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A Sketch of the New Zealand War

A Military Hospital X

page 91

A Military Hospitalpage 92page 93 X

Shortly after the affair of Mahoetahi I was moved up to Waitara, and placed in charge of the field hospital there. My intimacy with the officers of the flying column, under Major Hutchins, was thus broken off. I found myself a stranger; and, as I had no regimental ties, I lived a good deal alone, and mouched about amongst our outposts, making a study of the British soldier. I found him to be very much as circumstances made him. The 65th man was a breezy, brawny giant, who moved about in loose clothes, open, chatty, and good-natured. He got blazing drunk whenever the opportunity offered, took his punishment next day as if it were a cup of coffee, was a perfectly wholesome child of nature, who laughed and shook hands with every one he met. He was perfectly respectful to his officer, saluted him reverently with a twinkle in his eye, as though he would say, "How goes it, Charley?"

page 94

The 40th man was a perfect beauty. The best set up soldier I had ever seen, clean and smart, he was secretly bitterly discontented. He had come from Melbourne, where he had been the pride of the parks and the joy of Collins Street. He was a citizen in his tastes, hated the mud and rain of this d——d country, and daily longed for his discharge, so that he might return to Melbourne.

The 12th man was less showy than the 40th soldier and more contented. He was a bit languid, and enjoyed the fresh air after the enervating heat of Sydney. The sailors were all alike, except that the detachment from the Royal Colonial steam sloop-of-war Victoria, which received a high colonial wage and was never flogged, seemed to think little of itself, and was good-naturedly tolerated by the Royal Jack-tar, whose pay was very small, and discipline of a bitterly rigid character. When a Jack was triced up to the triangle and received four dozen, the colonial sailors seemed to hang their heads, and the Jack-tars swelled with natural pride. "That's how we do it in the Royal Navy." "Poor miserable beggars! There is not an officer amongst you dare flog a man, nor a sailor that is worth it."

The chief military duty at that time con-page 95sisted of outpost work. I noticed that the men of the 40th and 12th regiments came in jaded and weary, whilst the soldiers of the 65th Foot always turned up in the morning fresh and rosy. I was much struck with this difference, which was more marked in rough, wet weather. The temperaments of the men accounted for part of it; but the difference was so glaring I determined to inquire into the cause.

I asked a 65th man for an explanation. He said, "We are on duty to-night. The weather is wet and cold. Come round to our outposts after 'grand rounds'and see for yourself."

I did so. The outposts had been inspected, all orders were given for the night. The officer on duty had retired within the lines. I crept up and was recognised by the men. A soldier near me on sentry called out in a loud drawling voice, "Tena koe?" (Maori for "How are you?"). Immediately long spun out, "Tena koutou?" ("How are you all?") was heard.

The soldier replied, "Tena koutou oeto" ("God save you all").

The Maori replied, "Kapai te Hickety Pifth" (65th). "Good, it is the sixty-fifth regiment."

page 96

The soldier answered, "Kapai te Maori" ("Good, it is the Maori").

The Maori said, "Too wet and cold tonight. Let us all go to sleep."

The soldier replied, "All right." Certain it is there was no firing. Each relied on the other's honour. Had there been any change of policy, the Maori would assuredly have given full notice.