The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a
New Zealand's Response . . . to . . . The Empire's Call
New Zealand's Response . . . to . . . The Empire's Call.
n the 28th day of September, 1899, the New Zealand House of Representatives amid a thrilling scene of loyalty and patriotism that will long be remembered by those who witnessed it, resolved to offer to the Imperial Government a Contingent of Mounted Infantry, fully equipped for service in South Africa. On the following day the Legislative Council passed a similar resolution, and His Excellency the Governor, the Earl of Ranfurly, at once transmitted the offer by telegram to the Home authorities. On the 30th September a reply was received from the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, accepting the offer should occasion arise for the use of such a Contingent. At the same time, the Home Government expressed their appreciation of New Zealand's loyal and patriotic offer—the first to be received from any of the Colonies. Eleven days later Great Britain was at war with the Boers, and our first Contingent, which was got together with remarkable promptness, left Wellington in the s.s, Waiwera.page 3 page break
Was a vast crowd in the streets, who cheered and cheered again as our boys in kharki marched through the throng. The hurrahs sometimes drowned the music of the bands. A man in the crowd would wave his hat or handkerchief in the air and cheer. Immediately those near him would take it up, and the effect became electrical: cheer after cheer thundered along the street on either side, only to die away for a moment, and be renewed again and again. In the intervals, spontaneously from a thousand throats would come the chorus o "Soldiers of the Queen," or the refrain of the National Anthem. The scene was both impressive and pathetic. Fery now and then some friend or relative would beak from the crowd and grasp the bronzed hand of a trooper as he strode alone, and the eyes that guided the band were not always try. The formal leave-taking was witnessed by the latest crowd ever assembled i Wellington. The mare to the troopship was in he nature of a triumphal procession. Then, with the words of "Auld Lang She" still ringing in our eat, the last farewells were said By this time there was, wistful, somewhat sad lok on the faces of many of the men, and now, with theiapproaching departure, the tension increased.page 5 page break
o remain unmoved was difficult for the most disinterested onlooker. When the Contingent halted, a young woman—sister or lover—rushed up to one of the men, and throwing her arms around him, kissed him fervently. No word was said. She went hurriedly away, and her tears fell like summer rain as she waited, alone, to see the last of her hero. There were fathers and mothers, too, whose eyes were dimmed with tears that day. As the Waiwera steamed slowly down the harbour, convoyed by two lines of all the steamers in port, thronged with their thousands of loyal colonists, the scene was, if anything, even more impressive. The bands played, the people sang, and cheer after cheer was sent across the water. Women were weeping now, and there were even sober-sided business men whose eyes were just a trifle dim. On the Tutanekai was His Excellency the Governor, wavirg farewell. It was all magnificently fine. The heart of a young nation was going out in throbbing farewell to the flower of its youth, banded together at duty's call to fight for the Mother Land. The sloping sun gleamed on the waters, lit up the streaming flags, and fell upon the thousands of faces that watched as the two lines of stearners, with the troopship in the centre, went slow ahead down the harbor.
The send-off was a touching and magnificent one, though the prevailing note was one of sadness, as the stately ship steamed through the Heads while the sun sank behind the town, leaving the hills a sombre gray and green in the waning light. There were doubts in the minds of many when the Waiwera set sail that Major Robin and his men would see fighting.page break
ore men, especially mounted men, were wanted to ensure success, and the British plan of campaign had to be altered. The Colonies once more proved that their loyalty was not mere lip-service, and New Zealand promptly offered a second Contingent. The offer was accepted. There was no lack of Volunteers. The first Contingent had barely smelt powder before preparations for a Second Contingent were well under way. From one end of the Colony to the other there was a renewed outburst of patriotism, and now the Second Contingent is on its way to South Africa. Major Cradock, an ex-Imperial officer, has been placed in command, and he has under him men who will not stick at anything that may be required of them.
Even as we write men are volunteering for a Third Contingent, and, from one end of the Colony to the other, money is pouring in for "The Absent minded beggar" and the various Patriotic Funds.
"Go to your work and be strong, halting not in your ways,
Baulking the end half won for an instant dole of praise.
Stand to your work and be wise—certain of sword and pen,
Who are neither children nor gods, but men in a world of men!"