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Phyllis Brant was born on the 10 September 1907 at Wanganui, the daughter of William Herbert and Venice Augusta Brant nee Ciocheto. Venice was of Italian extraction.


After coming to Hawera in 1914 from Patea, Phyllis was educated at Hawera Primary and Hawera Technical High Schools, where she was a school swimming champion. In the early 1930s, the family moved to Wellington, and it is thought this was where Phyllis met her future husband, Christian Thoswold Vesterby, a Danish sailor.


The couple then went to live in Alborg, in Jutland, Denmark and later Copenhagen, Phyllis being there during the five years of German occupation during World War Two.


Phyllis came home to Hawera for a visit in 1947, and attended the Hawera Technical High School Old Pupils Association annual reunion, and also spoke to the Hawera Rotary Club.


In her Rotary Club speech, she spoke of the Germans wanting to keep Denmark as friendly as possible. Their "friendly" methods included taking hostages and either transporting them to Germany to fill their already overflowing concentration camps, or executing them, many shot in their own homes without warning. Phyllis said the common German soldier was sympathetic to the people, but the Gestapo had their agents and spies everywhere. The Danes feared the Russians more than the Germans, and the people preferred to be under German control than Russian. She spoke of radios being allowed to be operated, but to stop the Danes listening in to England, high radio towers were erected in various districts, and everything was done to interfere with reception. The Germans were foiled in the end by a small aerial that was carried some distance to an isolated spot and connected with several others.


For a time Phyllis went "underground" to teach English to classes of Danish people, a dangerous occupation, owing to the many Germans in the city. At the close of the war, she undertook to contact relatives of British airmen shot down in Alborg, and by her efforts raised over 500 to place memorial stones on the graves of those buried in a small cemetery on the outskirts of the town.


Phyllis Vesterby died in March 1975 at Axminster, Devon, England, aged 67 years. A sister was Betty Harrison.



"Hawera Star" April 1947

HTHS School Magazines

Fay Norgate, Hawera (niece)