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$1.5 million gift to Wellington College

  • August 23rd, 2008

Wellington College has been given $1.5 million by the 92 year old fiance of a young man killed during World War 11. It’s the largest single gift the College has ever received.

The story of this remarkable tribute is about to be published in the school’s magazine, the Lampstand, and was announced this week to the school’s donors.  The gift is from 92 year old Aucklander, Violet Elizabeth Dunn, whose fiance, Tom Paul, was at the school from 1931 to 1935.  He was killed  in England in 1944 when his damaged bomber crashed while attempting to return to base.

I met Principal Roger Moses in Auckland just after he’d  met Violet nearly two years ago. He was deeply moved by her story and was hoping she would  visit the College.

After Tom’s death Violet never married and carried his memory through her life. 

She met Wellingtonian Tom Paul on Takapuna Beach in 1934 and they fell in love and were planning to marry.  Tom enlisted in the Territorials and then the RNZAF as a trainee pilot.  By late 1941 he was in England, flying Wellington and Lancaster bombers on night raids over Europe.

He was injured in May 1942 after flying numerous bombing raids.  On his recovery he served as a combat and flying instructor to young pilots, including many from New Zealand.  He was 26 when he died on 4 January 1944 when his damaged bomber crashed into a forest.  He is buried in England.

Violet was a dental nurse, who has fond memories of Wellington where she trained, and after the war visited England.  She found shards of metal from the plane buried in the soil.  She has given these jagged shards to Wellington College, along with his medals and school uniform.

After deciding to give these memoirs to the college, Violet was invited to the school’s 2007 ANZAC service, to be held in honour of Tom Paul.  It was a very poignant visit, seeing the same buildings, honours boards and brass plaques that her fiance would have seen 70 years before.  Seeing his name etched in brass at the back of the hall with the other Old Boys who lost their lives in both World Wars was particularly sad for her.

She decided to make her generous gift in his name, with $1 million towards the building of the new memorial hall and $500,000 as an endowment to promote education at the college.  She wants the income to go to help "strugglers" and is keen to help more boys take up challenges such as Outward Bound.

Wellington College has always honoured its Old Boys and those who lost their lives fighting for their country.  A group of current students visits the World War battlefields of Europe every year in a tour which brings alive the names on the honours boards at school.

The gift is also a tribute to Roger Moses, who has worked hard to maintain these traditions at the College, introducing the history tour to Europe during his time at the school.  When he heard Violet’s story two years ago, he made that special effort to visit her in Auckland and listen to her memories.  He then invited her down to the ANZAC assembly with some of her close family.

The College hopes she will return later this year, for the second time, to be thanked.



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