Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Robert Todd 1879 - 1976 - Boer War story

Robert Todd was my Nanna, Kathleen Todd's father.  He was from St Bathans, Otago.  

I'll fill in more details about Robert and his life later, but given the recent war theme - here is some information about another conflict New Zealand participated in - the Boer War.  Robert served in the Boer War in South Africa - his service details are as follows:

Robert Todd

Reg No: 
Given Names:
Details for regiments now serving in South Africa - sailing with tenth
Drayton Grange 14 April 1902
Civil engineer
Karori Kelburne Tramway Wellington
Next of Kin: 
Todd Mr Robert
Next of Kin Address: 
St Bathans Otago
Relationship to Soldier: 

Robert was, as noted above, part of the Tenth Contingent, which left Wellington, New Zealand on 14 April 1902 on the troop ship Drayton Grange.  On board were 45 officers and 961 men, all volunteers.  The New Zealand Premier, Richard John "King Dick" Seddon, was also on board.  There were two sections of the Tenth Contingent - the South Island and North Island sections - Robert belonged to the North Island contingent, appearing to be based in Wellington when he enrolled.  The ship arrived in Sydney at 5.13pm on 20 April 1902.  At Sydney, they found that there were 48 stowaways on board!  Thirty of them were enrolled in the Contingent, while the others were to be returned to Wellington.  From there they headed to Durban, arriving on 17 May 1902.

The Boer War - actually the second Boer War (then known often as the Transvaal War) was fought between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902.  NZ had committed troops in September 1899, prior to the war even starting.  We were the first British Colony to send troops.  Premier Dick Seddon was a great supporter of the war effort in Transvaal, stressing to Parliament the bond to Mother England and the importance of the strength of the British Empire.  Around 6,500 New Zealanders fought in the Boer War, with around 70 dying in the field and another 150 or so dying of accident or disease. 

Robert's unit, the Tenth Contingent left Durban, to return home to Wellington on 15 July 1902.  They arrived back in New Zealand in August 1902.  

An interesting article about a skirmish between the Colonials (NZ, Australian and Canadian soldiers) and Imperials (British soldiers) that went on during the brief period that the Northern portion of the Tenth Contingent were in South Africa appeared in the Star newspaper on 4 September 1902.

The sensational story told in this morning's "Lyttleton Times" of the fight between members of the Tenth New Zealand Contingent and certain of His Majesty's Imperial soldiers has caused a considerable amount of comment, and aroused not a little disbelief.  That it is, however, true in all its essentials cannot be doubted, for trooper after trooper, when asked if he knows anything about it, says that there was a severe rough and tumble in Newcastle, and two of the "Tommies" lost their lives through it.  As it was almost purely a North Islander affair, the Canterbury men know only what they were told on the following morning, and their accounts vary more or less in regard to several unimportant points.  Most of them have but a dim idea of the events which led up to the free fight, but a "Star" reporter was fortunate enough this morning to meet a returned North Islander who was thoroughly conversant with the facts.  

He explained that the New Zealanders were camped at Fort Hay, a short distance outside the township of Newcastle, and were not allowed to leave the camp.  They were under martial law, and the town was regularly patrolled by the Munster Fusiliers.  One night, soon after the declaration of peace, a couple of New Zealanders managed to get into the town, "a dirty little one-horse place," consisting of one long and rather struggling street.  Here, in the course of their wanderings to and fro they met a couple of "Tommies," and all four started on "a night out."  For some time they were the best friends, but eventually the "Tommies," in drunken foolishness, turned and swore at their colonial comrades, launching forth at them a string of most opprobrious epithets, such as no self-respecting colonial could submit to.  The New Zealanders proceeded to "deal with" their companions, and the first sounds of battle drew numbers of Colonials and Imperials to the spot, which was near the Town Hall, situated at one end of Newcastle's long street.  The New Zealanders, finding things getting rather warm for them, drew off, and retired to camp for reinforcements.  These were quickly roused from their beds, and soon a motley crowd of New Zealanders, Canadians and Australians sallied forth to give battle to the "Tommies."  When the township was reached a large body of Munsters was encountered, and a fierce struggle began.  

The Colonials were armed for the most part with stirrup-irons, and the "Tommies" with loaded "waddies, "  a few having swords or bayonets.  From one end of the street to the other the fight raged, and many men were at least temporarily disabled, among these being the two who provoked the quarrel.  What would have been the ultimate result of the affray is hard to estimate, for the Colonials were all incensed by the  knowledge that the "Tommies" hated them; but it was fortunately stopped by the arrival of a number of officers, who ordered their men away.  Sore heads were common on the following morning, but, so far as is known, only the original aggressors were really seriously hurt.  Their condition was so bad that they died in hospital very soon after the occurrence.  
In connection with this affair, many of the troopers speak highly of the friendship existing between the colonial forces.  They always helped one another along, and the Canadians, especially, come in for praise for their readiness to back up the New Zealanders on every occasion.  If ever a New Zealander and a Canadian were together, each would do all he could for the other, and most of the troopers look upon the soldiers of the Dominion as excellent comrades and true friends.  

A sensational story indeed!

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