Pearl Blanche HOLMES
(later Pearl Saunders)

Service Number: W2916
WAAF Trade:
Date of Enlistment: 24th of March 1942
Date of Demob: 13th of September 1944
Rank Achieved:

Born: Pearl was born on the 21st of January 1921 at Ohakune
Personal Details: Pearl was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Holmes. John was originally from Devon, England, and was a tailor by trade. He had served in British home territorial units including the Fourth Devons Volunteer Corps at Totness, the Third Devons at Honiton, the Welsh Border Volunteers, and the Newport Volunteers). He sailed on SS Devonia with mules for East London, South Africa, arriving just after the Boer War had been declared. He then served as a corporal in Brabants Horse (27/11/99-30/11/00), and as a Corporal in the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles 26/2/01-30/9/01). He was then promoted to Sergeant with the Natal Volunteer Composite Regiment (29/2/02-31/9/02). and the Natal Border Police.

John married Elizabeth Jacoba Pretorius in Durban, South Africa on the 14th of November 1904. Together they came to New Zealand in July 1907 and lived in Normanby until about 1915. They moved to Upper Hutt in 1915, living there till just after WWI ended. It’s believed by his grandson Max that John was associated with the Trentham Camp at that time, possibly as a drill instructor or a tailor. Postwar they were living in Ohakune for a while where Pearl was born, and then John and Elizabeth moved the family to Cambridge in 1925 where John set up a tailors' shop in Duke Street.

Pearl was the second-youngest of ten children:
John Roland Holmes(1904-1957)  Gunner NZ Artillery 1942
Enid Maude Holmes(1906-1996)
Leonard (Len)  Thomas Holmes( abt 1906- 1960) RNZAF Guadalcanal abt 1943
Cyril (Sid) Peter Walter Holmes (1909-1992) WO 3rd Echelon, 2 NZEF
Queenie Elizabeth Holmes(1911-1973)
Eileen Mary Holmes(1912-2000)
Norman Stanley Holmes (1914-2001)
George Robert Holmes (1918-1979) Sapper  2 NZEF
Pearl Blanche Holmes (1921 -2014) WAAF WW2
Neil Clarence Holmes (1923-2019                 

Pearl attended Cambridge Primary School.

She was farewelled from Arawa Hall by many of her friends in March 1942 as she departed to join the WAAF's. Also farewelled according to the newspaper notice was Joan Watts. See her entry for more details of the farewell dance.

Pearl married Alfred Milton Saunders, who had served with the 2 NZEF Divisional Cavalry, and the Long Range Desert Group on the 23rd of October 1943, at Claudelands, Hamilton. The following notice appeared in the Waikato Times newspaper on the 16th of November 1943:



The Marriage of Pearl Blanche (W.A.A.F.), youngest daughter of Mrs E. Holmes, of Cambridge, to Trooper Alfred Milton Saunders (on furlough), only son of Mrs E.H. Lacy of Epsom, was solemnised recently at the Methodist Church, Claudelands. The Rev. J.W. Parker performed the ceremony.

The bride, who was given away by her brother, Warrant Officer C.P. Holmes, was married in her uniform, and carried a white prayer book. Attending her in uniform was W.A. I.D. Garnett, who also carried a white prayer book. The best man was L.T. Holmes of the RNZAF.

A reception was held later at the residence of the bride's sister, Mrs G. Stephenson, Claudelands.


Together Pearl and Alfred had three children, Max, Ross and Dana (later Pratt).

After WWII Pearl and Alfred farmed at Otamarakau Valley, near Te Puke. They were then balloted for a Rehabilitation Scheme farm at Waikite Valley, and they farmed there till they retired in the late 1970's.

Service Details: Pearl served at RNZAF Station Whenuapai in the Woman's Auxiliary Air Force, from March 1942 till September 1944. Her entire service was spent at at Whenuapai, working in a Mess. She was waitressing, making beds etc.

Her son Max recalls, "She well remembered the incident when an aircraft carrying Japanese civlians crashed on take off in or about 1942. Likewise, both my late father-in-law Geoffrey Samuel Collard (RNZAF fitter) and Mum remembered the incident when a Hudson crashed after takeoff into a hangar at Whenuapai."

Death: Pearl died on the 22nd of January 2014, at Mapua, Nelson
Buried: Pearl is buried in the RSA Sectionm Marsden Valley Road Cemetery, Nelson, alongside her late husband Alfred Saunders

Connection with Cambridge: Pearl grew up in Cambridge before the war

Thanks To: Former Cambridge WAAF May Millener for a few memories of Pearl, and Pearl's son Max Saunders for further memories and the photo on this page


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