A block of greenstone inscribed "Auckland" has been dug from an English garden near where numerous Kiwi airmen were based for around two years during World War II.

The find has prompted the question whether it belonged to a New Zealander who was at Mepal airfield, possibly one who died for King and country.

C Flight of 75 (NZ) Squadron in 1943 with a Short Stirling bomber. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library
C Flight of 75 (NZ) Squadron in 1943 with a Short Stirling bomber. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

The 75 (NZ) Squadron of the Royal Air Force was at Mepal, in Cambridgeshire about 90km north of London, from June 1943 to July 1945, flying Short Stirling and Lancaster bombers. The 75 (NZ) "number plate" was in 1940 given to a nucleus of Kiwi airman in Britain but the squadron also contained Britons, and later Canadians and Australians too.

The Becketts live in a home converted decades ago from the Cross Keys, a pub in Mepal where members of the squadron liked to drink.

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Sam Beckett said her partner James, who had lived in New Zealand for several years, pulled up the greenstone around six months ago from under brick planter boxes.

As it was: Cross Keys pub in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England, where the greenstone brick was found in the garden this year.
As it was: Cross Keys pub in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, England, where the greenstone brick was found in the garden this year.

"I was making a rockery in the garden, for a herb garden. I didn't think much of it for a couple of weeks.

"I was out there a couple of weeks later and the sun was shining on this bit of greenstone. I picked it up and gave it a bit of a wipe down; it was a bit dirty. We realised it had been inscribed with 'Auckland'. We didn't know what to say."

She believes it must have been there with a New Zealander serving at Mepal.

The greenstone was found under brick planter boxes.
The greenstone was found under brick planter boxes.

"I can't imagine any other way of it getting here without it belonging to somebody from the squadron - to have been inscribed in such beautiful handwriting as well. It really is quite pretty."

Their home is over the road from a memorial garden that commemorates the squadron. She attended a function there organised by the Friends of the 75 Squadron Association UK and showed the greenstone to its secretary Margaret Still.

"She was flabbergasted at what we had found and what it might mean to somebody back home who brought it over from New Zealand when they were here."

The piece now occupies pride of place on the Beckett's kitchen windowsill.

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When asked what she would like to happen to the greenstone, Beckett said she wants it to stay put because the property is hundreds of years old - "and it is a big part of the history of where the squadron used to come and drink and tell their merry tales or their woeful sorrows".

James Beckett, who dug up the greenstone brick, and partner Sam.
James Beckett, who dug up the greenstone brick, and partner Sam.

Glen Turner, secretary of the 75 Squadron Association New Zealand, said the greenstone would have been a large object for a Kiwi to have lugged all the way to Britain, possibly via training in Canada.

It could have belonged to a New Zealand airman who was killed in action, he said. But too little was known about the greenstone to make any claims that it should be brought to New Zealand.

Auckland researcher Chris Newey, co-author of a new book on the squadron, said it was unlikely a Kiwi airman took the greenstone with him but it could have been posted from home while he was in Britain.

Many in the squadron got to know locals.

"It's quite possible there was somebody over there that formed a strong relationship and had something sent across after the war as a sign of appreciation."

The insignia of 75 (NZ) Squadron of the Royal Air Force. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library
The insignia of 75 (NZ) Squadron of the Royal Air Force. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

In 1946, the 75 Squadron number was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The squadron was disbanded in 2001, when it was flying Skyhawks.