Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

British town seeks descendants of Kiwi soldiers

Brightlingsea was used as a training base for New Zealand and Australian troops. Photo / iStock
Brightlingsea was used as a training base for New Zealand and Australian troops. Photo / iStock

An English town is trying to trace descendants of local women who married New Zealand soldiers after meeting in World War I.

The coastal Essex town of Brightlingsea was used as a training base for thousands of New Zealand and Australian troops during The Great War 1914-18.

The Australian Engineers Training Depot (AETD) was established there in 1916, with nearly 10,000 Anzac soldiers spending months there digging trenches, learning to build bridges and preparing to fight on the Western Front.

It resulted in the Anzacs leaving behind a major sporting and social legacy in the area.

Now, Brightlingsea Town Council and Brightlingsea Museum are holding a series of centenary commemoration events in June to mark the historic link.

Organisers are also trying to trace the families of Brightlingsea women who married Kiwi soldiers and moved Downunder after the war.

"The legacy of these men and their comrades cannot be forgotten, the centenary of their arrival gives us an opportunity to remember them," organisers said on the official New Zealand WW100 centenary page.

The memorial weekend begins with a champagne reception in Brightlingsea on June 17 and includes an exhibition of World War I photographs and collectibles.

The following day will feature an Australian/New Zealand-themed carnival and family picnic and barbecue.

It will end on Sunday, June 19, with a service of commemoration, which will include laying of wreaths at the local war memorial, before a cricket match between a local team and one with Anzac connections.

• If anyone has information on Brightlingsea descendants, or seeks further information, they should contact Margaret Stone on 0044 1206 303286 or email: margaret@bright97.freeserve.co.uk.

- NZ Herald

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