Saturday, December 5, 2009

This week in New Zealand history: NZ troops in the Boer War

The first contingent of New Zealand troops embarked for South Africa on the 21st of October 1899. On the 9th of December that year, the New Zealanders had their first engagement with enemy troops.

By the end of the war in 1902, New Zealand had sent almost 6,500 troops and 8,000 horses in ten contingents. To that total I've added one more soldier: in Settling the Account, a young lad's desire for adventure and loathing of home make him long to sail off to South Africa.

It's no easy task for him; not only is he underage, but would-be soldiers had to come up with the daunting sum of £25 for their equipment. My boy does find the money, from a source he would never have thought of. And then there's the question of whether or not he'll manage to smuggle out the horse he thinks of as his own, but about which his father feels quite differently.

Most of the soldiers came home again. None of the horses did.

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