This is the story of a soldier, a little English girl, and an egg.
English woman Hazel Watson contacted the Oamaru Mailfrom her home in Cumbria to seek more information on a special New Zealand soldier.
Martin Petersen, of Oamaru, was a sapper with the New Zealand Engineers in World War 1.
The son of Martin and Jemima Janet Petersen (nee May) served in Egypt and at Gallipoli – where he was wounded at Suvla Bay – before fighting on the Western Front.
While recuperating from injuries or illness at a hospital in the London area, he formed a surprising bond with a young English girl and her family.
The girl was 4-year-old Ida May Hodgson, Mrs Watson’s mother.
“Ida May was at school in Cleator Moor, Cumbria, when the children were asked to send an egg and their address to an injured soldier,” Mrs Watson said.
“Martin received Ida May’s egg and he replied with the first of many letters.
“When Martin recovered, and was well enough to leave hospital but not fit enough to travel back to New Zealand, he went to Cleator Moor and stayed with Ida May and her parents, Syd and Ada.
“After some weeks he returned to his home, where he kept in touch until he died.”
Sapper Petersen’s military records show he died in Oamaru of “wounds inflicted or disease contracted” on November 19, 1918. He was 25.
Ida May’s family treasures documents and photos relating to the Oamaru soldier and Ida May and other letters are in the archives at Whitehaven, Cumbria. A BBC Radio Cumbria programme covered the story.
The family has a postcard Sapper Petersen sent to Ida May on his return to New Zealand. It reads: “My dear little Ida May. How I long to simply see your dear face and curls again. I am right away at the far end of the world and will be coming back to see you when Gerard kills those naughty Germans.
“It will take me six whole weeks to reach your home but I don’t mind as I know that you are at the end of my journey and will have a nice wee kiss saved up for me. Lots of love and kisses from Martin.”