New Zealand and the connection to Walton-on-Thames
Ever wondered why we have New Zealand Avenue? Or the Wellington Pub (formerly The Kiwi)? Did you know that each year at St Mary's Church Walton-on-Thames, an ANZAC service is held to commemorate the lives of the New Zealanders who died during World War I and who are buried in the churchyard?
Well, the story - and the connection to New Zealand - goes right back 1914 when Great Britain declared war on Germany and the New Zealand Government created the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and thousands of New Zealand men joined up. During fighting New Zealand's sick and wounded soliders were transferred to New Zealand Hospitals set up by the NZEF at Brockenhurst in the New Forest, Walton-on-Thames and Codford in Wiltshire. Sadly not all survived and these men are buried in Commonwealth War Graves in the UK - one of which is in Walton-on-Thames.
The New Zealand Hospital was at Mount Felix, opening on 31st July 1915. In total 27,000 men were treated at the hospital. New Zealand women played an important part as trained nurses or Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Inside St Mary's Church is a brass plaque listing the names of all those who are buried in the Churchyard.
Extracts from Remembering the New Zealanders in Walton-on-Thames by the New Zealand Women's Association.
To view a slideshow of images of the hospital during WWI click HERE. Images courtesy of getsurrey.co.uk