Waipori and the Boer War

The Boer War (or South African War) was the first overseas conflict to involve New Zealand troops.  Between 1899 and 1902 New Zealand was gripped with patriotic fervour, as thousands volunteered to serve in South Africa and those at home engaged in enthusiastic fund-raising and moral support.  The remote and small town of Waipori was no exception.

Troops for the South African War training in
New Zealand

The prime minister of the time, Richard Seddon, was eager for New Zealand to be the first colony to land troops in South Africa, and he succeeded in this aim. 

The first troop contingent left in 1899 and consisted of men selected from regional volunteer forces.  But from then on the remaining nine contingents generally contained a mix of men from the military and civilians who were skilled riders and marksmen.  Nurses and teachers went too.

While the government was keen to send contingents of troops, funding was limited.  Public fundraising was needed to buy horses and equip the soldiers, and communities all over New Zealand set to the task with fervour.  There was a huge outbreak of patriotic sentiment.

Patriotic committees were set up to organise the formation of contingents to go to South Africa, and raise the funds needed.  The Lawrence committee was chaired by the town’s mayor, and the Waipori representative on that committee was prominent businessman Fred Knight.  He not only led the war support effort in the Waipori district, but undertook to donate one pound per month personally for the duration of the war.

Tuapeka Times
7 February 1900

Fundraising continued with events such as the patriotic concert presided over by Fred’s brother William.

Tuapeka Times
28 February 1900

The money raised was spent on horses and equipment for budding soldiers.  Government staff also toured the district seeking to buy horses.

Tuapeka Times
5 February 1902

Four men with Waipori connections served in South Africa — one of them twice.

Willie Hodge
The Waiwera ready to depart with troops and horses for the South African War

Willie Hodge was working as an engine-driver for the Golden Shore Dredging Company at Waipori when he joined up as part of a 39-strong Hotchkiss machine-gun unit in the Second Contingent.  The contingent trained in Wellington and left on the Waiwera in January 1900.  After more than a year’s fighting the unit sailed for home in March 1901.

Willie settled away from Waipori: first working on a dredge at Gibbston, then briefly serving in the Police Force before working in the timber industry on the Coromandel.  He married and had a family, and died in 1939 aged 60.

Willie’s father was the prominent mariner Captain Charles Stephen Hodge of Port Chalmers.

Tuapeka Times 26 June 1901
South African War medal with campaign clasps
William J Lorigan

William Lorigan worked on a dredge at Waipori and joined the Fourth Contingent as a farrier, which is a blacksmith who shoes horses.  He left on the Monowai in March 1900 and the contingent went ashore in Mozambique a month later.  William described the voyage in a letter published in the Tuapeka Times in June.  After crossing what is now Zimbabwe the New Zealand contingent fought in different parts of what is now South Africa.

New Zealand farriers at work during the Boer War

William became ill and was invalided out of the combat, and in December 1900 underwent another medical exam and given three months paid leave.  Just a few weeks later he returned to Waipori where he received a hearty welcome.

Tuapeka Times 5 January 1901

His stay was to be a short one, though.  He was put before a medical board and found fit, and ordered to return to South Africa to continue his assignment.  He left New Zealand as part of the Sixth Contingent on the Cornwall at the end of January 1901.

Tuapeka Times
30 January 1901

The Tuapeka Times published letters from William Lorigan in South Africa in August 1901 and January 1902.

The Sixth Contingent was engaged in some difficult battles, but William Lorigan returned to Waipori in August 1902 and received another hearty welcome.  He later lived in Wellington and Te Kuiti.

Tuapeka Times 30 August 1902
Thomas Hynes

Thomas Hynes was also in the Sixth Contingent, and left on the same ship as William Lorigan in January 1901.  He was a miner at Waipori, the son of Patrick and Elizabeth Hynes.

The Tuapeka Times published letters from him in South Africa, in May, July and October 1901.

When Elizabeth Hynes received a medal for her son, the military form recording its receipt is marked ‘Thomas Hynes is in China’.  It is said that Thomas had a real talent for learning languages.  He married Rose Amelia (surname unknown) and lived in England.  In 1941, aged 60, he was living in Kensington in London and working as an air raid warden in that suburb when he was killed in a German air raid.

Tuapeka Times
8 November 1902
Robert Sinclair Cooper

Another miner at Waipori, Robert Cooper enlisted with the Ninth Contingent at the age of 34.  He was the son of Samuel and Mary Cooper, who lived in Lawrence when he enlisted.

Before he could leave for war, he had some business to attend to. 

In early February 1902 Cooper appeared at the Lawrence Magistrate’s Court over an unpaid debt owed to Sam Caudwell, a prominent miner and publican at Waipori.  Sam had died two months earlier and it was his son, William E Caudwell, who sought to recover just over six pounds for board, lodging and ‘refreshments’ supplied.  Knowing that Cooper was about to leave Waipori to enlist in the Ninth Contingent, Caudwell sought payment of Cooper’s account.

Tuapeka Times
5 February 1902

After paying most of his debt and court costs, Cooper was free to go.  He sailed in the Kent on 12 March 1902 but by the time his ship reached South Africa there was little fighting left, as the war ended on 31 May 1902.  The Ninth Contingent left Africa for home in July of that year.  He later settled in the Wellington area.