John and Joan McCauley

Photo:Joan and John McCauley

Joan and John McCauley

Bob Anderson

Letters to New Zealand from wartime Britain

From New Zealand to London

John Glen McCauley left his native country of New Zealand and moved to England in 1937. In London he married Joan Dorothy Harvey, also from New Zealand.  The couple lived and worked in London at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. In the summer of 1939, John and Joan had travelled across Europe with a friend and among their stops was Germany. In an article published inTaranaki Daily News on 13 September 1939, Joan reported ‘Almost immediately we realised we were in Germany, as right from the frontier there were thousands of uniforms and army lorries, trucks, etc., were tearing past us all the time. All along the road the children were out to see the military cars go past and they all called out “Heil Hitler” and raised their hands in the Nazi salute; they certainly have the children trained’.

Joining the war effort

John joined the Royal Air Force shortly after the outbreak of war. Although he was unsuccessful in his efforts to become a pilot, he eventually achieved the rank of Flying Officer in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch of the Volunteer Reserve. In December 1942, John was on board a Handley Page Harrow aircraft travelling from Cornwall to Gibraltar. For reasons unknown, the aircraft never reached its destination. However, Joan reported in one of her letters that she had heard that the addition of an extra fuel tank to increase the range of the aircraft could have resulted in a fuel supply problem. The “Aircraft Crashes Record Office” records the loss as follows: “On its way from Portreath to Gibraltar, while overflying the Biscay Bay, aircraft went out of control and crashed off the Spanish coast. All eleven occupants were killed”. In a letter to John’s sister three months later, Joan wrote of her loss “To me life without John would be hopeless”. Joan eventually remarried and returned to New Zealand.

Wartime letters

During the war John and Joan McCauley wrote a series of letters to John’s sister Hazel Emily Anderson in New Zealand. The letters have been transcribed by Debbie McCauley and published on the website ‘Tauranga Memories’ (

A selection of the letters can be read below.

To explore the full collection of letters please visit:


This page was added by Malin Lundin on 26/01/2014.