Neale Lester Flinn served in the Army in the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force embarking for service in Europe from Wellington near the start of the war.

With the service number WWII617264, Neale entered the service not too long after England on September 3, 1939 declared war on Germany. He was only just 17 and had been working as a grocer’s assistant. At the age of 16 he’d been an army cadet.

His service record shows his mother Agnes Flinn as next of kin on embarkation to the war in Europe. At this time, his Dad William was a farmer on Larmer Road near Kaitaia.

Initially, upon signing up he and others marched from Auckland to the army camp of Waiouru to set up as part of a tent city. In the initial war years, he was an instructor, already having two older brothers serving overseas.

But in 1943, when there was no-one left to train, Neale applied to join the transport division of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Embarkations took place from January 1, 1944 to March 31, 1944.

He shipped out from New Zealand and disembarked and spent a few months in Egypt. He then went on to Italy, where he served in the expeditionary force’s transport arm for the remainder of the war. His responsibilities covered everything from tanks to field ambulances.

Following the end of hostilities with Germany he stayed on in Europe, as a single man, for another year or so to be part of the reconstruction team.

He rose to the rank of corporal during his service in the transport division. During the reconstruction it was not all graft. Neale was blessed with both a good voice, and the coordination to be a dancer. That set him up well to be part of any social occasion. He remained a dancer until the age of 85.

He returned to New Zealand and married Nancy in 1950. Nancy was from Blenheim and the couple met on a hop farm located near Motueka. They then went to work, briefly, helping her brother on Shannon Station, a sheep and beef operation station near Wairoa in Hawke’s Bay.

The next move for the young couple was to Kaitaia, where they waited on the chance of a ‘rehab’ farm – eventually taking on a property in Waikiekie, halfway between Dargaville and Whangarei.

The Government's proposals for rehabilitation of ex-servicemen of the Second World War included settlement on the land. This was done by a Land Settlement Board.

Neale used his knowledge of someone having brought up on a farm, plus a year of farm management training at Massey University.

The Government had split up a big block of land to create six farms, though life on the new land was definitely not easy. Many farmers walked of this land. “We were the last family standing, everybody else had walked off by then,” Neale’s daughter Cheryl says.

“The only reason we lasted was Dad had some sort of demolition training qualification etc from the army, which he used through the winter months – May through to August... he worked as a blaster at the local limestone quarry.” 

Neale persevered and around 1967/68 bought/applied for another ‘rehab farm’ in the Waikato where Cheryl, her two brothers and two younger sisters were brought up. It was located in Newstead, on the outskirts of Hamilton.