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

Militia Duty in the Waikato War

Militia Duty in the Waikato War

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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.

Second Expedition

20th October, 1863.—Started from Albert Barracks, Auckland, at 2 p.m. Volunteer band played us as far as Parnell and then dropped off, and we went on. Arrived at Otahuhu Camp at 7 o'clock. Had no blankets, and nothing to eat.

21st October.—Got up at 7, and tried to get some meat for breakfast but could not. Had dry bread and a little drop of milk we managed to buy between us. Formed up at 9 to march to Drury. Very hot on the road, and dust very troublesome. Arrived at the camp at half-past 4 after a march of fifteen miles, with sixty rounds of ammunition, greatcoat, haversack full of different things, and rifle, weighing altogether about 30 lb.

24th October.—(Drury.) They have shifted us from where we first came to, and a dreadful place they have put us. When we were out before we built a splendid redoubt at Papatoetoe, the best and most comfortable in New Zealand. As soon as we got it finished we were sent to Auckland for a little while, and then sent to Drury—but I think a better name for it would be Dreary—to build another redoubt.

29th October.—Escort. Came back from Mauku; very miserable walking over the wet clay and a heavy load to carry, and forced to keep a sharp lookout.

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30th October.—Forty men told off on engineers' fatigue to build a redoubt for the Artillery. The men all marched off the parade-ground, and when they got to the redoubt they all sat down and would not work, because this looks as if they bring us out to build redoubts for soldiers. (Saturday afternoon.) Went to the 18th (Royal Irish) camp and saw two men flogged for getting drunk. Sat in the tent singing songs until lights were out.

31st October (Sunday).—Dry bread and coffee for breakfast. Twenty-five men told off to unload cargo-boats of coal and flour. Seven of them [men who would not work] were tried and sentenced to seven days' pack-drill and grog stopped for the same period, and seven men were sent to the stockade at Otahuhu for seven days' hard labour and had their hair cut quite short. That is war-time. We must work on Sunday or go to prison.

1st November.—Warned for escort. After I got my breakfast one hundred men started at 7 from our camp, and some Regulars from the 18th camp. The distance is nine miles. The first redoubt we arrived at was Sheppard's Bush. We were strengthened there by forty men. The second redoubt was Martin's Farm. There we were strengthened by sixty men. Then we marched through the bush to our destination, called Williamson's Clearing Redoubt. Halted here for half an hour until the down convoy came, and off we started for Drury again. Reached our camp about 3 o'clock, very hungry and tired. Warned for commissariat fatigue for to-morrow to unload cargo-boats.

4th November.—(After coming off guard.) Sat in the tent on our pannikins, but could not lie down, for the floor was all in a flood and the rain coming through the tent. Not a wink of sleep all night. Went on my next relief. Thunder and lightning all night.

9th November.—Mud up to our knees and more than that. Have to lie in our tent in a frightful state, not being able to get dry fern, the weather being so unsettled. Went to see three soldiers belonging to the 18th Regiment flogged. In war-time they do not imprison them, because they cannot spare them.

14th November.—Escort started for the front at 7. Came back at 3, one man missing. Sergeant put under arrest for not looking after him and for reporting him present. We expect he straggled away from the main body and the natives have got him. Picquet sent out for him, but they came back without any signs of him.

21st November.—All the soldiers here are warned for the front, and we have to find all the duties until some more soldiers come to help us. The duties take about two hundred men every night. On regimental picquet to-night—that is, to go to the village and pick up the drunken men and bring them to camp.

26th November.—Hospital fatigue. Told off to build a house, but I wanted to get some of my clothes washed so I would not go, and Ensign Hoben put me in the guard-room. I had to remain there until Sunday morning at 11 o'clock. Tried by Captain Britton, and he was going to give me a week in the stockade and to have my hair cut short. Then he asked the officers of my company what sort of character I had, and they gave me a good one, so he only gave me two days' pack-drill and grog stopped. I went as cook and got off.

28th November.—Fine day. A very strong escort up to Williamson's Clearing—about 120 horses, and 112 on the up and down convoy. The down convoy brought three corpses—a midshipman and two officers of the Army, and five wounded men (from Rangiriri).

30th November.—About a hundred Maoris came down from the Queen's Redoubt under an escort of four hundred soldiers; passed through here, and were taken on by a relief to Otahuhu.

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2nd December.—No convoy to-day in consequence of the remainder of the Maori prisoners (from Rangiriri) coming down. There are about eighty under a very strong escort.

10th December.—(Orders for Otahuhu.) Got up at daylight, being half past 3. Got everything packed up and breakfast at 7. The dinner was cooked overnight ready for us. Struck the tents at 8. As soon as the bugle sounded down came all of them—all but one—and all the rest began hissing them that stopped in it. There were about thirty tents: all went down in a minute. Got all the tents and different things into the drays and the camp cleared. Then had to sit in the hot sun till the relief came. We waited until 1, and no relief, so we went on, after getting orders not to sing on the road as we did before. The Major [Tighe] is a regular old soldier and very strict. We got grog at 1—two glasses each. Formed up in close column, and then the word was given, “Form fours—Right—Left wheel—Quick march,” and off we went in first-rate style. Very hot on the road. Reached the camp at Otahuhu at 4, like negroes with the dust, after a march of fifteen miles. No tea for us, as the men could not get it till 7. Had some sardines and bread, and went to bed in a hut full of fleas. Being tired, we were glad to sleep anywhere.

4th February, 1864.—(At Otahuhu Camp.) Got up at 5, gave our blankets up, had a wash and our breakfast, then tidied up our things ready for starting. At 9 o'clock we paraded, and shortly afterwards started for Drury. Rather hot and dusty on the road. Stopped at Burton's (Papatoetoe) to have a drink and a piece of lunch for twenty minutes; then we started again, and stopped at two springs, and then at Papakura to have a drink. We were pretty jolly on the road, singing all the way, and one or two of the men had concertinas and played some very lively tunes. On the road we marched too fast for the other companies, so the captain commanding put our company right behind. Then we would not march at all, so we dropped behind a long way, and he made us double. Then we dropped behind again, and when we marched into camp he gave us one hour's drill after walking sixteen miles with a load. We did it, but we all felt it very much. The commanding officer then was Captain Taylor, of No. 1 Company. After we had done drill we gave him three growls.

19th February.—Beautiful morning. At 7 started on convoy to Williamson's Clearing, escorting three Armstrong guns and about sixty carts loaded with ammunition, provisions, and other things. Very hot on the march, and the roads are being fresh metalled, and very miserable to walk on. Got to our destination at 12 and watered the horses, and then met the down convoy, about seventy carts, all empty. The officers would not let one of us ride. We all got into the carts, but were soon turned out again. (At night.) Large fires to be seen in the bush.

23rd February.—Got up at 5, cleaned my rifle and belts, had breakfast, and at 7 started for Williamson's Clearing. The day was beautifully fine, but the sun very hot. We were strengthened at every redoubt on the road, as usual. Got to the redoubt at Williamson's Clearing at 12. Was given charge of a prisoner belonging to the 18th Regiment (for Drury). He had fifty lashes and three months' hard labour.