The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)
In the meantime there was a call for action in another field, the great adventure of military life. The Maori Wars were on; there was enlisting and drilling, and all the stir and thrill of soldiering. Titokowaru and his Hauhaus, having defeated Colonel Whitmore at Moturoa, towards the end of 1868, were raiding down the Coast; at one time they were within a day's march of Wanganui town. John Ballance was prominent in the page 18 formation of the Wanganui Cavalry, a troop which with the Kai-iwi Cavalry, composed chiefly of settlers and their sons, gave excellent service on the frontier of those days. Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) Finnimore commanded the Wanganui troop, in which John Ballance enlisted.
Lieutenant John Bryce was appointed to the command of the Kai-iwi troop. Ballance and Bryce were two men destined to fill important places in their country's councils. Bryce was an experienced farmer and frontiers-man, and he was naturally well quailfied as leader of a mounted corps. Ballance being a tyro in colonial life was content with the rank of a trooper; but after some weeks of training and a skirmish at Nukumaru, he became corporal and later was promoted to cornet—a junior commissioned officer of the old-time cavalry.
But a rude ending came for the volunteer soldiering life that he was thoroughly enjoying. He had been writing for his paper while at the front “own correspondent” accounts of the campaign, in which he criticised the methods of the local high command. These candid opinions gave offence to the military heads. Superior officers must not be criticised by a mere subaltern. Ballance presently found himself relieved of his commission; and was free, in conesquence, to write even more frankly of the military men and the delay in taking effective measures against the Hauhau war parties which had held command of a large part of the coast for several months.