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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Chapter X

Chapter X.

I shall now skip a few months, and pass on to the very [unclear: early] part of November, when we received an item of new by far more pleasing than that to leave Aden.

page 54

One day, early in November, I was sitting at dinner [unclear: where] I saw a native mounted orderly ride past our bungalow [unclear: with] a despatch in a split stick (their manner of carrying), [unclear: I] jokingly said to a corporal sitting next to me, "That there [unclear: is] our route for New Zealand."

I may here mention that the 64 th Regiment was then [unclear: under] orders for this colony, and our Colonel (now General Sir H. [unclear: J.] Warre, K.C.B.) was military secretary to the Commander-[unclear: in]-Chief, Sir Hugh Rose, so that if anything could be done [unclear: for] us, he was just in the place where he could do it.

We turned round and watched the orderly go straight [unclear: to] Major Logan's bungalow, which was not more than [unclear: two] hundred yards off. In a minute or two we saw the [unclear: Major's] native servant run to the next bungalow (the [unclear: Adjutant's] Then we saw Adjutant Waugh, who stood 6ft. 4in., run [unclear: to] the Major's quarters. In another minute or two we saw [unclear: the] same servant tearing up towards Sergeant-Major [unclear: Cummins's] bungalow (afterwards Major Cummins in this colony, but [unclear: now] deceased). Cummins ran down, and in a very few [unclear: minutes] he came rushing back and called,. "Bugler, sound [unclear: Colour] Sergeant's call." With this we got a little excited, for it [unclear: was] not many yards from our bungalow that the call was [unclear: sounded]. As soon as the first Colour-Sergeant arrived, we heard [unclear: the] Sergeant-Major say, "We are off to New Zealand; have [unclear: to] be cleared out of India in fourteen days." We set up a "[unclear: Hip] hip, hurrah!" and away went almost every man to [unclear: scatte] the news to the different bungalows. As it reached, could [unclear: be] heard prolonged cheers. The canteen did a good [unclear: business] when it opened at 2 o'clock, and in the evening; indeed, I [unclear: can] say the same of it up to the time we left.

Preparations were at once commenced. All [unclear: surplus] articles were disposed of, and those who could do so [unclear: exchanged] their rupees for English sovereigns, to have on hand [unclear: whe] landing in Auckland, for they are mighty handy, [unclear: especially] one has enough of them.

Well, we did not get clear in fourteen days. It took [unclear: ne] twenty, and as one can hardly ever depend on the [unclear: first] even second order being carried out in India, I never [unclear: mad] sure of getting away until we heard from Bombay [unclear: by] telegraph that the "Star Queen" had sailed with the [unclear: fir] wing of the regiment, which left us a few days before. The I said, "Now we are bound to go, as they are not [unclear: likely] send a steamer off to bring the vessel back.

page 55

A few days later the other wing (headquarters) left, and next day embarked on the sailing ship "Castillion," Captain Harrington, early, and sailed that evening. Never, I think, did men look forward with more pleasure than we did at the prospect of before long mingling with people of our own race. The New Zealand War cost us no thought, for it was pretty well understood that it could not last long.

As the good ship "Castillion," Captain Harrington, is ploughing her way to New Zealand, I will just relate what I must term "a bit of a sell." Our cooks had gone on to prepare coffee for us at the bottom of the Gaughts, where we should finally take train for Bombay. So by the time we arrived there they had refreshments ready. It need not be wondered at that many were what may be termed in colonial logic "on the loose," and would much rather have something "short" than coffee, or both combined. Our stay was very limited. There was the train just waiting our pleasure. The cooks seemed to be up to a thing or two, and several of them went round collecting prices of bottles of brandy. They'd go up to Brown, Jones, &c., and say:—

"You want the brandy?"

"Yes; how much the bottle? "

"Six rupees," he'd reply.

He'd soon have the money. Thus they went round to dozens of men, but the brandy never came, nor did they think to return the rupees. They, of course, kept out of sight until the train started, then they edged along to bid us bon voyage. I will not attempt here to give the language in detail that passed during the first mile or two of the journey. That little trick deprived Auckland of a few pounds, but Auckland's loss was those fellows' gain, and they must have gone back to Poonah comparatively wealthy. This is one of the drawbacks the white man has to endure. He is green, as a rule, but every one who parted with his six rupees on that occasion would hardly be tricked again in the same manner. I didn't happen to part myself.

When seven days' sail from Bombay our ship caught fire, but it was soon got under. It scared a few ladies who were on board. The name of the Sergeant Major (Cummins) was placed in the records of the regiment over that (the historical records). The first thrown overboard was Captain Shute, a brother of the present member for Brighton, who was in Poonah during our time commanding the 6th Dragoons. page 56 Another brother, a Colonel in the 64th regiment, came on a visit to see the other two, when his regiment was under orders for New Zealand. It was little thought then that he would not go, and the young brother would—at any rate start to go—and be the first thrown overboard. This gallant young Captain caught a severe cold before leaving, and he grew worse as we got to sea, and he finally succumbed. We lost altogether five members during the trip to Auckland. Apart from this there was nothing of importance occurred during the voyage. The time was passed as pleasantly as possible.

We did not enjoy the cold climes when we got into them, indeed, many of us inwardly wished for a little of the warmth we enjoyed in Aden as much as we disliked it when there.

We arrived in Auckland Harbour on the 21st January. 1861, and all felt delighted at the prospect of putting in a few years in such a country, indeed, many at once made up their minds never to leave it, nor have they. The prospect of mingling with our own people made it just as good as being at home in the old country, and so far as earnings were concerned, very much better. We had barely dropped anchor before people rushed on board with what they thought would be most enjoyed—good new bread and fresh butter being the commodity most in demand. Very few, I think, who invested in a two pound loaf and half-a-pound print of butter gave in until it had gone, and did not feel very uncomfortable over it either. For myself I did not feel anything like so uneasy as when I drank the camp kettle full of warm water.

Mick Kervin said, "Be gorrah, this is something like a 'chest opener' now."

There was some doubt as to whether we should land there or go on round to Taranaki, the seat of war, as our other wing had done in the "Star Queen." Finally it was decided that we should land. This we did on the 24th, but it was generally understood that we should not be in Auckland long before we should be ordered round. We were, of course, only wishing that the troubles would soon be over, and for the remainder of our term in the colony only have to do the usual duty devolving on soldiers in times of peace.

I regret to say that many of our non-commissioned officers, and privates with good conduct badges, allowed the change of country to play too much on their brains, and gave way to drink, and to absenting themselves from their duty. page 57 very little notice was taken of the first offence, and as they did not take that as a warning, they came to grief.

Promotion went ahead very rapidly. To convey an idea, I have only to relate my own case.

I was twenty from the top of the roll of lance corporals when we landed, 24th January, and on the 12th February, 19 days after, I got the permanent rank in my proper turn. On the 18th (my birthday, by the way), we marched down to Onehunga and embarked on board the man-of-war "Niger," and proceeded to the Waitara, where we arrived and landed next day; encamped there for a night, then marched away next day to the front, only a few miles, to No. I redoubt. The celebrated Te Arei Pah, before which they were sapping, was three miles further on.

The next day we furnished a force for duty in the trenches and rifle pits. Some would be employed at making the sap, the remainder amusing themselves firing at random, or at wherever they could see smoke rise; well, that may be called firing at random, because the natives never showed themselves. Perhaps, now and then, a head, or what we might take for one, would be poked up, and before a shot could be fired it would be down again; but in the space of a minute perhaps five hundred shots would be sent at it, or where it had been.

At sundown we all retired from the trenches to our respective redoubts, leaving the enemy to come down, if they took a fancy for work, to make some of the sap, or fill in some we had made. This latter idea seemed to be more to their taste. The work was much easier, too, and thinking, perhaps, we were getting on too well with it, they decided to put a check on us, so one night they came down and filled in about 150 yards of the sap, or more than had been done in several days, and to give us still a greater surprise in the morning, they had rolled up into their Pah our large sap roller, made of supplejack. How they did chaff us in the morning. It was a good trick, and we rather enjoyed the joke, so "we did another."

The next night a live shell was so attached to the advance sap roller that the instant it would move the shell would explode, and they came down to serve us a similar trick, but after what happened they did not trouble themselves to push up the roller. They did not enjoy that joke half as much as we did. Some half-dozen of them did not return, not whole at any rate, judging from what we saw in the morning. page 58 When we saw the state of affairs a good round laugh was let off at their expense, and we were answered by a volley. We all heard the shell go off about 10 o'clock, and were exceedingly anxious to get down in the morning to see the result.

They did not trouble to come for any more sap rollers. As they had any amount of material at hand they could make some for themselves should they require to sap up to our position. The banter carried on by both parties to each other was amusing. Here is a sample:—

"Kakino Te New Hoio" (57th regiment), "Go back to India."

"Kapai Te Hikati Tiwliete" (65th regiment).

"Kapai Te Waiporo, Kapai Te Tupeka" (tobacco).

Our men would call out, "Come down for some waiporo," then would come back—

"Kahore, you make it the kill."

Thus the time would pass, each side blazing away at the other, yet in the face of this danger the time was really pleasantly spent. I well remember Doctor Grailing, who corresponded for a Taranaki paper, coming down to the trenches one morning, and he remarked that the enemy had received reinforcements from Waikato. That morning before breakfast every man in my part of the trench had disposed of all the rounds he had brought down (120).

The first time our Captain (Woodall) went on duty he "shouted a h. h. of beer." This was his baptismal fire. Some men actually wished there were other officers who had not sniffed powder in anger before; queer, isn't it? It was known that the enemy had received reinforcements of three or four hundred men from the Waikato about the middle of March; this, I presume, was in consequence of our arrival. We knew very well, for from that time up their firing was much greater, and on the 17th (St. Patrick's Day) matters were very lively indeed.

It was thought from the excitement among them that they would make a sortie on the trenches, for it (the sap) was being cut through a rise leading into a gully in which they had access, and we were ordered to fix bayonets three different times that afternoon.

It was on the top of this rise that Lieutenant McNaughton, K.A., met his death. He got out of the trench and went to the top of the rise and was looking over when the fatal bullet page 59 struck him, killing him almost instantly. That day twelve months this officer fired the first shot out of a mortar at them. The death of this gallant officer cast a gloom over the whole force.

A day would never pass but someone would get hit. Colonel (now General Sir H. J. Warre, K.C.B.) whom we left behind in India, resigned and followed us. He came up to the front immediately he arrived to have a look round. He seemed astonished at sapping and keeping so many men on duty there day after day, when he thought it might be taken by storm, and with less loss than was occurring under the existing system.

He was supposed to have said, "Well, the first day I am Field Officer, I shall see what sort of a place that Pah is."

He never got on duty, for he was ordered off to take command of the Auckland district next day, and this fact gave some credence to his expressions.

One day Major (now Earl Sinclair) actually-had a party of men across a gully leading to the "Green Hill," a position from which the enemy could continually play havoc without loss to themselves, and was determined to take possession of it, and there is no doubt but that he would have attempted it had not Major Paul, Brigade Major, seen the men ascending the rise, and galloped over to order them back, which, of course, they had to obey.

In the Pah there was a fellow we christened "Jack in the box." He used to do nearly all the mischief from that direction, and there must have been many hundredweight of lead sent at him to end his existence, but it seemed he was not to die by bullets, so Captain Mercer. R.A. (afterwards killed at the storming of Rangariri, on the Waikato River), took the matter in hand. He frequently threw 10 and 13 inch shells into the place, but, of course, we could never tell what mischief was done, only this, they would displace a terrible lot of soil, as the shells would sink in a considerable distance, then explode, sending perhaps a few tons of earth into the air. One shot, however, dropped into "Jack in the Box's" pit, and sent him to accompany the earth into the air. There was a roar of laughter on our side at this.

We could always expect a volley after a laugh, and on this occasion they seemed to have got their monkey up, for they peppered away as if they would do us all the harm possible. page 60 It may have been their wish to do so, perhaps; this was not fair, because we could do them very little injury.

The firing of such large quantities of ammunition was the outcome of a general order that men were never to fire unless they saw an enemy. Well, although card-playing was amusement for some, there were many who did not indulge in it. How were they to amuse themselves if they were not allowed to waste ammunition. Those anxious to fire could easily find an excuse, as the surroundings were such that any one could hardly be contradicted if he said he saw a man. A man would sometimes be seen firing as if he was bent on firing so many rounds in a minute, and appear somewhat excited at his effort, when an officer would rush up to him, saying—

"What are you firing at, sir?"

The man would reply, pointing in some direction, "I just saw a black head sneaking through that fern" (or scrub).

In the chain of rifle pits facing the "Green Hill," two men would be in each. They would select a tree, and decide the number of rounds each should fire, and the winner would probably drink the other's grog when they got back to camp. Thus time went on.