Food parcels were never forgotten

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013
Ross Harrison and Roger Button
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

Southland man Ross Harrison, left, and Roger Button, from Norwich, England, meet for the first time. Sixty years ago, Mr Harrison was attending Dipton Primary School when pupils sent food parcels to Mr Button's school after World War II.

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An Englishman who received food relief parcels from Southland schools after World War II yesterday met a former Dipton schoolboy to personally express his gratitude.

Roger Button, who now lives in Florida, decided to holiday in New Zealand so he could meet Ross Harrison, who had sent tinned goods to his school in Norwich, England - a city heavily damaged by aerial bombing during the war.

During their emotional first meeting, Mr Button said he had spent several decades hoping he would one day get to shake the hands of people who had sent the parcels.

"It was more than 60 years ago but I have not forgotten the kindness of Southland and Invercargill schoolchildren when I was about 8 years old," he said.

Mr Button gave Mr Harrison a book about war-torn Norwich and the pair discussed the war.

He explained how hard it was to live on rationed food, which was why his family were so grateful when he came home from school with the tins.

"I remember how delighted mum and dad were when I brought home the tin of meat and four tins of fruit in a paper bag. It had a note attached saying it came from Invercargill," he said.

Mr Harrison said it was overwhelming to meet Mr Button, with whom he would stay in contact.

He remembered biking around Dipton with a friend when they were about 12, collecting tins of food like tongue and rabbit to send to Britain.

They made a metre square pile of tins at the end of the school corridor, he said.

The two men said they had a lot in common and would continue to build on the new friendship.

Mr Button said he was surprised how big and beautiful Invercargill was.

He was looking forward to the next few days in Southland.

He will visit Dipton school tomorrow with Mr Harrison.

Mr Button also presented a book about Norwich during the war to Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

"You represent the people of Invercargill and I want to say thank you to all the wonderful children of 1948 who were so kind to think about and help the starving children in England," Mr Button said.

collette.devlin@stl.co.nz

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