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

The First of the Forest Rangers

The First of the Forest Rangers.

William Jackson was a vigorous young settler, busy clearing and stocking his bush farm in the edge of the great Hunua forest stretching southward and eastward from the Papakura flats, when the call came for a small corps of picked men to range the bush as an auxiliary to the regular Army and the Militia. It was in the winter of 1863 that the Waikato war began, and it soon became evident that the ordinary troops were not fitted for the patrol duty on the edge of the frontier where outlying settlers were in constant danger, and where also General Cameron's line of communications and the munitions and commissariat supplies moving along the Great South Road were imperilled by the armed Maori bushmen. So a special corps was formed, and the Government choice of a leader fell on William Jackson, because of his marked resolute character and his knowledge of the frontier forests.

There were many bushmen settlers, ex-gold diggers, and sailors available, men ready for adventure; young and self-reliant, and there were volunteers eager to avoid the routine duty of the Militia redoubt-building and marching on escort with the supply carts for the Army posts as far as the Queen's Redoubt.

Jackson was given a commission as lieutenant; he was soon promoted to captain. His first bush march with his hardy recruits was in the early part of August, 1863. From that time up to the final battle of the war, Orakau (April, 1864) he was almost constantly in the field. He and his Rangers fought in many skirmishes and several regular sieges of Maori fortified positions. They were the envy of the other corps for several reasons. They had a free-roving commission; they did not trouble much about drill; they did no navvy work; they were paid, for a considerable time, eight shillings a day (as against the Militia-man's half-a-crown) besides rations, and a double allowance of rum on account of the rough and often wet marching and camping. Moreover, they were armed with a page 18 page 19 handy breechloading carbine and revolver, while the Regulars and the Militia still used the unhandy long Enfield rifle, muzzle-loading.