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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)


The name of the Forest Rangers is associated with the most adventurous and hazardous aspect of the warfare of the past, when personal values had not yet been submerged in the tide of frightfulness and scientific massacre. In our New Zealand wars there were several corps of Forest Rangers and Forest Rifles in the period 1860–66. The most celebrated body of these bush-roving scouts and fighters was the corps enlisted originally by William Jackson, a young settler at Hunua, near Papakura, South Auckland, in the early part of the Waikato war. The commander was promoted from Captain to Major at the close of the war. His second in command, the famous G. F. Von Tempsky, had a company of his own later on in the campaign, and the two went through the war together. Jackson and many of these guerilla soldiers became military settlers in Waikato; others followed Von Tempsky to Tara-naki. The end of both commanders was tragic. Von Tempsky fell in the bush fight at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu in Taranaki, in 1868, and Major Jackson many years later was lost overboard from a steamer on the West Coast when he was on his way to his Parliamentary duties in Wellington.

Major William Jackson, M.H.R. for Waipa.(From a photograph about 1886.)

Major William Jackson, M.H.R. for Waipa.(From a photograph about 1886.)

My memories of Major Jackson, the founder of the Forest Rangers corps and afterwards of a frontier Cavalry squadron, go back to my early boyhood days, on the edge of Pakeha settlement in the Upper Waikato. Jackson and Northcroft were our popular heroes on the old border where redoubts and blockhouses stood sentry over the furthest-out townships and farms. There was a strong military element in the life of the King Country frontier in those days, for most of the settlers had served in the Maori wars in one way and another, and many of them lived on land they had received as Crown grants for service in the Militia and the Forest Rangers. Some of these veterans of the Rangers were our neighbours at Kihikihi, and Major Jackson's big house on Kenny's Hill seemed to command the scene of soldier settlement as he had commanded the men in the field in the years of the Waikato conquest.

The Major was sturdy and square and blocky of figure, with an habitual air of determination and resolution. He was one of the few clean-shaven men I remember there in that era of luxuriant whiskers. The most he permitted himself to wear in the way of face adornment was his closely trimmed “sideburns.” He had come to New Zealand from the North of England; had he remained in the parent country he would have made a perfect squire of the good old John Bull type. He brought to the new country some of the downright virtues and traits of the conservative yeoman stock. In the Upper Waikato he led the way in many public movements, and he represented the Waipa Constituency in the House of Representatives during the Eighties.