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The New Zealand Contingents Troopships 

"Our Loyal Colonies: Departure from Wellington of the New Zealand Contingent for South African Service on board the "Waiwera"
From a sketch by Mr A.H. Moginie, Wellington, N.Z.  Source: Illustrated London News page 837 of 9 Dec. 1899

ANGLO-BOER WAR  1899-1902 
A war in which Great Britain defeated the Boers of South Africa. The Transvaal (South African Republic) and the Orange Free State were Dutch Republics recognised by Great Britain in 1852 and 1854 respectfully. Natal and Cape of Good Hope were British colonies. There was Anglo-Dutch friction for years between the Dutch Republican Government of Transvaal and British settlers. War commenced 11 Oct. 1899.  Both Dutch republics lost their independence by the peace treaty signed at Pretoria 31 May 1902 by Lords Kitchener and Milner and the chief civil and military representatives of the Boers. At one time or another the British Army committed 448,435 men. Of these, 518 officers and 5,255 men were killed, 1,852 officers and 20,978 men were wounded and 15,617 men died of wounds or disease. It is estimated the Boers had in the field from first to last and including the rebels about 60,000 to 65,000. Exactly eight years later the four former colonies joined to form the Union of South Africa. 

New Zealand was ready to give her best blood in defence of the Empire

100 years ago on October 21 1899 the first of ten New Zealand contingents left Wellington, bound for South Africa to fight for Britain in the South African War.  The First Contingent were required to supply their own mount and expected to contribute �25 to the cost of their own equipment.  A few exceptions were made. High stand of physique and horsemanship were demanded. From the small districts of New Zealand nearly 6,500 volunteer troops, 3.5% of the adult male population, and nurses along with 8000 horses went to South Africa in an extraordinary outpouring of patriotism that brought parades, crowded send-offs for the troopships, and much public fundraising for the war effort. Many districts and firms contributed the horses and tack.  The Third and Fourth Contingents were essentially paid for by private contributions. The Third aka the New Zealand Roughriders selected from 2,000 picked riders and shots, all unmarried men, many representing the oldest families in New Zealand. The total public subscription amount to 50,000, each centre providing its quota of men. Canterbury 104, Westland 10, Westport 6, Wanganui 56, Hawke's Bay 47, Gisborne 10, and Hawera and Taranaki 18. Disease was a serious problem, and the New Zealand units lost 133 men from illness, and that was twice the number as from, killed in action 71. Twenty-five soldiers were killed accidentally.  Many signed up again. Maoris were not allowed to fight in the war. Many New Zealanders were named after Boer war heroes.

The 7th Contingent, which relieved the 4th, was the only one not to take their own horses as there was no space on the ship, the SS Gulf of Taranto so they relied on the British remounts. The 7th took part in sweeps against Boer commandos under Smuts and De Wet, including the action at Bothasburg (Langverwacht Hill) on 23-24 Feb. 1902 when the Boers lead by De Wet were trapped and forced the part held by the 7th contingent at the cost of 24 killed and 41 wounded, out of a force of about 80 men, and turned out to be New Zealand's heaviest loss in South Africa. They were in the column under Colonel Rimington with the 3rd NSW MR. There were no reserves available for attacks against a section of the cordon, so De Wet got away. "The 7th New Zealand Contingent" (1903, Wgton) was written by K G Malcolm, who was a member of the 7th, wounded at Langverwacht.

Contingent Departure & Arrival ports Date of Departure Vessel Officers & men
First Wellington for Algoa Bay 21 Oct. 1899 s.s. Waiwera  9 officers 209 men Major Robin in command. Arrived Cape Town Nov. 23.
Second Wellington 20 Jan. 1900 s.s. Waiwera 11 officers 231 men, 300 horses
Major Cradock Commander
Third "The NZ Roughriders" Lyttelton 17 Feb. 1900 s.s. Knight Templar

12 officers 252 men, 279 horses Major Jowsey in command.

Otago and Southland companies of the Fourth  Lyttelton for Durban 26 Mar. 1900  s.s. Monowai 

About 200 men and 250 horses.
Total on the next 4 steamers 1,060

Otago section of the fifth Wellington and Auckland districts of the fourth contingent.  Port Chalmers & Lyttelton for Durban 25 March 1900
31 March 1900
s.s. Gymeric 400 horses, five stowaways - one from Lyttelton & four from Albany. Trooper Alfred Aldred was discharged at Albabt as medically unfit & placed on board H.M.S. Diana en route to Sydney. One of the stowaways to fill the vacancy
Fifth -Wellington, Nelson and West Coast districts Wellington 31 March 1900 s.s. Waimate 13 officers    268 men   233 horses
Fourth & Fifth and reserves Worser Bay, Wellington 31 March 1900 s.s. Maori 8 officers, 200 men  180 horses
horse feed Timaru for Durban  28 March 1900 barque, Magwen

1000 tons of flour
17160 sacks of oats 

Sixth Auckland 30 Jan. 1901 s.s. Cornwall 27 officers   551 men
Seventh (incl. the 23rd Co. Nelson section, 24 Co. Canterbury Section) Wellington arr. Durban 10 May 6 April 1901 s.s. Gulf of Taranto 28 officers   572 men
Eighth - North Is. division Auckland arr. Durban 15 March 1 Feb. 1902 s.s. Surrey 45 officers   951 men
Eighth - South Is. division Lyttelton arr. Durban 15 March 8 Feb. 1902 s.s. Cornwall 8 officers   192 men
Ninth - North Is. division Auckland 9 March 1902 s.s. Devon 48 officers   1,028 men
Ninth - South Is. division Port Chalmers 12 March 1902 s.s. Kent
Tenth - North Is. division Auckland 14 April 1902 s.s. Drayton Grange 45 officers 961 men
Tenth - South Is. division Lyttelton 17 April 1902 s.s. Norfolk  7 officers 155 men 

Timaru Herald Wednesday 25 October 1899

The Times estimates that there were 40,000 people present and though this is probably over the mark, the demonstration must always live in the memory of those who beheld it as a most remarkable and patriotic display. The Contingent had marched to the ship's side. The sight while the Waiwera was slowly steaming was viewed by thousands massed on the wharves and along the central frontage, and dense wings were spread out into the dim distance on either side. In addition the steamers themselves carried 10,000. Some of them were like beehives. One little boat licensed by the Customs to take 400, was filled far beyond that limit, and others in proportion. The troopship received a great send off from them. Besides the firing of bombs, flags were dipped and all on board waved handkerchiefs and little banners. To make an harmonious ending the weather at the last minute relented. Since the Contingent first entered camp it has been persistently cold and wintry, with a fair amount of rain, but when the Waiwera headed out into the straits the evening sun was shining brightly, and the water was almost smooth. Captain Ward, who came to the colony as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Ranfurly, left for the front by the Waiwera on Saturday.

Timaru Herald Thursday 21 December 1899

The Waiwera will probably be again employed as a troopship. Carpenters were to dismantle her on her way back but the operations will be intercepted at Albany if possible.
97% of the members of Parliament have signified their approval of sending another Contingent. The Government requires 250 horses, bays, blacks, or browns, 15 to 15.3 hands and five to ten years old. Mr G.G. Stead of Christchurch has presented ten. Trooper Bradford of Paeroa, was killed while skirming at Arundel, Dec. 19. [Timaru Herald Friday 22 December 1899 Bradford, the New Zealander, was not killed. He was wounded and taken prisoner.[

Other NZ troopships during the South African War: Brittanic, Manila, Tongariro.
New Zealand troopers returned from South Africa:

First Contingent left S. Africa Nov. 1900
Second and Third and Contingents arrived back at Port Chalmers 8 May 1901
Fourth land fifth left May 1901
Sixth and Seventh left 22 May 1902 and July 1902

August 1902 
The Eighth Contingent left Durban 5 July 1902
The Ninth Contingent left Durban 9 July 1902
The Tenth Contingent left Durban 15 July 1902

The s.s. Gymeric at Lyttelton prior to her departure for Durban Saturday evening 31 March 1900

The Gymeric is a steel screw, onedeck and spar-deck steamer of 4002 tons gross register, and 2598 tons net. She was built in lbd9 by Russell and Co., Port Glasgow, and is owned by the S.S. Gymeric Company, Limited (A. Weir and Co.), of Glasgow. Her dimensions are � Length 345 ft, breadth 49ft 8in, depth 17ft 9in. She has triple expansion engines, the diameter of the cylinders being 25 x 41 x 67 inches, with a stroke of 45 inches, and the nominal horse-power 364. The vessel is installed with electric light.

He's an absent-minded begger, but he heard his country call,
And his reg'ment didn't need to send to find him;
He chucked his job and joined it-to the job before us all
Is to help the home that Tommy's left behind him.

Many volunteered again. "Harry" Henry Thackeray HECKLER b. 1861 at Waikouaiti, Otago. Harry volunteered for the Fourth Contingent.�He left as a Corporal, was made a Lieutenant, later a Captain after he again volunteered for the North Island Regiment, Tenth Contingent. He had been working as a farm manger south of Hastings. On the voyage over on the S.S. Drayton Grange in 1902 he became good friends with the Hon. Richard John Seddon, the Prime Minister of NZ, who had been invited to visit South Africa. Seddon's son was with the Eighth Contingent.

Other New Zealanders served with South African Regiments. Leonard Edward John WORTHINGTON, from Pleasant Point, was too young for the Boer War so Len and a minister's son stowed away and jumped off the ship at Cape Town and swarm ashore and joined 2nd Brabant's Horse South African Regiment, as Trooper 5073, which was raised from colonial volunteers in South Africa.  Later he was drafted from the Temuka Rifles with the Eighth Contingent - E Squadron and as Trooper 5617 Len was attested at Addington on 6 January 1902. He was awarded the Queen's South African Medal 1902 and Orange Free State Clasp and obtained the rank of lance-corporal. boerwar1900nursesowmar29pg75.jpg (93283 bytes)

NOT TO BE MISSED - Otago Witness Fourth Contingent Pictorial Supplement
(photos of each Trooper in the Fourth from Otago) Thursday March 29 1900 pages 65 to 82 
Nurses went with the Fourth. page 75 The caption reads: Otago Nurses on their way to the Transvaal. Back Row: Nurses Harris, Piper, Hay. Front row: Nurses Monson, Williamson, Ross, Campbell.


A soldier could have joined up in early 1902 and as long as he got to South Africa by 31st May 1902 (the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging) he would have got the QSM with South Africa 1902 (SA02) clasp. This applied to the New Zealand 8th, 9th & 10th Contingents who arrived in South Africa in March, April & May 1902 respectively (the period travelling by sea to South Africa did not count). The KSM, which required 18 months service before 1 June 1902, and to have been serving in South Africa after 1 January 1902.

QSA with clasps Cape Colony, Rhodesia, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 named on the edge to "1341 (the rank scratched out, WHY? ) M. R. SMITH, NEW ZEALAND M.R." The Boer War QSA (Queen's South Africa) Medal belonged to Maurice Ralph Smith of Eketahuna (died in Levin 1955) who was a Private (No 1341) in the 4th Contingent but a Lieutenant in the 10th Contingent. Did he get his QSA with Private on it, and so he removed the rank? The 10th Contingent got to Durban on 17 or 26 May 1902, but did no fighting as the Peace of Vereeniging ending the war was signed on 31 May but all the soldiers still qualified for the QSM with SA02 (South Africa 1902) clasp.

The granting of the CC/OFS/Trans clasps (Cape Colony, Orange Free State & Transvaal) does not indicate service early in the war. Most of the earlier New Zealand Contingents also got the CC/OFS/Trans clasps, although only a few of the 4th & 5th got the OFS clasp, and the 7th only got OFS/Trans, i.e. not the CC clasp. The NZ 9th got the QSM with Trans/SA02, and the NZ 10th got the QSM with SA02 (the South Africa 1902 clasp), although they arrived in Durban on 17 or 26 May 1902 and did no fighting (11 of the 10th died of disease, and one was accidentally killed). Lieut. Robert McKeich of the 9th was killed in action on 4 June 1902 near Vereeniging by some Boers who did not know of the signing of the peace at Vereeniging on May 31st, probably in the last hostility of the war.

New Zealand's Participation in the South African ('Boer') War 1899-1902.  
Database of all those who served.  Try searching under Timaru, Waimate, Levels, etc. Check all derivatives. 

HM Troopship s.s. Ruahine 15 Aug 1917

S.S. SURREY: 5,455 gross tons, length 420ft x beam 54ft, one funnel, four masts, single screw, speed 11 knots, accommodation for 12-1st and 150-3rd class passengers. Built 1899 by Hawthorn, Leslie & Co., Hebburn- on-Tyne for the Federal Steam Navigation Co., she was used on the normal Federal Line route from the UK to Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers, usually via Las Palmas and the Cape. In 1901 she was used as a Boer War transport from New Zealand and on 25th Feb.1915 was mined between Dunkirk and Calais, but was towed to Dover. After repairs, she was sold to Blue Star Line and renamed BRODFIELD. 13th Nov.1916 wrecked near Church Point, Scilly Isles. [Merchant Fleets, vol.7 by Duncan Haws] [North Star to Southern Cross by John M. Maber]

The S.S. Surrey.
"Answering the Empire's Call." The S.S. Surrey leaving Auckland Harbour, 1901

April 5 1900 Otago Witness Thursday page 26
The Union Steam Ship Co. the troopship Monowai, with the Otago and Southland companies of the fourth contingent on board passed Cape Otway, Melbourne on Thursday. The horses and men of the Otago section of the fifth contingent and some belonging to the fourth, who were at camp Addington, were taken over the hill and shipped on board the Gymeric this morning. The went went through by train, where they joined the men from Wellington and Auckland districts of the fourth contingent. The Gymeric with the balance of the fourth left Lyttelton for Durban at 8 o'clock on Saturday evening. 

The Times, Tuesday, May 08, 1900
The Gymeric, from Otago, arrived at Natal, May 5, and left May 6 for Beira. She has on board a detachment of the fourth New Zealand Contingent.

Otago Witness 6 February 1901 pg 55January 29. The Cornwall, with the southern section of the sixth contingent, arrived to-night. The contingent leaves tomorrow.

January 30. The Auckland section of the sixth contingent received an enthusiastic farewell to-day, though, owing to the Queen's death, the ceremony was curtailed only to a few speeches. The ceremony closed with the National Anthem and hearty cheers.

Otago Witness 20 March 1901 pg 26
Departure of the Seventh. The Cornwall arrived in Capetown. 14 horses lost.

Evening Post, 27 March 1902, Page 5
SYDNEY, 26th March. The troopship Devon, which has arrived here, had an extremely rough time in the Tasman Sea. A day out from Auckland she ran into a fierce cyclonic disturbance. For two days she was knocked about in mountainous seas, and made only 155 miles. The whole of the Contingent, except about 60 men, were down with seasickness. The horses were terribly knocked about. Twenty-three were killed outright, or so badly injured that they had to be destroyed. About 30 others were maimed, and some may have to be destroyed.

New Zealand newspapers originally (1899-1900) referred to the Transvaal War, downplaying the role of the Orange Free State. Then the (Second) Boer War, later the Anglo-Boer War, and now the South African War. In Afrikaans: "Tweede Vryheidsoorlog" or Second War of Independence. NB: The First Boer War was 1880-1881.

New Zealand Boy's Adieu
 by Madame Pinn
(Dedicated to the N.Z. Contingents on the eve of their departure for South Africa) (image)

The first whistle of the troopship Wiawera,
Has sounded aloud to the throng
As they stand on the wharf of Wellington
Bidding their loved one's 'so long.'
Many brave fellows of New Zealand,
Are leaving by her at sundown,
To make for the shores of South Africa,
And join in the fight for the crown.
Apart from the weeping and wailing,
Of Mother and sister and son:
Will be seen the form of the fair maiden,
Caressing some mother's brave son.
In her weeping and wailing of heart and
Her cry of despair could be heard:
"Oh Harry, it grieves me to lose you,
Tho' I know you will keep your word."
Up spoke the brave fellow quite cheerfully,
"Its only goodbye a short while dear."
With kisses and caresses, most fondly
he adds without sigh or tear.

"Goodbye my love, goodbye.
'Till we return again:
When the cruel war is over, and Victory we have won
I'll tell you of the pretty sights.
And our charging with a will
I'll meet no fair maids there your place to fill.
When the cruel war is over, I will come back my love to thee
I will come back to thee
Goodbye my love Goodbye, Goodbye my love, Goodbye.

Amidst the departure taking, sounds forth the second shrill whistle
And with struggling of arms and rushing,
They board the ship with much bustle;
To look down on the tear claimed faces,
They are leaving behind on the wharf
Amid the waving of 'kerchiefs and cheering,
A shower of trinkets fall forth;
In the grasping hands of the loved ones,
As the cry comes from above
"Take this token my dear from he, whose heart
is so full of love."
Who, wish wonderful courage & spirit
Has gone to the war to fight;
To show all he is worthy of honour, In his task he will delight.
Heave goes the anchor, "Heigh - a high- a-ho.'
Shouting 'success" and "God - Speed's" away to war
they go.

The third whistle has sounded most shrill
The ship, she heaves out to sea:
And soon, native land is forgotten, His fair one, he no longer
can see.
Thoughts of the Battlefield raves in his mind,
Wishing he'd wings that could fly
Quickly he'd take up his position, to fight for Victory or die.
He turns to his comrades saying "I mean to come back
with some honour.
A Major, or Colonel, or Victoria Cross, I will fight for my Queen & fellows.
Then strike up the music dear comrade.
And let us be merry once more:
In whishing our three Islands farewell,
For we no longer can see the shore.


Goodbye New Zealand Goodbye
"Till we return again
When the cruel war is over,
And Victory we have won.
We'll think of all the pretty sights
And our charging with a will.
We'll meet no fair maids there,
its our New Zealand girls' still.
When the cruel war is over.
We will come back dear ones to thee
We will come back to thee
Goodbye my love Goodbye
Goodbye my love Goodbye
________  \______/ _________

Hands and arms from across the sea.
New Zealand's Help to the Old Country.

WW2 NZ Shipping Movements