Friday, 17 November 2017

Turning First Sod Railways and Tramways Auckland Province NZ - Celebrations and Song

Rotorua Railway at Tukerenga - near spot of original Railway Survey Camp of Henry Roche and assistants, who saw eye witness of Mount Tarawera eruption 1886 from here  - photo Chris Ball 2009
Saw an article end of July 2016  in the Hauraki Herald, about the sod being turned for a new Council Library at Paeroa. Back in March 2016 according to a past newspaper  karakia/prayer and sod-turning ceremony officially launched construction of the Kopu to  Pukorokoro Hot Springs- Miranda  extension of the Hauraki Rail Trail. ( not that any railway had ever got properly completed on this stretch.)  Seems " first sod turning" have been busy occasions in 2016 , in local body election year, for local mayors and councillors :- a new subdivision at Ngatea; a Chinese owned ice cream factory at Kerepehi. Now, just over a year later, in November  2017, they are due to open the Kopu to Miranda extension of the Hauraki Rail Trail. Another opportunity for ceremony and celebration.

Pukorokoro Hot Springs ( formerly )Miranda Hot Springs and pools at  Pukorokoro- Miranda pool developed by Beddie Family and said to be largest thermal swimming pool in the Southern Hemisphere.Near the new
Kopu to  Pukorokoro Hot Springs- Miranda  extension of the Hauraki Rail Trail.
This photo courtesy -  Swimming pool, Miranda, Firth of Thames, Auckland. Ref: WA-79926-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22448227

All this sod turning, got me to thinking about back, when railways and tramways were first constructed in the Auckland Province - the beginning being back in 1860. Then railways was the new technology of that era. For Auckland Province the occasion of the turning of the first sod marked an important milestone in the locality or community. First sod turning was also  an important occasion for those early railway engineers and construction labourers ,apart from the dignitaries and local people attending who generally also saw it as a milestone. Railways like steamers had occasions to mark the official “launching”. At these occasions speeches  flowed and the refreshments and company were enjoyed.

 The first of these was the first sod of the Waihoihoi Tramway, a tramway connecting the Waihoihoi coal mines ( Sir John Logan Campbell a director), with the sea at Slippery Creek, near Drury, Auckland. James Stewart, a civil engineer newly arrived to Auckland, designed this tramway, the first of many railways and tramways , he oversaw design and construction of in the Auckland Province.

Photo about 1860 - 1869 Showing the residence, general store, bakehouse and Post Office (run by Mr and Mrs J Middlemiss) opposite the Anglican Church at Drury. There is a poster advertising the services of photographer Charles Burton Hoare on the front of the building nearest the camera. Photo courtesy
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A526' 
Opening two years later amid ceremony and celebration, the Daily Southern Cross, reporting on the Waihoihoi Tramway, wrote:- 

Daily Southern Cross 6 May 1862 Page 4 courtesy Papers Past National Library New Zealand

The very first railway of the Auckland Province was the, at first, ill-fated Auckland Drury Railway with Branch line to Onehunga. The first sod turning ceremony was held in Mr Dilworths paddock, Newmarket on 16 February 1865. With three marquees set up and an estimated group of 200 people, Provincial Superintendent Mr. Graham having turned the sod declared the railway commenced. Construction ground to a halt in the beginning years of 1867.

First sod of the Waikato Railway (Mercer – Ngaruawahia) turned at Ngaruawahia on the townside of the Waikato River on 10 January 1874 by Hon. Superintendent Mr. John Williamson, Esq. A thistle, shamrock and rose was placed upon three sods before it was turned. (representing the nationalities of those who were to be involved in this railway’s construction)A number from Thames had enrolled in the Engineer Militia and were very much involved with the formation and construction of this railway ( see   Thirty years later a song  about the flower emblems was published in the Otago Witness:-

Otago Witness  29 June 1904 Page 90 courtesy National Library New Zealand        
 First sod turning of the Kaipara Railway (Helensville – Riverhead line  ) took place  at Harkins Point 31st August 1871 by Hon. Deputy Superintendent Mr. Joseph May, Esq. It was reported that visitors arriving by steamer were greeted by a Maori Welcome, followed by many speeches led by Wiremu Rewiti. Following a luncheon the visitors travelled home via the steamer.
Locomotive from the Kaipara Line at Helensville. Locomotives back then had names - two of these on this line were “Schnapper" and "Kaihu"- photo March 2011 courtesy Chris Ball

The Thames Waikato Railway had first sod turning two ends. The first held at Thames on 21 December 1878 saw the first sod turned by Sir George Grey, the then Prime Minister. The other, the Hamilton end at the end of April 1879. At Thames  the little steamer Ruby bought Sir George Grey and party ashore from the New Zealand government steamer Hinemoa. It is said that 500 school children sun the anthem " My Own New Zealand home" penned by John Grigg - music shop owner, and who taught singing to schoolchildren at district schools along with establishing the Thames Choral Society.

A year later the Nelson Mail published a song said to be from Thames Electors.

Nelson Evening Mail 8 September 1879 Page 2 courtesy Papers Past New Zealand National Library

Twenty years later at the opening of this railway, Thames newly elected mayor, Mr. Greenslade was presented with a silver casket containing a piece of the first sod.

Casket First Sod - courtesy family photo collection
Also in 1879 the first sod of the Kamo Whangarei Railway turned at Whangarei on 1st March 1879 by Sir George Grey.

Whangarei from the heights  photo February 2014 - courtesy Chris Ball

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Sinai Palestine Campaign WW1 - A 100th Year Anniversary

A posed photograph of Australian, British, New Zealand and Indian camel troops

In earth, once trodden by the Master’s feet,

They lie, their bodies now at rest.

They came from far,—the sea-girt isles.

The crowded mart, the hills wind-swept,

But now they sleep in hallowed ground

O’erlooking where, of yore, the Master slept.


Their bodies, worn by toils of war,—

The midnight march, the dawn’s swift, fierce attack,

Or scorched by desert’s sun, or chilled by rain,

By fiery bullet scarred, or naked, sword,—

Repose in dust, their souls, set free,

Are called to higher service by their Lord.

Today - 31 October 2017 marks 100 years since the Battle of Beer Sheba  -  vital to  and the beginning of the Sinai Palestine Campaign.  Yet is one of the least known campaigns of World War One. The campaign involved troopers from Australia and New Zealand   and those of both the Camel Corps and Mounted Rifles.

The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) was raised by the British Empire in December 1916 during the First World War for service in the Middle East. The unit eventually grew to a brigade of four battalions, one battalion each from Great Britain and New Zealand and two battalions from Australia. Support troops included a mountain artillery battery, a machine gun squadron, Royal Engineers, a field ambulance, and an administrative train. At its height there were 4,150 men and 4,800 camels.  3 of the 4 battalions were disbanded in were disbanded in mid-1918. The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in May 1919.

The Imperial Camel Corps, which included two New Zealand companies - 16th and 17th Company- were a vital link in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. It is said between 400 and 450 New Zealanders fought in the Camel Corps. There were also those from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles – Auckland Mounted Rifles, Wellington Mounted Rifles, and Canterbury Mounted Rifles. Research has found that a number of those from both the Camel Corps and Mounted Rifles  also were in the Gallipoli Campaign. 

Reakes wrote on New Zealand horses endurance:-

"When the big Palestine push came in February, 1917, the New Zealand horses' endurance was severely tested. The pace left the camel transport far behind. At one stage the horses had to go 72 hours without water, and their sole allowance of food was 12 lbs. of barley each per day, and each had to carry a three- days' ration. This restriction to barley, with a shortage of water, brought on diarrhoea, and horses began to die. At this time the Brigade was at Jaffa. Fortunately some stacks of barley straw were found, the Quarter-Master General supplied petrol for a chaff cutter, and soon the horses had barley chaff, which helped to check the trouble. " (Reakes, 1923, p157)
Horses and Camels were an integral part of this campaign. The New Zealand Veterinary Corps played a very relevant role in this in the transport and care of the animals. The active service personnel of the veterinary corps comprised the following twenty-four officers:—
Lieut.-Colonel A. R. Young. A.D.V.S.;
Lieut.-Colonel H. A. Reid;
Major J. Stafford;
Major P. M. Edgar;
Major C. R. Neale;
Captains T. A. Blake,
E. C. Howard,
R. H. Meade,
W. C. Ring,
E. L. Siddall,
C. S. Simpson,
A. Taylor,
W. C. Barry,
W. P. Begg,
F. Crossley,
E. E. Elphick,
A. A. Johnson,
T. G. Lillico,
D. H. Rait,
W. G. Taylor,
J. Danskin,
D. H. McHattie,
J. H. Primer,
and G. N. Waugh.

W.C Ring was William Charles Ring - grandson of Charles Ring originally from Coromandel and whose father also William Charles Ring was from Hinuera. ( see Ring - three generations in Auckland Province)
TCDC (Thames Coromandel District Council) has designated one of the Memorial Forests on the Coromandel Peninsula – for those who died in Sinai Palestine – to be near Tangitaroria Lane, Pauanui. Trees have been planted for those New Zealanders who died in WW1 in the eight Memorial Forests on the Coromandel Peninsula organised by TCDC ( Thames Coromandel District Council) including the Memorial Forest near Pauanui.   

Tairua Valley Hills Coromandel Peninsula –   Photo  Courtesy Chris Ball 2015

Several of the Troopers in the Sinai Palestine Campaign had family links to the Tairua Valley. The following  list is, of those with links to Coromandel / Hauraki , who lost their lives in the Sinai Palestine Campaigns, World War One:-
Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki , Matamata Piako Links Sinai Palestine Campaign WW1Those who lost their lives (   links based on Place Born or NOK or Schooling or Place of Work.)

ADOLPH, Victor Emiel
2ND Lieutenant
NZ Contingent,
 3rd Battalion
Imperial Camel Corps
Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery, Syria
Family links Paeroa

Wellington Mounted Rifles, 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Squadron
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Ayun Kara Memorial (destroyed), Palestine
Waerenga  NOK
BISHOP, Claude William
Wellington Mounted Rifles
 Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel
NOK Morrinsville
BRUCE, Charles Daniel
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Links Waerenga
CAMPBELL, James Bannatyne

Lance Sergeant
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Kantara Military Cemetery
Relative Thames

Albert John  
Auckland Mounted Rifles, 4th (Waikato) Squadron
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Links Waerenga
FLETCHER, Thomas Henry
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Damascus War Memorial Cemetery
Links Waihi NOK
GORRIE, Donald Buckland
 Imperial Camel Corps 17th Reinforcements, New Zealand Mounted Rifles
Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel
brother John KIA
family links Tairua Valley then & now
HARNEY, Jeffrey Arthur
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Killed or died while a Prisoner of War
Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Waziriah Area of the Al-Russafa district, Baghdad, Iraq
NOK Walton
HILL, Claude Henry
Auckland Mounted Rifles
New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Link with Turua
HOLLIS, Charles
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Ayun Kara Memorial (destroyed), Palestine
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
At Waharoa
LOWE, Louis Henry

Auckland Mounted Rifles
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Family Links Thames
LYES, Harry Campbell
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel
Paeroa links
MANNING, Frederick
Wellington Mounted Rifles
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Two other brothers also WW1 Langley Manning (12/402) KIA 1915 and Fred Manning (11/1827) died disease1918
Family links Paeroa NOK
MATHESON, Harry Mackay
2ND Lieutenant
Royal Flying Corps, Australian Flying Corps, attached 67 Squadron
Gaza War Cemetery, Israel

NOK Thames Smith
PIERCE, Arthur Patrick Hector
2nd Corporal
New Zealand Engineers, Field Troop
Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel
Family links now Tairua Valley
SIMPSON, James Thomas
Machine Gun Squadron
Ramleh War Cemetery
Thames family links
SUTHERLAND, Hugh Charles
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Family links Matamata

WOOD, Charles
Lance Sergeant
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Port Said War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Link Morrinsville

Reference Source:

  • Reakes, C J. 1923. The War Effort of New Zealand. Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs Limited Chapter IX The New Zealand
  •  Veterinary Corp
  •  Moore, A. Briscoe. n.d. The Mounted Riflemen in Sinai and Palesô€†źne: The Story of New Zealand’s Crusaders. Auckland:Whitcombe & Tombs Limited.
  •  Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database
  •  Wikipedia
  •  TCDC ( Thames Coromandel District Council)