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WW1 Charlotte Dinneen YMCA and YWCA

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Charlotte Kate Dalton Dinneen was the second of six children of Michael Dalton (1834-1913) and Mary Victoria Dinneen (1855-1949 nee Given) of Unchinagh, Mountain Rd (16 Upland Rd), Remuera. Her year of birth is believed to be 1881, but her birth does not appear to be registered in the New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriages. Her father Michael Dinneen fought in Taranaki and the Waikato during the New Zealand wars in the 1860s. The family lived at Kihikihi and farmed at Ohaupo from the late 1880s, before moving to Remuera. [1] 

In 1897 Charlotte passed the pupil-teacher examination while she was at Ponsonby School [2] and then passed her full teacher’s certificate in 1901, while still at Ponsonby School. [3] Then she was appointed first-assistant at Opotiki School. [4] In 1915 she is reported as ‘retiring’ after nine years as head teacher at the Anglican Orphans Home at Papatoetoe. [5] 

Charlotte had resigned in order to accompany her brother James Dinneen on his way to England on the S. S. Remuera in February 1915 to study for the pilot certificate in aviation and qualify himself for service in the military wing of the Royal Flying Corps. James and Charlotte arrived in England on 23 March 1915 and James received a commission as a lieutenant and his probationary flying certificate, after three weeks at the Military School, Brooklands. Unfortunately he had to relinquish his commission due to poor eyesight, leaving England to join the N Z Expeditionary Force in France as a Captain, where he was killed at the Battle of the Somme on 1 October 1916. Charlotte took up work for the YMCA canteens at Annsmuir, near Edinburgh and was later appointed manager to the Y.M.C.A, being the second woman in Great Britain to be in this position. Then she was appointed later to organise Winchester, Shrewsbury, Exeter, and Chatham, where she recruited 1000 Women for the Y.W.C.A. canteen. After her brother died, she joined the New Zealand War Contingent Association Canteen at Hornchurch Convalescent Hospital, and was afterwards transferred to Codford, where she was managed the War Contingent Canteen. [6] Charlotte was put in charge of the Aotearoa Club. It had “a library, reading and writing rooms, a large games-room with billiard-tables, a room where one could enjoy an easy-chair and a good book in comfort before a fire, and buy eatables, tea, or coffee; in fact, "Aotea Roa" was claimed inside and outside the depot as the best-equipped club on the (Salisbury) Plains.” Charlotte and her assistants organised concerts and entertainment for the recovering troops. [7] 

She then resigned from Codford to proceed to France in November 1917. She wrote home that she had been appointed Area Administrator for the Y.W.C.A. in Northern France. This comprised managing four huts, three clubs, and eighteen workers, all under her charge. The Y.W.C.A. had just raised another big educational club in Boulogne as there were 800 W.A.A.C. girls in huts with no recreation. She visited the huts in her area once a fortnight, and met new workers and those passing through to other areas. Many convalescent New Zealanders from the camps and hospitals came to look her and the other New Zealanders up. A concert company called the “Cheero Girls," was formed from the Y.W.C.A. and performed “The Midsummer Night's Dream” on the lawn in front of the canteen. In one area it was reported her door was blown in by a bomb dropped by a German raider. [8] [9] 

When the war ended Charlotte was in Boulogne where she met William Benwell, D.S.O, a retired captain of the Royal Navy. They married in Muswell Hill in London on the 12th August 1919. Her age was given as 33 on the marriage certificate, when in fact she was probably 38. William was aged 47 (1872-1951). Charlotte’s last address was given as 2 Royal Crescent, Bath, where she died aged 87 on 5th May 1968. 

 References 

[1] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District.] Kihikihi, 1902. http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz//tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc02Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d3-d15.html#Cyc02Cycl-fig-Cyc02Cycl0735a 

[2] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS18970720.2.19 Auckland Star, Volume XXVIII, Issue 167, 20 July 1897 

[3] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH19010228.2.38 New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 11588, 28 February 1901 

[4] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH19010628.2.11 New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 11691, 28 June 1901 

[5] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH19150430.2.22 New Zealand Herald, Volume LII, Issue 15905, 30 April 1915 

[6] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH1-Effo-t1-body-d15-d8.html 

[7] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19170920.2.36 New Zealand Times, Volume XLII, Issue 9770, 20 September 1917 

[8] https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19181002.2.21 New Zealand Times, Volume XLIII, Issue 10090, 2 October 1918 

[9] Make her praises heard afar. Jane Tolerton. Booklovers Books, 2017.p278. 

Images 

[1] Papatoetoe Orphan Home Opening 5 May 1909.Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19090505-22-2 

[2] Aotearoa Club Interior Codford Postcard 

[3] WAAC Poster. Ministry of Labour poster for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – Image Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum IWM Q 68242 

[4] YWCA Poster