With the Lost Legion in New Zealand
Chapter V — My Baptism of Fire. Otapawa
My Baptism of Fire. Otapawa
We were roused from our slumbers at one A.M., but alas there was no cocoa for us, and the pannikin of tea served out in lieu did not supply an adequate substitute, but we had to make the best of it, and as we were ordered to leave our packs behind us I for one did not grumble. Our scouts had gone on two hours before, and when we had fallen in Colonel McDonnell approached and gave Mr Roach his instructions. The latter was standing in front of me, so close that I could not help overhearing the conversation.
"See here, Roach," said the Colonel, "the General has determined to rush the pah with the bayonet, and I know the Maoris will stand. You will advance along the road in line till you reach the bush, but as both of your flanks are protected and the scouts are in front, you need only take ordinary precautions. When you reach the bush extend your men along the edge of it, your centre resting on the road, take cover and wait for further orders, but on no account try and precipitate an action. Von Tempsky will be on your left and will operate on the right of the pah, and the Kupapas" (friendly natives) "are working round to your right to hold the left and rear of the pah so as to prevent the Hau Haus' escape." Then sinking his voice he murmured: "By page 75gad, Roach, the General is inclined to rush things a bit too fast to-day. I fear he has not allowed the Kupapas time enough to get round, and if they don't the majority of the Hau Haus will escape. Now, time is up, move off your men, good luck to you."
I was centre man of the company that day, and as we moved in line I had the advantage of marching in the middle of the road, which was fairly smooth. The trail led inland and was well defined as it had originally been a road leading to a fine farm, but the farm had been burnt and a pah built there instead.
We marched steadily as we had only a short distance to go, and of course no smoking or talking was allowed, and also halted frequently, so that none of us were in any way fatigued.
Just as the daylight had begun to light up the top of Mount Egmont, and we had covered about five miles, a long wall of dense blackness appeared in front of us which we knew to be the bush, and we reached it when it was light enough to see a man thirty yards from us.
Previous to this we had received the whispered order: "From your centre, five paces extend." So we were advancing in skirmishing order, and when we were still some twenty yards away a whisper of "'Ware scout" ran along the line as a dim figure stepped from behind a tree and came towards us. This turned out to be George, who with the tea-bucket on his head looked, in the dim light, a blood-curdling apparition. As we had extended from the centre the road made a gap between the two half companies, and being centre page 76man I was next the road on the right-hand side of it. Mr Roach's position while the company was in skirmishing order was also in rear of the centre, so that he was alongside me when George met us.
"Well, George," said he, "what have you got to tell me, and where is Pierre?"
It is no good my endeavouring to try and write what George called English. Talleyrand, I think it was, who said, "Speech was given us to conceal our thoughts with." Certainly Providence never expected George to convey his in the English tongue, so I will transpose his jargon so far as I understood him.
"The bush," said George, "is not a mile through, and is fairly an open one. The pah stands in a clearing about two hundred yards from the edge of the bush on this side, but not so far on the other. On this side, for more than one hundred yards the trees are cut down after you get out of the bush, but the stumps are left, though the trunks and the branches are all cleared away, as is also the brushwood. The stumps, however, will give good cover. For a distance of eighty yards round the pah all the stumps are pulled out, and there is no cover for a rabbit. Over one hundred Maoris have come out of the pah and are waiting in skirmishing order in the bush half-a-mile in front of us. Pierre is still watching them."
Just as George had finished, Colonel McDonnell, riding on a pony, reached us, and having heard the report, said: "Roach, the General has determined to attack as soon as he arrives, although I am sure the Kupapas will not have had time to page 77come up. I am going to prolong your line of skirmishers to the right with Northcroft's party, who will try and overlap the left of the pah. The Maoris who are in front of you will not offer a strenuous opposition, it's their dart to try and draw you on to attack the pah. You will therefore drive them back across the ground on which George says the tree-stumps are still standing. When you reach the far edge of it take cover and try to smother the Maoris' fire from the trench. The 14th and 57th are to rush the place. When the storming party has passed through your skirmishers sit tight until you are sure they have entered the works. If you see they have done so with a good chance of success, double your men, as fast as you can, round the left of the pah to the rear of it, so as to try and cut off the enemy's escape. Should the attack fail, hold your ground till the last gasp and cover the stormers' retreat. I shall have the Rangers call blown and the advance when I wish you to move. Here comes the column. What a row they make!"
He was turning to ride away when his eye caught mine as I lay at the foot of a tree. With a nod he said: "Well, Burke, so you are already going to see some fighting. By Jove, if we could all get our desires granted so easily, what a jolly world it would be!" and with a pleasant laugh and another nod he rode back to the head of the approaching column that was advancing with a jingle and row you could hear a mile off.
The gallant Tommies were supplied with abundance of mess-kit, which they carried loose in their haversacks, instead of the single pannikin we page 78carried on our belts, and this kit made a big rattle, besides which there was the rumble and thump of the Armstrong guns.
I was meditating on this noise when our corps call, followed by the advance, rang out, and in a moment we were in motion. Faith, it is an anxious—I was almost writing a solemn—feeling that comes over a man when, for the first time, he advances through a silent bush, knowing full well that every step he takes brings him nearer to possible wounds or death.
It is not like an advance in the open, where as one of a mass of men marching shoulder to shoulder the numbers and continuity of comrades gives one a sense of security and companionship, nor is it like sitting on a good horse waiting for the trumpet call to charge, for then also you have fellowship of the very best. But to skirmish through a bush, even a fairly open one like this one was, is quite enough to give a new chum a fit of the jumps, for a sense of loneliness comes over a man, and the inclination to close in becomes intense. This, however, was not to be thought of, and I found myself boiling with excitement, keeping my line easily as I worked alongside the road, and instinctively moving forward with the others.
Occasionally I could see Tim, who was next me on my right, and sometimes three or four others as we moved rapidly from tree to tree; but still the dim light of the bush, its intense silence and the ghostly, gliding figures were conducive to serious thoughts, while once the bell-like note of the Tui bird made my heart jump into my throat.page 79
Nearer and nearer we glided towards where, we knew, the line of savages was awaiting us, and Mr Roach had just taken up his position by me as I crouched forward to my next cover and knelt down on a mass of dry fern that lay against the root of the tree.
Holy Moses! I nearly jumped out of my skin, and could scarcely smother a yell of consternation as I felt the fern heave under me, and heard a voice whisper: "If Monsieur will have the goodness to remove his knee from off my back I will get up."
I at once rolled over, when Pierre wriggled, like a snake, backwards from under his cover, at the same time placing his finger on his lip and extracting from its hiding-place his cherished batterie de cuisine, which he placed carefully on his head.
"Not more than fifty paces in front," he hissed to Mr Roach, who nodded, and I slid on to the next tree, then to another.
I peered into the bush in front but could see nothing. Mr Roach again joined me and again nodded, and once more I crawled forward. I was under a low punga (tree fern), making for a big rata-tree some twelve feet farther on, when a rush of flame and smoke darted out of the bushes not twenty yards in front of me, and I heard the fern leaves just over my head torn to ribbons, while the howl of the slugs through the air and the crash of the volley sounded simultaneously.
One spring took me to the rata-tree, round the root of which I peered, but saw no meat to fire at. I glanced to my right. Tim was on his face taking aim, and I could hear the crack, crack of individual page 80carbines answering the volley, which in another second was repeated.
A few moments before the bush had been as silent as a grave, but now it was an inferno; fire darted from the roots and from the sides of the tree-trunks in front of us, while yell after yell tore the disturbed air; and the smoke from the black powder either lay low on the ground or curled in spiral wreaths up through the trees.
Nor were our own men silent, as cheer after cheer answered our opponents' yells, and carbine shots rang out all along the line.
Up to this I had not fired a shot, as I had seen no one to fire at, and an intense longing to advance came over me, so spotting a tree some six or seven yards farther on I ran, crouched up and bending low to it, throwing myself down on my face at the foot of it just as a piece of bark the size of my hand was torn from its bole and the deflected bullet passed me with an angry whir that sounded extremely unhealthy.
My idea of advancing must have come to many others simultaneously, for I saw several men rush forward to fresh cover, and we were now in the enemy's smoke, that hung close to the ground, and had to breathe the saltpetre befouled atmosphere.
Another advance and we were already on the position the Maoris had originally occupied; it was therefore quite evident they were giving ground, besides which the distance between us had increased, as we could tell by the sound of the reports of their firelocks, for they still continued to fire heavily although only an occasional shot was fired by our men in reply.page 81
"Forward!" shouted Mr Roach, and the word was echoed along the line, and we shoved ahead, although we still took cover.
Soon the trees grew thinner, and we increased our pace, until it became a running fight which rapidly turned into a pursuit, and as we cleared the bush we saw a long line of Maoris making off as fast as they could towards the pah.
At these we fired a volley and pressed on loading, in doing which I experienced much difficulty in getting hold of a cap and placing it on the nipple of my carbine. The clearing was, as George had described it first of all, some hundred and fifty yards of ground with the stumps still standing in it, and then perhaps sixty or seventy yards of ground scraped as bare as the palm of your hand.
Firing ceased entirely as we crouched and crawled from stump to stump, and we took advantage of this to correct our intervals and the dressing of the line, while word was passed from both ends of it that with the exception of a few chips being knocked off no one was hurt.
Presently we came to the end of the stumps, where, in accordance with orders, each man lay down behind the most suitable cover he could select and waited for what was to eventuate. And now while we are waiting there, let me try and give you an idea of the pah.
Less than eighty yards in front of us, and for about one hundred and twenty yards in length, stretched a fence, flanked at both ends with well-formed bastions that looked, from where we lay, flimsy to a degree, it being composed of straight sticks of unequal length, say from fourteen to page 82twenty feet long, and about the thickness of an ordinary broomstick. These were not placed touching one another, nor stuck into the ground, but lashed two or three inches apart to stout cross-pieces and suspended a few inches above the ground, the cross-pieces in their turn being lashed to trunks of trees or stout posts sunk deep into the earth at intervals of from twenty to thirty feet. This fence, as I said, looked flimsy, but it was not, as the sticks it was composed of were manuka saplings, a wonderfully tough, hard wood, quite unbreakable, while should artillery be brought to bear on it, a shell would only break one stick and the fence be still impassable. Just in rear of this fence is a trench, dug deep enough for the defenders to stand in and fire under the fence along the level of the ground in front of it, and behind this trench is the earthwork and the heavy palisadings of the pah itself.
The inside of the pah is connected with the trench by underground passages, so that the defenders may take refuge inside, should the pekerangi (outer fence) be carried by assault, but the natives regard it as their principal bulwark, and usually try and bolt if it be destroyed.
It had been in assaulting the pekerangi at Rangiriri and Orakau that the British troops had suffered so heavily in the past, and it remained to be proved to-day whether the pekerangi at Otapawa was to be the scene of success or disaster to its gallant assailants.
"Burke," said Mr Roach, "look at the foot of that post to your right front; you will see the head of a beggar peeping over the edge of the trench. Try and put him out of mess."page break page 83
Looking at the post indicated I could just see half a Maori's head peeping out, evidently trying to spot what was going on, so as directed I took a steady aim and fired.
"Good shot," ejaculated Mr Roach, "but I don't think you got him, for he ducked at the flash like a coot; anyhow you have given him a strong hint to lie low, as you knocked a splinter off the post just where his head had been. By Jove, here the column comes."
I looked back and saw the head of the column debouching from the bush, and when four companies had reached the open they wheeled left and right and left the road clear.
"Wonder what they are doing that for?" soliloquised Mr Roach, but he was soon answered, as over our heads shrieked an Armstrong shell, which passed over the palisading and plumped right into the middle of the pah, where it burst and kicked up any amount of row, smoke, dust and bobbery. This surprise packet was quickly followed by several others, and a burst of flame told us that some of the huts inside had caught fire. Still not a shell had touched the defences, and as all the defenders would be in the trenches it was not likely any of them would be hurt. Subsequently it was discovered that only one man had had his head blown off, which went to prove the inutility of bombarding Maori pahs.
Suddenly Mr Roach shouted out: "Look out, men, the stormers are advancing. Keep your eyes on the foot of the pekerangi, take good aim and make the Hau Haus keep their heads down."
Glancing round I saw the troops formed in two page 84columns, and heard the advance blown, but then had to concentrate all my attention on our own business, which was to prevent the Maoris from raising their heads out of the trench so as to take aim at the stormers. This we did, as the moment an over-inquisitive Maori bobbed his head up to take a look or get a shot three or four bullets would splash around it as a hint to him to tuck in his twopenny.
Presently from the rear I heard the measured tramp of advancing columns, and soon the order was given for the leading companies to deploy, previous to making the rush. We were now very busy, as the heads were popping up a dozen at a time, but as yet not a shot had been fired nor a sound uttered from the pah.
The Maori individually is a vile shot and quite incapable of hitting anything he aims at, at fifty yards from him, but when he fires a volley from a trench with the muzzle of his firelock only an inch or two from the ground that volley is a very deadly one indeed, especially as the object is never more than fifty or sixty yards away from him, sometimes closer. Again, most of them were armed with double-barrelled guns, so that they could pour in a second volley at a storming party more or less disorganised by the first discharge. A Maori moreover is a cool, brave warrior, who is brought up to regard courage in war as not only essential but also as the only quality by which he will be remembered and his name honoured by his descendants.
I was lying behind my stump, with my eye fixed on the foot of the pekerangi, when the trampling feet came up to me, and Colonel Butler, with his page 85sword drawn, passed within a yard of me. Behind him came a party of pioneers carrying axes, while a few of them had charge of a long stout pole to the centre of which was attached a long chain. Close up behind these marched, in line, a company of the 57th, the old Diehards, whose fathers had fought at Albuera as these men had fought at Inkermann and through the Mutiny. Oh, but my heart did beat fast at the sight of their gallant Irish faces, for at that time hardly an Englishman was in the regiment, as they swung through our skirmishing line and advanced to the grim and silent pah. On their left marched another company in line, led by another field officer, Colonel Hassard, and in rear came two more companies in support.
My work was now over, as the moment the attacking party had passed me they masked the pah from my fore, though my comrades at the extreme flanks were still firing as fast as they could load so as to cover the advance of the forlorn hope.
Ye gods, how excited I was, an excitement equally shared by Tim, who howled out: "Oh, begorra, Mr Dick, mayn't we go wid thim, sor? Say the word, sor, and let's go."
But it would not do. Discipline in action above all things, and we had to remain spectators. The rear rank of the company had not cleared me more than five yards when a tremendous yell rose from the pah and the simultaneous roar of at least three hundred rifles and guns, while sheets of lead crashed into the advancing companies, or went whistling over our heads, which in a second strewed the page 86ground with dead or wounded men writhing in their agony.
For a moment the advance was checked and the line wavered. Good God! surely these old Crimean warriors are not going to flinch! Not much. For like a trumpet-call out rang Colonel Butler's voice: "Steady, Diehards, go back, or come on. I am going on. Charge!"
Did those grizzled old veterans hesitate? Not for a breathing space. Their much-loved countryman and commander was in front of them, so was the enemy, and with a yell wilder even than the Maori war-cries every man able to move rushed forward. At the double, howling for blood, the supporting companies rush past, a rush that the second smashing volley of the Maoris, although it sadly thinned their ranks, could not check, and in a few moments the whole storming party had launched itself against the pekerangi. Would they succeed, or was it to be another Rangiriri? Half mad, I jumped on to the stump that had sheltered me and glued my eyes on the proceedings. Mr Roach and all my comrades had done the same, and though the dense smoke hid most of the conflict from us, still we could hear the ferocious yells of the natives, the cheers and savage imprecations of our struggling men, while occasionally the ring of the axe-blades on the fence reached us, although deadened, as they well might be, by the continuous firing.
All of a sudden I saw the long pole that the pioneers had carried launched over the fence, and my mind pictured the line of men swaying on the chain. What's that? as a triumphant shout is page 87raised, and with a rip, crash, down comes some fathoms of fence. Yell on yell goes up, the shots lessen, the bayonets flash, the smoke blows away, and we can see the wild Irish, cheering like mad, pour through the breach and into the trench.
Did we cheer? You bet we did, and many a smasher hat was slung skyward and many a laudatory cuss was cussed. "Who dare say a word agin the Quane's reglers now?" howled Tim. "God bless the boys from Ould Ireland. Wud to God I was wid thim."
But the pah is not taken yet, the earthworks and permanent fence still remain to be negotiated, and we see the Tommies swarm up the parapet, every inch of which we know to be flanked, and rush at the palisades, giving one another backs to surmount them.
With his sword hanging to his wrist by the sword-knot, a young officer is the first man up. He is on the top, grasps his weapon, steadies himself for a moment, preparatory to leaping in, but throws up his arms and falls backwards, dead. Now there are two men up, their rifles hanging to their right shoulders by the slings, one falls back but the other, regaining the hold of his rifle, jumps in. Before he can have reached the ground three or four more are over, then a dozen, then a swarm, and then, as Tim remarks, "they are lepping over like crickets," and the dust, smoke and yells float up to the bright blue sky.
But we are called to order, for Mr Roach shouts, "By the Lord, they've taken it. On your right, close. Double!" and we rush to our right, forming into a column of fours as we close in.page 88
Small time is given to the men on the extreme left to join up, for in less than a minute our O.C. gives the word: "Come on, boys, double!" and we run as hard as we can round the left flank of the pah, and make for the rear of it, taking no notice of the shots fired at us.
As we come round to the rear we catch sight of a long line of natives evacuating the place and making for the bush, that on this side was less than one hundred and fifty yards from the work, and we race to try and cut them off. Many of them however are women and children, so we do not fire, but our attention is speedily distracted by a sharp fire opened on us from the bush.
Like a gate we swing round. "Extend and charge!" shouts Mr Roach, and we rush at the bush full pace, reaching it two men short, and at once take cover.
Here we have a pretty little skirmish, the natives falling back while we press on for over half-a-mile, when a loud yelling proclaimed they had been joined by another party. "By Jove, they are going to charge us. Form groups!" shouted Mr Roach, and on this order Hutton, Jack and Tim race up to me, Mr Roach also joining our group, all of whom have good cover.
"'Ord blast this carbine," growled Jack as a fresh yell rose from the natives. "'Eyer's this blankity blank powder-skin busted, and the ruddy bullet's jammed. 'Ord rot ye," he howled, throwing his useless weapon down and drawing his knife and revolver. "Come on, yer blankity blank swine, and let's get to handgrips with yer."
"Dick, see your pistol's clear for drawing; page 89they are going to rush us," whispered Hutton, and we all stood wound up ready for anything.
All at once a dead silence fell that lasted for a few minutes.
"By God," growled Jack, "I believe the rotten swine have cleared," and he picked up his carbine, withdrew the cleaning rod and proceeded to knock out the jammed bullet. "Just like our ruddy luck, to be sold when yer think ye're in for a bit of sport," and the bad words rumbled out of the old buccaneer like the grumblings of a distant thunderstorm.
Jack was right in his surmises, for the cunning natives had pretended to charge us so as to gain time to retreat. We were still chewing the rag over our disappointment when from the rear our corps call sounded, followed by the retire, so Mr Roach, after ascertaining we were all present, reluctantly gave the orders to fall back on the main body, and my first fight in New Zealand was over.
We fell back slowly, as, although no one was badly wounded, still some of the boys had corners chipped off, and we parted with our friends the enemy with regret. We made for the pah, retiring over the same ground we had previously crossed, passing a strong picket of the 14th, who, with advanced sentries, outheld the edge of the bush. Our two men who had fallen in the open during our advance had already been picked up, and we were soon back at the blood-stained pah itself. I should have very much liked to have gone inside, but was unable to do so, as no sooner had we reached it than we received orders to return to camp and get ready for the next day. page 90We therefore marched round the flank of it, getting a sight of the breach in the pekerangi, and also passed a long line of our dead comrades, whose remains we saluted with shouldered arms; then passed the wounded, among whom the doctors, with rolled-up sleeves, saws and knives were busy; and then, striking the road, slung along it at a topping pace.
Missing Pierre and George I remarked the fact to Hutton.
"Oh, don't you worry yourself about them, Dick," quoth he; "and don't you fill yourself with mouldy biscuit. Pierre and George may not have been the first men into the pah, but I'll bet they got a start when the looting began, and I'll wager we shall have a good dinner to-night. As scouts, you see, they have a fairly free hand, come and go as they please."
Hutton prophesied truly, for when we reached camp there the two giddy marauders were, squatting over their pot like two disreputable hewitches, and as soon as we had cleansed our arms, refilled our pouches and washed ourselves, Pierre slung us up a dinner fit for a duke.
An issue of grog that night loosened our tongues, and the fight was fought over again many times, most asserting that if the General had waited for the Kupapas not one of the enemy would have escaped; the others, among whom were the most experienced men, declaring that had the Hau Haus not been aware their retreat was open they would not have stood, and we should only have captured an empty pah; but all hands expressed their confidence in the General, their page 91admiration for the Tommies, and agreed that the capture of Otapawa had been a well-fought action.
Yes, the capture of Otapawa had been a gallantly fought action, though the escape of the bulk of the Hau Haus rendered the success almost, if not quite, nugatory, and we had lost heavily. Colonel Hassard had fallen, sword in hand, Lieutenant Swanson of the 14th was badly hurt, while the long lists of dead and wounded nearly equalled the number of dead Maoris found in the pah.
Again the natives were still in force in the bush, so the victory would not enable one settler to return to his homestead, nor would it permit any cessation of the campaign, for the Maoris had many pahs and only regarded these places as a suitable battle-ground, the loss of one of them not affecting their morale in the slightest degree.
I have stated that Colonel Hassard fell while leading on his men. Well, the same night a yarn was started, how, or by whom, the Lord only knows, but it ran like wildfire through the camp, and was implicitly believed, that the man who picked him off was Kimball Bent, an infamous deserter from the 57th.
This yarn, like many another lie, such as the "Up Guards and at them" of the Iron Duke, the sinking of the Revenge, and numberless other picket-line stories, crept into history and is believed by the masses, but in this case the fact remains that the tribe who harboured K. Bent, Esq., were not present in the action at all, and it is therefore most improbable that the aforesaid scoundrel had any hand in the gallant officer's death.
Incredible as it may appear to home-staying page 92people, there were soldiers capable not only of breaking their oaths and deserting their colours but also of joining the enemy, even when such an enemy should be bloodthirsty, fanatic savages reeking with the blood of slaughtered white women and children. Yet such was the case, and several of H.M. soldiers did so; among others this villain, Kimball Bent.
This man was an Irish American who had enlisted in the grand old Diehards, in which corps he worked in the armourer's shop, being, moreover, one of the best shots in the regiment. Having committed a crime he was tried by court-martial, Colonel Hassard being president, convicted and punished, whereupon he deserted and joined the Hau Haus.
Well the yarn went round that he had shot Colonel Hassard, and had he fallen into the hands of his countrymen his end would have been a very rough one, for anyhow he had fought against his own regiment, a crime never forgiven by a British Tommy; so it would have mattered but little whether he had shot Colonel Hassard or not. He was never taken prisoner, but for all that came to a bad end, as Nemesis was on his track, and his punishment was heavier even than it would have been had he fallen into the clutches of his enraged comrades.
On his desertion he had joined the Ngatiruanui tribe, whose fighting chief, Titokowaru, a fanatic and bloodthirsty Hau Hau, was the white man's bitterest enemy on the west coast, and who on more than one occasion defeated us. As Bent was an armourer, and very useful to the natives, page 93he was at first well treated, and there is no doubt he fought against his flag and late comrades with such savage courage as to make a great reputation among the natives as a high-toned fighting man. But he must have always been in mortal dread of his ferocious protector, as he continually wrote letters, which he contrived to leave about so that they should fall into our hands, bewailing his fate and begging for mercy.
At last reports, circulated by some settlers among some friendly natives, that Bent had offered to shoot Titokowaru, provided he received pardon, came to that chief's ears, who at once decided to make away with him, especially as he had another deserter whom he employed converting hymn-books, prayer-books, and goody-goody literature into cartridges. He therefore gave orders for Bent to be killed, but the latter's suspicions had for a long time been aroused, and he never moved without his arms, while his great reputation as a fighting man also prevented a big rush of applicants for the job of executioner.
However, no man can keep awake for ever, and although the miserable wretch knew men were ever on the watch to take him at a disadvantage, he at last fell asleep in his whare (hut). The man who spotted him crept into the hut and tried to tomahawk him, but through nervousness only wounded him.
At once the intrepid scoundrel grappled with his assailant, overthrew him, and would have killed him had not a number of others rushed up, who cut him to pieces, his remains being then used page 94as porkaroa (long pig), a fit ending for a traitor to Queen and flag.
All the other deserters met the same or, in some instances, a far worse fate, and the one or two of them who escaped and gave themselves up were only too thankful to accept any punishment they received.
I must sue for pardon for this digression, but I have recounted it as one of the thousand of facts that took place in the New Zealand wars of which the good people in England are blissfully ignorant.
That night when orders were read out we were warned to hold ourselves in readiness to march at daybreak for the Waingangora River, and on being dismissed we hurriedly sought our mi-mis, so as to get as much sleep as possible, for we saw the days were approaching when, as old Jack remarked, it would be double watch on deck and no watch below.