Lasting love bloomed in wartime

Ernest ''Digger'' Thornley got his name and nickname from an uncle who died in World War 1.

At the Montecillo Anzac Service yesterday, the 93-year-old recalled being a child in Dunedin and watching World War 1 veterans marching from the Oval to the Cenotaph on Anzac Day.

''It is just amazing how it has changed.''

During World War 2 Mr Thornley served in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. He has never returned.

''I would have loved to go back; two or three of my cobbers are buried over there.''

He attended an official function in Wellington last year for those who missed out on the ballot, and was reunited with a fellow machine-gunner from his company.

Asked about his nickname, Mr Thornley said he was named after his uncle Ernest Chadwick, who was killed in France near the end of the war.

''People used to hear my nickname and say ''you are too young to be in World War 1''.

At Burnham during the war he met his future wife Blanche, a corporal at headquarters.

''I couldn't refuse her ... I was only a private,'' he quipped.

The couple often attended smaller services and noted the ''amazing'' number of young people who attended commemorations.

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