When the New Zealand cricket team made their famous tour of Britain during 1949, they were visiting a United Kingdom that was still feeling the effects of World War 2. Rationing continued through much of the late 1940s and the road to rebuilding towns and lives was a long one. Amidst the many cricketing stops on their tour, the New Zealanders often viewed the destruction first-hand, visiting many sites that had been bombed during the conflict.

The 1949 tour is an important one in our history, as much for the performances on the field as it was for the events that happened around it. The team’s hectic schedule included many public receptions and events, often with as many as three appearances a day. At many of these receptions, the war formed a part of formal proceedings with the home nations thanking the cricketers for New Zealand’s role, and the team thanking Britain with a heavy dose of colonial patriotism.

This was no more evident than on Anzac Day, when the tourists visited the Commonwealth Gift Centre in Knightsbridge. Established to redistribute supplies of food that were replenishing Britain from the Commonwealth, the Gift Centre operated until 1952 and was well-supported by New Zealand and its citizens.

The detail that accompanies this photograph from the collection of team manager, Jack Phillipps, outlines New Zealand’s role in the Gift Centre and the team’s presence on the day,

Anzac Day, April 25th was celebrated by a visit of the New Zealand Cricket Team to the Commonwealth Gift Centre for the official opening of a photographic display, where they were welcome by Mr. “Shrimp” Leveson Gower, once Captain of the England Eleven.

Addressing the gathering, the Rt. Hon. J. Strachey, Minister of Food, paid tribute to the outstanding generosity of the people of New Zealand who have sent 3,611,328 lbs. in bulk and 3,944,027 individual parcels to Britain, representing over 15 lbs. per head of their population. One of the main features of their arrangements has been the adoption of schools in the United Kingdom, buy schools in New Zealand, thus establishing a very happy link of lasting significance. Another of their outstanding schemes is the Fat for Britain Scheme, run by Mr. Philip Barling of Dunedin, under which between 300 and 400 x 40 lb. tins of clarified fat have been collected by individual farmers’ wives and sent to this country every month.

He asked the members of the team to convey the heart-felt thanks of the British people to the people of New Zealand. The Rt. Hon. W.J. Jordan, the New Zealand High Commissioner, replying said, that these gifts were only an expression of the admiration for the valour and endurance of Britain, and a small repayment for their hospitality to New Zealand soldiers during the war.

Speaking on behalf of the cricketers, Mr. J.H. Phillipps, O.B.E., the manager of the team, expressed honour they felt to be associated with the Gift Centre and declared it officially opened.

Eleven school-boy captains from various schools and clubs in London, were amongst the most excited guests at the function. For them it was a never to be forgotten day, when New Zealand gift parcels were handed to them by their heroes, the New Zealand cricket team.”

Geoff Rabone and Walter Hadlee present gifts from New Zealand to local schoolboy cricketers, 25 April 1949

The event was mentioned by both Walter Hadlee and Harry Cave in their tour diaries, with Hadlee detailing some of the dignitaries in the welcoming party and Cave noting the “poor boys” who were receiving the packages.

Waikato Independent, 29 July 1946 via paperspast.govt.nz

Earlier in April, the team had been welcomed by the New Zealand Society and London’s infamous, Savoy Hotel. Back home, that hotel’s namesake in Dunedin was responsible for processing the fat which was being collected from homes throughout the lower South Island as part of the Fat for Britain Scheme.

The man behind the scheme, Philip Barling, is an important player in Dunedin history. Born in England, Barling found his way south via Australia and the North Island. Although he was not a particularly wealthy man when he arrived in Dunedin, he made the most of his resources and developed the Savoy in the city and the gardens at his property, Glenfalloch. Both of which continue to attract patrons and visitors today. 

As well as Fat for Britain, Barling also threw his support behind bringing British war brides who were stranded in America to New Zealand. He offered to find jobs and pay half of the fare cost from New York for two women, believing that there was “no worse place in the world for a woman to be stranded than New York.”

In January 1949, the Bay of Plenty Times printed a heartfelt note of thanks to the women around the country who were responsible for following through on Barling’s concept,

Tribute to Farmers’ Wives
Fat Supplies for British Sisters

Because farmers’ wives, working at their home duties from dawn until dusk in New Zealand, are bothering to think about their British sisters, fat at the rate of 12,000lb is being shipped to the Old Country every five or six weeks, says the Overseas Mail. This “Fat for Britain” Campaign is the special interest of Mr Philip Barling, of Dunedin, who supplies women with free 40lb containers for saving fat for its rendering down. Mr Barling, who served in the Boer War as a member of the 33rd East Kent Yeomanry, travels distances up to 200 miles in New Zealand, meeting members of the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers, the Red Cross, and the Women’s Institutes, and encouraging them to save fat for Britain.

Of articles appearing in the Overseas Daily Mail, especially those dealing with food rationing, Mr Barling says they “have been very helpful to me at some of my country meetings, and have helped to liven the proceedings as well as give an accurate idea of the hardships of some of the old folks living by themselves and in small groups of houses.”

Thank you, New Zealand!