Marian Beech was born in England in 1917, immigrating to New Zealand aged 11. Marian's brother, Edgar Harvey, was among the thousands of servicemen who died during the war.
He had left for war in the middle of 1941 attached to the RAF. By the end of the following year he was flying on Stirling bombers with 75 (NZ) Squadron, one of a crew of seven. On the night of 17 December 1942, Edgar set off on only his seventh operation since completing his training. The crew's aircraft was assigned to lay mines off the French coast but, in strong cross-winds, it crashed on take-off. All the crew were killed. Just a week earlier, Edgar had married an Englishwoman, Josephine, and the two had returned from their honeymoon the day before. It was from her new sister-in-law that Marian heard the details of Edgar's last night. For Marian, the loss of her brother, to whom she had been so close, was 'dreadful', but she also had to watch her parents struggle with their grief. Edgar is buried in an English churchyard, and his parents visited his grave.
In this extract, more than 60 years on, Marian is left with a sense of what might have been:
Marian Beech: He [Edgar] was a lovely young man. He had all his life ahead of him and he was talented and he was just … He would have been an asset to any country. If there hadn't been a war and all these lovely young men had never gone to that war, the world would have been a wonderful place. And New Zealand would have been. New Zealand would have had young men that would have made New Zealand. Because the Kiwi is – the ingenuity – Kiwi ingenuity is well known isn't it. You know a Kiwi can make all sorts of things, do all sorts of things. Well you can imagine all those lovely young men now ... that had been spared any war. What a place we would have been living in. You know, the mind just boggles at the thought of it. Can't take it in.