Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 33, September 1989
By C W Malcolm
The above photograph has a unique significance, not only in the history of the Paeroa district, but also in the annals of what was once the British Empire. The original, takeninOctober 1899, has been presented to the Paeroa Historical Museum by the writer in whose home it has been a treasured possession for almost ninety years. We are indebted to Mr Graham Watton, Managing Editor of the Paeroa Gazette for its reproduction which also appeared in the Gazette on 13 December 1988, together with an explanatory article.
As the 19th century was drawing towards its close, it became evident that war in South Africa was inevitable. The Boers were displaying an intransigence towards British rule. They appeared determined to remove themselves from the British Empire threatening the sea route via the Cape. The British policy of freedom for all races was about to give way to the intolerant system of apartheid.
For the coming struggle Britain needed the support of her far-flung colonies. New Zealand made preparations to support the Mother-land. In Paeroasix men enrolled in readiness for the expected outbreak of war.
War was declared. As night fell, five of the volunteers assembled. They were Tetley, Avery, Shaw, Hubbard and Bradford. The sixth, McPherson, was preparing for his night's sleep in his bunk at Waitekauri. They sent a rider with a leading horse for him. Riding through the night, they reached Paeroa just as dawn was breaking over the eastern hills.
From Paeroa they travelled by train to Auckland, by boat from Onehunga to Wellington, and thence as members of the first of ten contingents, along with their horses, they sailed on21 October 1899 for South Africa.
On the extreme right of the photograph sits George Roland Bradford, formerly of the famous Coldstream Guards in England, first Regimental Sergeant-major of the Hauraki Regiment. A fountain on Primrose Hill, Paeroa, now deplorably wrecked by vandals, commemorates this man for, on 18 December 1899, barely two months from sailing, Bradford mounted his horse to ride in battle at Jasfontein. Excellent soldier though he was, he was not an expert horseman, and when wounded in the fight he was unable to make good his escape, being captured by the Boers in whose hands he died of his wound to be buried by alien hands in an unmarked grave in a far away foreign land. He has the historic distinction of being the first from all the Empire's colonies to give his life in the cause for which the British World was fighting.
Britain and Boer in War arrayed
Across the veld in conflict stayed;
He rode to battle unafraid,
And fell in combat, undismayed —
For 'twas the Empire's call —
And he the first to fall
In answer to her call.
If, "at the going down of the sun and in the morning" we should remember them, surely they ought not to be forgotten by younger generations. Hundreds of men from Paeroa and district have gone off to succeeding and greater wars, many never to return. And these six were the first to venture into the unknown.
It was Richard Hubbard who assisted Bradford to the saddle on that fatal day. He was a well-known and highly respected figure in the farming life of the community for many years. Hubbards Road connecting Puke and Thames Roads perpetuates the name. In Auckland in later years he was on several occasions guest of honour at assemblies in my large intermediate school when we marked the date of the sailing of the first contingent for South Africa as part of our history with his medals and his bearing despite his advanced years, he made a distinct impression upon the hundreds of pupils who saw in him the human side of history.
Frederick Thomas Shaw was a brother of Miss Minnie Shaw, Paeroa's notable infant mistress whose entire teaching service was spent in the Wood Street School where she became a legend, beloved by hundreds of children and respected by the entire community. Frederick, after service with the first contingent, returned to Paeroa but went back with a later contingent. Finally returning home, he was, at the early age of 33 involved in a mining accident [tunnelling the Karangahake railway tunnel. See Journal 39: Avery of the "Gallant Six" – E], causing his death. I am indebted to Miss Leone Shaw of Hamilton for this information from her research into her family history,
My Uncle, William McPherson, after serving with the first and seventh contingents, at the end of the war joined the Mounted Constabulary in South Africa, one of his duties being to stand guard over the notable Boer leader, Louis Botha. He survived to become a member of the Home Guard in the Second World War and died as an inmate of the Ranfurley Veteran's Home, but not before he had prevailed upon me to take him on a nostalgic visit to old Waitekauri.
John W Tetley was one of William Tetley's three sons and two daughters who emigrated from England in 1880. A full account of the family and an excellent sketch of their picturesque home near the corner of Hill Road and the Te Aroha Road may be found in Journal 13 [see Journal 13: Tetley Family of "Chellow Grange" - E], William Tetley was an architect, surveyor and farmer. He was responsible for designing and supervising the erection of numerous buildings including Paeroa's drill hall and the first Methodist Church in Paeroa (Journal 16 [see Journal 16: Paeroa Drill Hall and Upper Thames Valley Methodism - E]). At the opening of the drill hall in 1902 there was an exhibition of photographs of British and Boer soldiers and other articles sent from South Africa by his son, John W Tetley. William's diary records that on 22 August 1902 he attended a meeting of the Bradford Memorial Committee to select the fountain to be erected on Primrose Hill. John, after the war, remained in South Africa with his wife. On later returning to New Zealand he settled on a farm in Waihi where he was employed as an accountant with the Grand Junction Mining Company, later becoming Secretary-Manager for the Waihi Hospital Board. His sister, Sarah, married George Hill whose family continues to farm part of the land towards Tirohia acquired by the original William. John's three sons distinguished themselves in their chosen careers. (See Journal 15 for fuller details [not sure, but see Journal 15: Memorial Fountain - E].)
It is with sincere regret that I am not able to add to this record any details concerning Mr Avery. For many years I have been content merely to honour the names and have only in recent months gathered the information included here concerning Messrs Shaw and Tetley. To gain and record such information is the purpose of our Historical Society and I earnestly appeal for the necessary details to complete the record, especially of Mr Avery whose fine soldierly figure occupies the front centre of the group.
From the left the photograph shows, William McPherson, John Tetley, Mr Avery, Fred Shaw (standing at back), Richard Hubbard and George Roland Bradford.