Wartime schoolboy keen to say thanks

23:10, Oct 09 2012
Roger and Valerie Button
Former Norwich man Roger Button and his wife Valerie, who now live in Florida.

Gratitude spanning several decades has fueled a man's ambition to meet former Invercargill children who helped his war-stricken hometown after World War II.

Roger Button grew up in Norwich, England – a city heavily damaged by bombs during the war.

Speaking from his Florida home yesterday, Mr Button said even more than 60 years later, he had not forgotten the kindness of Invercargill schoolchildren at the time, who sent his class at Avenue Road School food parcels when he was about eight years old, in 1947 or 1948.

Roger Button
A young Roger Button, as a schoolboy in England.

He hoped a long-held dream would be realised when he and his wife visited New Zealand this year, he said.

Mr Button and his family survived the horrors of the war but like everybody else in the town, they struggled to recover from the miseries of major food shortages and a lack of income, he said.

He remembered one tea-time when he asked his mother, after she had given him a little bread and jam, for some more. She replied it had to be saved for his father, so that he had the strength to work, Mr Button said.

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Learning schoolchildren in New Zealand would be sending food parcels, and receiving the tins of fruit and meat, was a welcome surprise, he said.

''It's hard to believe in this modern day and age that things were so horribly bad, but after the World War II we'd been bombed so much and we were so short of food, I didn't know what an orange was. I'd never seen one or tasted one, and we just had to struggle from day to day,'' he said.

The food parcel he received was a dream come true, and as he got older he felt he owed it to the former schoolchildren in Invercargill to say thank you in person, he said.

''It's just an ambition I've had for many years, because we were so short of food and so hungry, and it was such a wonderful surprise to have those food parcels come from all the way in Invercargill.

"Invercargill, I gather, is quite a small place so for them to send those parcels all the way to Norwich in England, was so wonderful,'' he said.

In December, he hoped to fly to Invercargill to visit one of those former schoolchildren - ''if there is somebody who would be happy to meet me and shake my hand'', he said.

He did not remember the name of the school, or the name of the girl he wrote a thank-you letter to following the arrival of the food parcels, he said.

The Southland Times