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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4 (July 1, 1938.)

The Army Sword

The Army Sword.

“Back from the pursuit came a disreputable-looking figure. Young Brown of ‘ours'—Goodie Brown as he was called to distinguish him from another Brown, who was supposed to be not so good.

“An amusing youngster was our Brown. He had lately joined, and was a general favourite, with a fund of dry humour and an enthusiastic way with him.

“'Oh, I say,’ cries the boy, ‘I wish you would come back with me and look at my Maori. Such a lark! I was charging those fellows across there, when I caught my foot and tumbled head foremost into a rifle-pit, and landed in the arms of a noble savage. There we were hugging one another. He could not get away from me and I could not get away from him. My revolver was empty. But I had my trusty sword, ‘Excalibur,’ and luckily the noble savage had not got a tomahawk. So we held on to one another like grim death, I all the while cutting him across his bare head with my sword. I was so close to him that I could only use the part of the blade near the hilt, but I slashed and slashed, calling to mind all that I have read about ‘pleaving the Paynim to the chin.’ I should think that we were five minutes at this game, and I was getting devilish tired, for cleaving skulls for five minutes is hard work, especially when the owner is trying to throttle you. So I was not sorry when Corporal Kearney of Ours rushed up, and with a yell drove his bayonet into him.

(Rly. Publicity photo.) A scene in the Wairakei thermal valley, North Island, New Zealand.

(Rly. Publicity photo.) A scene in the Wairakei thermal valley, North Island, New Zealand.

“Ugh! see what a beastly mess I am in!’ However, when he was dead I examined his head, to see the result of my hammering him for five minutes with my sword. I give you my honour, that after looking very carefully I could distinctly see a slight red mark on his forehead! An abrasion of the skin. Oh, yes! the skin was distinctly broken! I was never so delighted in my life. And yet they talk of a regimental sword being an unreliable weapon. Well, all I can say is I have not found it so!'

* * *

That touch of comedy was a trifle of relief from the terrible scenes of the defeated forlorn hope. The Maoris lost nearly half their number killed. Fifty men and youths lay dead. Rewi marvellously escaped, though he was foremost in the attack and tried to chop steps in the parapet with his long-handled tomahawk. Of the British five were killed and eleven wounded.

It was another Mahoetahi for the Maoris—that was a disastrous defeat of Ngati-Haua in the previous year. Waikato was a land of grief. “The land is swept and desolate,” the weeping people chanted. “Mournfully roll the waters of Puniu; the waters sob as they flow.”