Topic: Lance Corporal Neil Hume (1907-1991)

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Ian Hume remembers his father Neil Hume who served in the Second World War along with his brothers Keith and Lloyd (Jock). Neil was born on the 28th June 1907 and passed away on the 26th November 1991.

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Daddy and the Second World War: by Ian Hume.

 My father was very lucky with his first posting during the hostilities in W. W. 2. As he often said it could have been a one way trip, but fate was on his side. He left New Zealand when I was very young & sailed on the troopship via Australia to Egypt, where after several months army training he became Sports NCO at Maadi camp in Cairo. Dad was there for nearly four years & never saw any action which I think he & his family were very thankful for. Of course he had lots of memorable experiences during his time away and these have become family stories, I don't profess to know them all but here are a few of them.

  My first memory about anything to do with the war was my mother standing in the lounge of our rented house in Hororata Rd. Takapuna talking to a lady from the Farmers Trading Company about fitting blackout blinds to our windows. I remember that room as being very green and the second-hand lounge suite & carpet were dark green. About this time a foreign submarine was spotted in Waitemata Harbour suspected to be German. Also an unidentified plane thought to be Japanese reconnaissance. Our allied leaders were very concerned about the Japanese forces progress down through the Phillipines, New Guinea & outlying islands with Australia & then New Zealand directly in their path. Hence the blackout blinds & I remember my mother proudly showing them to me.

 The Japanese did bomb Darwin so they were certainly on the way! It is my understanding that Winston Churchill told the troops on a parade ground in Egypt that Japan would take Australia & N. Z. & that the allies would recapture them at a later date. Apparently some of the Australian officers & troops left their units and came home.  On arrival they were court-martialled and given desk jobs or home defence positions. 

  Dad had several spells of training at the Papakura Army camp before he left to go overseas. The Hororata Rd. house had a wonderfully big section all around it, probably close to one acre and for me & my brother & sister this was paradise to grow up on. There was plenty of room to play rugby & other games on the front part with our friends & this piece ran right out to the concrete main road. [Incidentally there are now two houses built on this "front lawn" today] From the dining room windows of our house we could see the big yellow North Shore buses chugging up to Takapuna or down to Devonport. We kids had a great old orange flowering gum tree close to our back door, this tree was easy to climb & we spent hours playing in it building huts amongst it's spreading boughs.

  Dad came home on leave & Mum insisted he dig a trench below the tree in case the Japanese air force arrived, and I remember vividly the huge hole he dug although as I was pretty small myself at the time it did look big!  Dad returned to camp & just before his next leave it poured with rain for four days and the trench turned into a swimming pool! On arrival home Mum said he must fill it in otherwise one of us would fall in & drown So this is what he did and as he left the next morning shouldering his long white kitbag I heard him mutter to Mum that life was a lot easier back at the war! We also had a small chook run in our back yard & the three Rhode Island Red hens produced the most delicious brown eggs.

  The troops in Dad's battalion had to do night manoeuvre training on a farm in Mangere. It was pitch dark & Dad & the other men were ordered to crawl & slide on their bellies across two paddocks before supposedly engaging the enemy. Unfortunately no one including the officers were aware that one of the fields had been used as a dumping ground that day by sewerage trucks from Otahuhu. Apparently the showers ran all night until daybreak at Papakura Military Camp! Another feature of life in the army camp was the long route marches the men had to do in full uniform & in all weathers. Sometimes it was unbearably hot, at others it was pouring with rain.  Dad explained how one day they were marching past Kingseat Psychiatric hospital where some of the patients were leaning against the fence watching the soldiers march by when suddenly one of the male patients yelled out in a loud voice "we should be marching off to war & you guys should be in here!" Even the Officers were staggering, choking up with laughter. On another march in really hot weather a little old lady appeared at her gate with a huge jug of cold lemonade & paper cups. Several of the boys were able to quench their thirsts before the Officer noticed the slowing in the ranks & put an end to the refreshment.   

 We farewelled Dad at the Auckland Railway station when his orders finally came through & the long train full of brown uniforms jolted off towards Wellington in a cloud of steam & the smell of soot. Dear Mum of course was crying her eyes out with my sister trying to comfort her.

 The troopship sailed from Wellington & headed for Sydney to refuel, the weather was fine crossing the Tasman & it was stiflingly hot on board. My father was always a great fan for drinking tea & he noticed that the guys drinking cold soft drinks were always thirsty and going back for more. The day before they arrived the stores officer made a huge issue of oranges to everybody on board & when their ship docked in Sydney there was a large Australian brass band playing on the wharf, and some of the troops started to throw their oranges at the band & soon the whole ship followed suit including the officers. Under this barrage the band quickly gave up & fled in disarray! Dad said it is the only time he was ashamed of NZ  troops. Between Australia & Egypt every man on board had to do submarine watch both night & day, they were watching for the telltale white wake of a torpedo, however their ship was lucky & nothing was ever sighted.  

 The cook in their mess at Maadi camp was getting very angry & claimed that food supplies were being stolen at night and this went on for some time with no solution to the mystery. Dad's tent was quite close to the mess & one night Dad & his mates were woken to the terrible sound of someone screaming. It turned out that one of the tins of raspberry jam had been put away without the lid on and when the thief crept into the pitch black mess he did not realise that the tin had several wasps in it and the wasp stings in the throat must have been fairly painful! The fellow survived but when able to breathe & speak normally again was put on toilet cleaning duty for eight weeks.

 My parents were both keen letter writers so news passed between them regularly and we heard that Dad had passed his banking diploma by correspondence & that he had suffered quite a bad knee injury playing hockey. He also promised the men in his tent that the day it was announced that the war was over he would have a cigarette with them, this day came but when it came the point he found he could not light up with them. Wonder of wonders one day a small record arrived from him in the post with his voice message recorded on it. Mum played this on our gramophone but I found it a bit disappointing, all he seemed to say was that we should be doing lots of jobs, helping Mummy & playing football!

  Eventually the great day arrived when Dad came home & Mum was over the moon with excitement. Dad was still in his khaki uniform and I can still picture them walking around the garden together. My greatest thrill came when Dad stood his two big white kitbags on our little back porch side by side then one suddenly falling over & this huge cascade-waterfall of paper lollies flowed down the steps. A child's dream!

The Hume boys (Keith, Murray, Neil, and Doug)  My father was a good man but he wasn't the least bit emotional or able to show affection, I cannot ever remember him touching, hugging or even holding me, shaking hands was the closest we ever got in later life. My mother of course was the complete opposite. She told me that when the news came through that Uncle Jock, Dad's youngest brother had been killed at Maleme, Crete, he sat at the kitchen table, put his head down & sobbed his heart out for half an hour. This was the only time she saw him cry in their whole marriage of fifty-eight years.

 My father was a sports fanatic & did very well at everything he played, however he pressured us so much to play sports that sometimes we ended up hating them. To this day I am not keen on watching cricket for this reason, but I have had a lot of pleasure from playing hockey & tennis and thank him for this. Whatever he did in his life he always worked hard at it & played to win but was a good loser. He was also quite a shy man in company & found it almost impossible to relax even with time on his hands and in his banking career reached the top, manager at the BNZ  Ponsonby, Auckland. Mum & Dad retired at Kerikeri in the far North & as he got older his four main interests were gardening, lawn bowls, fishing & playing the sharemarket, As age & ill-health gradually took over his life he gave these things up in the same order. When my brothers, my sisters & I were young we only got a smack when we deserved it & he was never a smoker or a drinker. We were certainly never short of food or clothes.   Dad died in 1991 after a short illness and I remember him with some fondness.        

Ian Hume.  



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Lance Corporal Neil Hume (1907-1991)

First Names:Neil
Last Name:Hume
Date of Birth:1907
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Lance Corporal Neil Hume (1907-1991) by Roly Hume is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License