Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 31, September 1987

By Captain C W Vennell, Retired List, formerly Hauraki Regiment

The Hauraki Regiment, which has its headquarters in Tauranga, can look back on a distinguished record of 88 years including participation in four overseas wars. It grew out of a tradition of voluntary service established during the Maori Wars of last century.

The earliest volunteer infantry unit in what is now the Hauraki area was the Opotiki Rangers Rifle Volunteers, formed on 29 August 1867. It followed the formation of the Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry on 23 December 1866. Each was composed largely of men who had served in the 1st Waikato Regiment of Militia and who first settled the Tauranga and Opotiki districts. Each distinguished itself in the Hau Hau wars.

In the next 25 years, no fewer than 20 volunteer units (not including cadets) were formed - and all but one disbanded - nine at Thames, three at Tauranga, four at Opotiki and one each at Coromandel, Tapu, Puriri and Katikati. The first of the Tauranga units was the Tauranga Cavalry formed on 30 December 1868 and disbanded on 9 August 1870.

The Hauraki Regiment, formed on 9 July 1896 as the 2nd Battalion Auckland Rifle Volunteers, with headquarters at Paeroa, included the following independent companies:

Te Aroha Rifle Volunteer Company, formed September 15, 1892.

No. 1 Company Ohinemuri R.V., formed June 16, 1897.

No. 2 Company Ohinemuri R.V., Karangahake, formed July 26, 1897.

Hauraki Rifle Volunteers, Thames, formed October 11, 1897.

No. 3 Company Ohinemuri R.V., Waihi, formed November 29, 1897

Coromandel Rifle Volunteers, formed February 28 1898.

Onehunga Rifle Volunteers, formed July 9, 1898.

The commanding officer of the new battalion was Major Thomas Nepean Edward Kenny, surveyor and county clerk, of Paeroa, formerly of the 73rd (Perthshire) Highlanders, better known as the Black Watch, and of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He had acted as adjutant in the operations against Te Kooti in the Waikato in 1870 and was afterwards a sub-inspector in the Armed Constabulary.

Only 15 months after the battalion was formed the first New Zealand Contingent sailed for South Africa. Among the eight men from the Hauraki area in its ranks was the battalion's first Regimental Sergeant-Major, Sgt.-Major G R Bradford, formerly of the Coldstream Guards.

Bradford, who went overseas as a private (farrier), died of wounds received in the contingent's first action at Jasfontein Farm. He was the first man from New Zealand and the first of any colonial contingent in the South African war to give his life for the Empire. In all, more than 200 men from the Hauraki area landed in Africa as members of the 10 contingents sent from New Zealand.

At home the South African was [war? – E] period was one of change. On February 9 1900 Major E W Porritt, formerly battalion adjutant, succeeded Major Kenny in command. On March 10 the services of the Huntly Rifles were accepted and, on April 5 the Te Aroha Rifles were transferred to mounted infantry. On November 15 the Thames Naval Artillery (formed in 1869 as the Thames Naval Volunteers) changed its identity to become part of the battalion as No. 1 Company Thames Rifle Volunteers.

On October 1 1901 the designation of the battalion was changed to "2nd Battalion, Auckland (Hauraki) Infantry Volunteers". On January 17 following, the services of the Thames Naval Artillery band were accepted as the battalion's first band. On April 18 1902 the Rotorua Rifle Volunteers and the Waihi Rifle Volunteers (both formed two years before) were attached to the battalion. The Rotorua company was disbanded on 6 December 1905.

The years following the war were comparatively uneventful and then, in 1907, the regiment's first battle honours, "South Africa 1900-1902" were conferred by King Edward VII. On September 28 the same year, at a battalion parade held at Thames, the King's Colour (presented by the New Zealand Government) was consecrated, presented and trooped.

When the Defence Act 1909 came into force the volunteer units became merged in the new Territorial organisation in which the Hauraki Battalion - the sixth in order of seniority in New Zealand - became the VI (Hauraki) Regiment. It was made up of the following companies:

A Company, Thames (formerly No. 1 Thames Rifles)

B Company, Paeroa (formerly No. 1 Ohinemuri Rifles)

C Company, Thames (formerly Hauraki and Coromandel Rifles)

D Company, Waihi (formerly No. 3 Ohinemuri and Waihi Rifles)

E Company, Te Aroha

F Company, Morrinsville

G Company, Tauranga and Opotiki (half-company each)

H Company, Rotorua and Matamata (Half-company each)

Regimental Band, Thames (the former battalion band)

Lieutenant-Colonel Porritt, who had been promoted to that rank in 1902, remained in command.

On July 10 1911 the regimental badge was approved and the present motto, "Whaka tangata Kia Kaha" adopted as from April 4 1912.

It is worthy of record even in this brief summary that, on November 20 1911, Bernard Cyril Freyberg, of Morrinsville, then aged 23, was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Hauraki Regiment. He joined the Haurakis just in time to attend its first annual camp.

This was held at Morrinsville on the property of the second-in-command, Major R C Allen, from February 17 to 20, 1912, and is claimed to have been the first infantry camp in the Dominion. It was attended by 23 officers (among whom was Lieut. S S Allen - the late Colonel Sir Stephen Allen - Major Allen's brother) and 373 other ranks out of a total strength of 28 officers and 961 other ranks.

In February 1913, the Hauraki Regiment was allied to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry which, as the 43rd Monmouthshire Regiment, fought at Maketu, Gate Pa and Te Ranga in the Tauranga district in 1864 and helped to garrison that district for two years afterwards.

In the same year new colours were presented to the Regiment by the officers and men of the former volunteer Battalion. The ceremony was performed by the Governor, Lord Liverpool, at Hautapu Camp, Cambridge, on May 3 1914.

With the outbreak of World War 1 on the following August 4, the calibre of the Regiment was soon to be sternly tested. The first draft of Hauraki volunteers left Paeroa for Epsom Camp nine days later. They were to form part of the 6th Hauraki Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion, 1st N Z Expeditionary Force. The Battalion first saw action on the Suez Canal against the Turks in February 1915 and took part in the landing at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli on April 25 1915.

Following the Gallipoli campaign the Haurakis went to France and took part in many of the major campaigns until the end of the conflict.

Maintaining interest in military affairs after any big war is a difficult task but, in the hands of such men as the two Allens referred to, Lieut.-Colonel (later Colonel) F Prideaux of Whakatane, and many others including Captain J M Allen, the Haurakis were kept in being, between the wars, when there was no longer the spur of compulsory training to keep them together.

On February 20 1930 at Paeroa, Colours presented to the regiment by the Paeroa Returned Servicemen's Association were formally handed over by the G O C New Zealand Forces, Major-General R Young, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.

In World War II the identity of the Haurakis, as well as that of other New Zealand Regiments, was partly lost. It was retained as far as possible in the three companies, one in each of the first three echelons of the 2nd N Z E F. In each of the 18th, 21st and 24th Battalions, B Company was originally composed mostly of men from the Hauraki Regiment.