and never found. Suspicions of Farran's involvement were first raised after a grey trilby hat, bearing an indistinct name compatible with his, was found near the street corner where Rubowitz was seen being pushed into a car.

In 2004 British secret documents were revealed that included a statement by Fergusson, written at the time of the event, to the effect that Farran confessed to Fergusson of the murder. Fergusson then reported the incident to Gray.

Gray was reluctant to take action against Farran, believing he could use some information produced from Rubowitz by Farran to crack the Lehi in Jerusalem. Gray believed that arresting Farran would ruin these efforts. While Gray was on leave in England, the acting CID commandant, Arthur Giles, ordered an investigation into Farran's actions. Farran escaped to Syria to avoid arrest, but was convinced by Fergusson to return voluntarily. He then escaped from custody and went to Jordan before again returning of his own accord. He was brought to trial in a British military court in Jerusalem

At Farran's trial, Fergusson refused to testify on the grounds that he might incriminate himself. The Palestine government announced that no action would be taken against Fergusson. After the trial, which ended with Farran's acquittal, Fergusson was relieved of his duties in Palestine and returned to Britain., Palestine Post, 1947/10/08, Palestine Post, 1947/10/16

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