Laying to rest Rough Riders’ battle with Boers
. . . Farewells were enthusiastic affairs.
. . . buildings smothered in bunting . . . streets crowded with well-wishers.
A century ago this month, the first of 10 army contingents, which included Hawke’s Bay troopers, went off to South Africa to fight the Boer War.
Tomorrow, at a special service at Napier’s Marine Parade Boer War monument – which was erected in 1906 in their honour – their descendants, veterans from other conflicts involving New Zealanders and others will be able to pay tribute to the men who were known as the Hawke’s Bay Rough Riders.
About 300 Hawke’s Bay men answered the call of King and country and sailed off to join the British Army in the three-year war against Boer forces.
It was the first time New Zealanders had left their country and gone abroad to fight – and the departures were days of huge celebration and ceremony.
The Daily Telegraph of March 1900 reported:
“Farewells were enthusiastic affairs. When the Hawke’s Bay detachment of the Fourth Contingent left Napier it marched past buildings smothered in bunting and through streets crowded with patriotic well-wishers.”
News from the conflict was eagerly sought by the people of Hawke’s Bay, concerned about their boys.
When news of the relief of Mafeking, a town defended against Boer attack by troops under the command of Baden-Powell, came through in May 1900 there was great celebration.
Bells were rung, flags were flown and fireworks let off. The town bands staged enthusiastic concerts to celebrate the safety of the troops and the success of the defence.
The largest number of Hawke’s Bay’s finest were part of the third contingent which assembled for an official photograph in Napier on February 12, 1900.
Fifty-six troopers left with the third contingent, although only 39 lined up for the photo – officers did not appear in photographs with the troopers.
Of the total number, three died in action.
Tomorrow’s service will start at 11am and include addresses by the mayors of Napier and Hastings and representatives of Napier, Hastings and Taradale RSAs.
There will be a wreath-laying ceremony along with a firing party and music by the Napier Technical Memorial Band.
Napier RSA president Jim Blundell said descendants were encouraged to attend, and family members of any service personnel were welcome to attend and wear medals – on the right breast side.
All public were welcome to attend a commemoration of what Mr Blundell described as a defining moment in New Zealand’s military history.
Photo captions –
Text on memorial
“[…] in memory
LIEUTENANT W. J. BERRY
3RD N.Z. CONTINGENT
ONLY SON OF
SAMUEL AND MARTH[A] BERRY
WOUNDED NEAR PRETORIA
DIED AT JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
3RD JUNE 1900. AGED 31 YEARS.
The boys of the Hawke’s Bay Rough Riders who joined the 3rd contingent of New Zealand soldiers to go off to the Boer War. The photo was taken in Napier in February, 1900.
NAPIER RSA patron Lieutenant Commander (ret) Jeff Gardiner takes a poppy to the grave of Lieutenant WJ Berry of Napier. Lt Berry was 31 when he was wounded at Pretoria while serving with the 3rd New Zealand Contingent at the Boer War. He later died at Johannesburg on June 3, 1900. He was the only son of Samuel and Martha Berry who are also buried in the old Napier Cemetery.