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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

Redoubt-Building and Escort Work

page 461

Redoubt-Building and Escort Work

The following are extracts from a diary kept (1863–64) by Captain James Stichbury, of Ponsonby, Auckland, when a private in the 1st Battalion of Auckland Militia; they are interesting for the glimpses they give of the tribulations and humours of the citizen soldier's life on active service:—

4th July, 1863.—Commenced drill, but being the first time made rather a mess of it. Continued drill every morning until the 9th, when we had a summons for actual service at 2s. 6d. per day. Drill every morning until the 18th, when we marched to Otahuhu in a very hot sun. We all thought it was a tremendous long walk with our sixty rounds of ammunition and rifle. Nothing to eat the first night.

21st July.—At 9 o'clock came off guard. At 10 marched from the camp to our destination, Papatoetoe, to build a redoubt. Reached it at 2 o'clock; took our tent and bread and raw meat with us. As soon as we had got our tents pitched—we had not time to dig the trenches round—it came on to rain. We had nothing to eat this night, for the rain would not let the fires burn; and, what made it worse, we had no blankets for two days after we arrived here. We had to lie on the wet ground with only our greatcoats and no fern. Dreadful night.

22nd July.—Very cold and miserable this morning, having to lie in the wet all night. Rain never ceased all day. Had to build some cookhouses as well as we could. Had no grog to-day, though we were entitled to it as soon as we started from Otahuhu. All the men were half-dead and laid up with the cold. Another night in our wet clothes and no fern.

23rd July.—Got served out to us a blanket and piece of oilskin, which came in very acceptable. Rain left off in the afternoon, which enabled us to get some of our things dry, and got some fern and had a comfortable night's rest.

24th July.—Served out with regimental clothes. They were forage cap with topknot, blue-serge shirt, trousers with red stripe down the side, blucher boots, short leggings; also tin plate, pannikin, knife, fork, spoon, haversack, &c. We get, per day, 1 gill of rum, 1 lb. of meat, 1¼ lb. of bread, ⅙ oz. of tea, ⅙ oz. of coffee, ¼ oz. of sugar, and a grain of pepper and salt.

4th August.—At 9 o'clock fatigue parade. I was told off to work in the trenches. I got my shovel, but I did not do any work until I saw the captain; so I went up to him and told him I could not work in the trenches without my grog, for it is hard work digging on dry bread and hot coffee; besides, the grog is the only thing which keeps us alive this wet weather. [The diarist the previous day had been sentenced to “three days grog stopped” for absence without leave.]

5th August.—We have to get up an hour and a half before daylight. No matter what weather it is, there we have to stand, wet through and frozen with the cold, till we are dismissed. Have to clean our arms and belts. Had breakfast—very nice dry bread, as stale as a brick, and coffee without milk and very little sugar. After breakfast told off to dig in the trenches. Weather showery.

6th August.—We have to furnish our outer guards and picquets. The guard consists of a sergeant, a corporal, and nine men. The picquet consists page 462 of twenty-four men. They all go out of nights in the bush to look for Maoris, and their orders are to shoot every one they come across.

7th August.—Soldiering is very nice in dry weather, but in wet, and sleeping on the ground and under canvas, it is dreadful. Half the men in the camp are laid up with cold and rheumatism. I am on guard for four and twenty hours, and have rather a dismal post. We are stationed about half a mile from each other, and have two hours on and four hours off.

8th August.—The men that were confined last night [some of No. 5 Company had been put in the guard-tent for grumbling at their meat] were all let off with a reprimand. At 9 o'clock we were all paraded to have the Articles of War read to us on account of No. 5 Company's goings-on last night. As soon as we were marched into the hollow of the hill, so that we should be out of the wind, it came down to rain in torrents, and there we had to stand until the Colonel had done reading. He did not care, because he had an oilskin coat on, and we were in our blue shirts. After standing there in the rain for about twenty minutes we were dismissed, and away we went into our tents like a lot of drowned rats.

10th August.—At work in the bush to-day, under Lieutenant Tole, cutting trees down to make a new road to the Wairoa.

21st August.—(Papatoetoe.) Fine day. Told off for the trenches again. At a quarter to 9, as soon as we all got into bed nice and snug and the lights were out, two shots were fired by the sentry, and out we all went with only our pouch-belts on and our rifles. The order was given to load. We were all in such a hurry to get loaded that some put three cartridges in at once. Others left their ramrods in their rifles, and some went flying over the redoubt. Young B. and several others ran as hard as they could to Otahuhu, for they thought the Maoris were coming. A great many fired two or three shots each. As soon as it was a little quiet the Colonel and some other officers went to see if there was anybody about, and they found it was the grindstone that we were fighting.

22nd August.—Fine day. Everybody went to look at the poor grindstone, as they thought it would have been shattered to pieces. There was not a mark to be seen, although there were about a hundred shots fired at it. Went into the bush and found some bee-hives in the trees. Got two buckets of honey—quite a treat.