Mabel Munro was living in Kurow in 1916. David Neave was working as a bank clerk in Wellington. They were engaged but hadn’t told their families yet.
He was 20 years old when he enlisted that year. David was eager to get overseas but was delayed by appendicitis. He finally sailed on 1 August 1918. By the time he reached Europe the war was almost over but it wasn’t until October 1919 that he was discharged.
During their time apart they wrote to each other. David writes of work, gossip about their family and friends, his health problems and of how much he misses her. In 1918 he decided to contact Mabel’s father and ask to marry her.
I’ve done it, I’ve done it now. I told you that I was going to write to your Father and I have! And the thing is beyond reach too. I couldn’t pluck up courage to post it but I decided I would shove it in the first box I came to and I did. It balanced on the edge for quite a long time but with a final push it went in. And now there’s an anxious time after Friday wondering the result. I carried it in my pocket for a day.
He waited nervously for the response.
My Dearest Sweetheart
By this time (9.30 p.m.) I am wondering what is going on at Kurow Hill and of the effect my letter produced, if any, and am anxiously waiting to hear all about it. But as it can’t come till about Wednesday I suppose I shall have to wait with all the patience I possess.
Thankfully the answer was yes and their letters go on to detail their wedding plans. The letters finish just before their marriage on 4 April 1918. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1978.
Do you remember Mabel and David? Is there a tale of war time romance in your family?
This blog is part of the From Little Towns in a Far Land series. Chloe Searle, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the North Otago Museum, shares some of the personal stories behind the Waitaki District's contributions to the First World War.