An interesting scrapbook from World War II illustrating a connection with Wellington Tramways has recently been donated to the National Army Museum. Although the creator of the scrapbook is unknown, Archivist Dolores Ho has been busy ‘putting the puzzle pieces together’ to understand the curious story it tells.
The newly obtained scrapbook contains references to the role of Wellington Tramwaymen’s Overseas Comforts Committee, its secretary Mr Alf A. Burns and his wife Mrs Burns. The assortment of ephemera and correspondence from men of the Wellington Tramway who served overseas, is thought to have been collected through the regular communication committee members maintained with their former colleagues away on active service. Included are many portrait photos of men taken before their departure. A total 187 men were recorded to have served overseas. One clipping from the New Zealand Free Lance dated November 1st 1944 states that over four and a half years the Comforts Committee had sent a total of, “1,406 parcels, 932 letters, and 11,895 periodicals,” to the ‘trammies’ serving overseas.
One of the 1,406 parcels sent by the Wellington Tramwaymen’s Overseas Comfort Committee reveals a touching story amidst the many tragedies of WWII. An airgraph delivered to the Comforts Committee from a newly-wed Scottish bride in Edinburgh reads, “On September 1st 1944, I was married to a friend of yours, Harry Gibbs, and we have now had 14 days of married bliss and happiness. Through your kindness I was able to have a wedding-cake, something which is unobtainable in this country. A few days before our wedding Harry received a parcel from you which became my wedding-cake.” A photograph of Flt.-Sgt. Harry Gibbs, his wedding notice that was published in The Scotsman in 1944 and an announcement of the birth of Gibbs’ son in Wellington’s The Evening Post two years later are also included in the scrapbook.