We welcomed North Downs WI’s and many other friends to share memories of The New Zealand Expeditionary Force visit to the North Downs in autumn 1940.
The New Zealand flag which hangs over the tower door of the church was presented by a New Zealand Officer, Haddon Donald, in 1943.
After the evacuation from Dunkirk, 700 New Zealand Troops from the 22nd Battalion were stationed in slit trenches in Warren Wood from 5th - 11th September when heavy rain forced them to move to barns, fields and billets in Hollingbourne.
Warren Wood is bordered by Hospital Road, Greenway Court Road and A20 and is now crossed by the high-speed railway to Ashford.
HQ Company was settled around the Church and Upper Street. The CO stayed at the Vicarage (now the Old Vicarage), with the Vicar, Rev Newman, who were both keen rugby players. The Troops attended the church service each Sunday. The Six Bells was the officers mess.
The Officers were billeted in Grove House, Hollingbourne Manor, Penn Court, and Mr Watson’s Farm which has now been replaced by the Church Green development.
Early in 1940 Eileen Jenkins (nee Hutchinson) and her mother and sister moved from Folkestone to Leeds to live with her grandfather. During hop picking the girls met members of the 21st Battalion including Len Harkins (Curley) and his brother. Both brothers were later sent to the middle East and Curley was taken prisoner. After the War, Curley returned to Leeds and married Eileen in Leeds Church. After the birth of their daughter, Linda, Eileen joined her husband in New Zealand, sadly Eileen was not approved of by her New Zealand Mother-in-Law and after two years returned with Linda to England and subsequently married Sid Jenkins of Hollingbourne. Curley returned to England on several occasions to see his daughter and built up a very happy relationship with Eileen and Sid.
Eileen’s NZ Sister-in-Law sent her a beautiful model boat about 10 inches tall with iridescent sails made from Paua shell, a marine snail indigenous to the coast of New Zealand.
The NZ troops with a Bren Gun carrier in Leeds.
The Hollingbourne WI has been linked with Wokatani WI in New Zealand since 1935. They gave the Institute a table cloth that is used for all meetings and a recipe for a fruit cake that are being used today.
The WI minute book records that on October 14th 1940, Captain Hurst, New Zealand Padre, gave a most delightful description of New Zealand, it’s people and habits.
Many people have helped collect these memories of 1940 including Janice Butler, WI President and David Lyne of Kingswood. Ian Talboys prepared the illustrations.
The WI is grateful to the Church Wardens for allowing us to use the Church for this happy occasion.
Colour photos were taken in 2010 & 2017, black and white photos are original images from 1940.