My Travels to New Zealand as a Soldier

George Brier was born in 1846, at Southowram, West Yorkshire, England. On 23 May 1864 he enlisted in the 68th Durham Light Infantry, at Leeds. In 1865 he left England as part of a reinforcement draft to New Zealand. In 1866 Brier returned to England with the regiment and took his discharge there, returning to his former occupation of stonemason. He died in 1881, aged 35 years. His son, Ernest, later emigrated to New Zealand, where he was engaged in farming pursuits until his death in 1960, aged 85 years. (Auckland War Memorial's Biographical Note to MS 1732).

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Note: Both the original diaries and high resolution scanned versions are held at Tauranga City Libraries New Zealand.

My Travels to New Zealand as a Soldier


I listed in Leeds on the 23 of May 1864 in the 68th Durham Light Infantry. Went from Leeds to Liverpool on the 28 of May 1864. We got into Liverpool about 11 o'clock got our dinner at 12 went on board A Steamer at 3 & set sail at 4 o'clock for Cork in Ireland. After giving us our dinner in Liverpool they gave us nothing else to eat until the following morning. We had no bunk nor hammock to sleep in & their was only Sleeping Room for first & Second Class Passengers excepting we slept on the deck. I passed the night as best I could Sleeping some of the time & the other I was walking about to keep myself warm. I had a very good appetite for my Breakfast which I got at 6 o'clock. Some Coffee & dry bread which tasted very good. It had been A fine night & it was A beautiful morning. It kept fine all the day which was Sunday. I was not troubled with Sea Sickness.

It was the first night I had spent with my clothes on & the first Sunday I had spent among so much wickedness. & I felt very uncomfortable. I thought how much better I Should have been if I had been at a Sunday School, for I had attended School very well. We got into Queenstown harbour at about 6 in the evening, went on to (undecipherable) & we had to wait there for the tide coming in 2 or 3 hours. There we could see the Irish Jauntin Cars manning about in the Street & we could talk with the People that stood on the Shore for we were very near land.

We could have jumped from the steamer on to the land but they would not let us, We got into Cork about half Past eleven at night. We were very encious to go on shore but the man that had charge of us would not let us so we walked about the Ship until1 4 in the morning. Then we went on shore & got our Breakfast which I relished very well for it was served in the Regular Irish style. Some slices of loaf cut very thick & well Buttered with good butter & some coffee for which we paid 5 pence. We stayed in Cork untill 8 o'clock then we went by rail to Fermoy we had to go before the Depot Battalion Doctor & all those whom he passed were sent to a Room belonging to their Regiment & them that he did not pass were sent back to the Place where they had listed & there discharged. When I got to the Room I was told to go to I was very well received by the men in the Room. The first question was where do you come from. There was none that came from Halifax only me so I was a Stranger to them all. After I had got my dinner the Pay Sargeant gave me my bounty money. That was one pound. Then I was invited by a few of the men to go to the Canteen to spend my bounty money in ale & Porter. A Canteen answers the purpose of a Public House but their ale was 6 pence per quart & porter 4 pence per quart. When my bounty money was finished I soon lost my friends for their friendship went with the money.

Our daily food was 12 ounces of beef, a pound & a half of bread, one pound of Potatoes 1/6 of an ounce of tea, 1/3 of an ounce of Coffee:, 1/30 of an ounce of Pepper, 2 ounces of Sugar, 2 ounces of salt.   A few more vegetables for which we paid 8 pence per dozen. We payed half Penny per doz. for washing, 2 Pence per month for Sheet washing & 1 Penny per month for hair cutting. If there was anything Broke or damaged about the Barracks we had to pay for it. We had 4 Pence per day spending money. We balanced our accounts every month & what was left out of 13 Pence per day after the Barrack damages were payed we could either draw it or leave it and have it put down to our Credit.  

We had to go to a Place of Worship on a Sunday but we had only 3 different sects to choose out of Presbyterian Roman Catholic or Episcopalian.    I went to the Presbyterian Church as they are called in Ireland, for all Roman Catholic churches are called Chapels in Ireland & all the discenters Places of Worship are called Churches. In Ireland the Catholics go to Church with their Rifle & Bayonet & all their belts. The discenters goes with their waist belt & Bayonet on. One afternoon when we were at Squad drill the Sargeant asked us our names commencing at the left hand man. His Name was Moss, the 2nd Furze and the third Brier.   Well he said Moss, Furze & Briers, He did not ask for any more names but joined in our laugh. In fine weather we had to turn out to drill 3 times a day. Private Soldiers had to do orderly man in their turns, 2 at once. That was to sweep out the Room the first thing in the morning, then to fetch the bread, then the beef, and take it to the cook house. Then to put the potatoes into a net & take them to the Cook house then to Set the table ready for Breakfast then to fetch the Coffee & get our breakfast. Then wash the Breakfast things and clean the table. At dinner time we had to fetch the dinner & Serve it out but each one had to Pear his own Potatoes for they were boiled with the Jackets on. After we had got our dinner we had to wash the dinner things & scrub the table & forms. At tea time we had to fetch the tea. After we had got our tea we had to clean the tea things, then we had to go with the orderly Corporal to carry the groceries & vegetables for the following day & we had to attend to drill 2 a day besides.

Every Saturday we had to take all the forms & tables out of the Room & give them a good scrubbing with soap and water. While one lot was cleaning the forms out side the other men were washing the Room floor & cleaning the windows.

We went on guard at 10 in the morning & we were inspected by the Adjatant before we marched to the guardroom. When we got to the Guard Room we stood outside untill we were numbered & divided into three Reliefs. Then the Corporals, one of the new & one of the old guard, marched off the first Relief & relieved the Centries of the old guard & the Corporal of the new guard had to read the orders of each post to the Centry that went on that Post.

While the Corporals were relieving the Centries the Sargeant of the old guard was giving over the prisoners & telling the Sargeant of the new guard which of them wan to be taken before the Commanding officer to receive their Punishment. When the Centries were all relieved & the guard Room orders & Prisoners all given over to the new guard, then the old guard marched away & the new guard marched into the guard Room. When a man is on guard he is not allowed to take his belts or his clothes off and if he sleeps any he has to sleep on boards and a wood pillow.

A Private has 2 hours on centry & 4 hours off. For a guard he as to be on Centry 8 hours & 16 hours off. In the night time when a man is on Centry he has to call out the number of his Post & alls well every half hour. The Centry on the guard room is No. 1. He calls out first, then 2, then 3 & so on untill all have called out. Then the Centry on the guard Room Calls out alls well if they have all called out, but if not he tells the Sargeant of the guard what number it is that has not called out. Then the Corporal as to go & see what is the matter. If the man on Centry is a sleep or doing anything Contrary to the orders of his Post then he is relieved & punished for it, & another man has to come on guard in his place. The watchmen in Fermoy call out every hour what kind of weather there is at 12 o'clock at night. If it was a wet night they would call out. 12 o'clock A wet night & alls well. Of a fine night their cry would be 12 O'clock A fine night & alls well.

I was made Lance Corporal on the 16 of September 1864. I had been on guard 3 times as a Private but I had no Sentry go to do after I got promoted. After I had heard my name Head out of the orderly book I went to the tailors Shop & got 2 stripes Set onto my Goat one on each arm. A lance Corporal is the lowest rank of a noncommissioned officer. He has the same duty to do as a full Corporal but he gets no extra Pay untill he is made a full Corporal. Then he has four Pence Per day extra.

We used to be orderly Corporal a week in our turn. That week I was orderly Corporal I had to go Round to each Room and ask if there was anyone sick. If there was a man sick I had a Sick Report to write out & at 9 0'clock whan the Sick Call Sounded I had to take him out to be marched to the hospital. If the doctor thought there was nothing the matter with him that he was sceaming some times he sent them back & ordered them so many days of heavy marching order drill. At this drill they had to march 4 hours Per day at the Rate of 3 mile Per hour with their rifle & a Full kit on their back.

When the orderly man's Call sounded I had to see that an orderly man turned out of each Room & march them off for the bread & beef & to run all errands during the day, and to serve all the letters out after they Came from the Post office. After tea we had to go & buy in all the vegetables & groceries, then we had to show the officers the orders. Then at tattoo to go round with the orderly Sargeant & Call all the men's names. The Sargeant marked the men's names who were absent down, & all who did not answer their names before tattoo Sounded he reported them as absent.

If anything happened during the night time I had to attend to it. On 6 October 1864 we went from Fermoy to Cork onto a Small Steamer. Went in the Steamer to Queenstown got of the Steamer onto a Sailing Ship Called the Nelson for New Zealand. When we had all got on board we were all served out with 2 Pair of white trousers, 2 white Jackets, 3 Pair of white socks9, A Pair of leather slippersa Red Cap, a tin Plate, a tin Can & a few Pounds of fresh water Soap & a few pounds of Salt water Soap, & a bag to Put them in. The Soap & Clothes were to fit us for the voyage. With Salt water Soap we could wash anything either in Salt water or in fresh water but with fresh water Soap & Salt water we could neither wash our Skin nor our Clothes.

Our rifles & belts were put into wood frames made for the purpose of holding them Safe. We were then divided into messes. There were 8 in the mess that I belonged to. In some of the messes 5. some 6 & 7. others 9 & 10 but no more than 10 in a mess. Our mess tables & forms were fixtures. Between decks was divided in to three compartments. There were about 300 Soldiers & 70 Emigrants, besides Sailors & first & Second class Passengers. In the fore hatch way there were a draft of the 40 & 57 Regiments. In the main hatch way there were a draft of the 14, 18, 43, 65, & 68. In the stem hatch way there were 70 emigrant men, women & children.

After we had got our dinner we were divided into 3 watches. We were 4 hours on watch & 8 hours off, except at dog watch. Then we had 2 hours on & 6 off. The dog watch was from 4 o'clock till 6 & from 6 till 8 in the evening. They have dog watches so that every man will get an equal share of the night watches. Every third morning we were on watch from 4 in the morning till 8. Then we had to wash the deck & bulwarks with swabs & salt water, & during the day the watch had to keep the deck clean with sweeping & scraping.

After we had got our tea we were served out with a hammock & a blanket each. We fastened our hammocks to hooks that were fastened to the top of the deck, & to get into them we had to take hold of the hooks & Spring into the hammock. We had to have our hammocks down by Seven o'clock in the morning & Put them away for the day.

We set sail for New Zealand on the 7 of October 1864. Our daily food was as follows. 3 days a week we had a 1/4 of a Pint of Peas & 12 ounces of Salted Pork boiled together. 3 days a week we had 6 ounces of flour & 2 ounces of Raisins made into a Pudding & boiled with 12 ounces of salted beef and once a week we had meat in cans like the meat that comes from Australia. We got tea to drink morning & evening & a Pound of buscuits each day, but they were not so nice to eat for there were Plenty of little lively things running about the biscuits, and we could either Pick them off or eat them. Every day at 12 o'clock we got 1 dram of Rum, 1 ounce of lime juice, 2 ounces of sugar & 1/4 of a Pint of water mixed together to drink to prevent scurvy. We had to parade before the doctor twice a week to be inspected with our Shoes & Socks off & our trousers rolled up to the knee, and our Shirt sleeves Rolled up above the elbow, our Shirt neck loose & turned under the braces. We had to Put a clean Shirt & Socks on twice a week & we had to wash our own clothes & we had to have them washed before 7 o'clock in the morning.

We had Prayers Read every Sunday by the Senior officer. We Passed the time in Playing at different games, Some at Chess & drafts others at dominoes & cards. I was sea Sick 3 or 4 days. After I had got over my Sea Sickness I enjoyed good health all the Remainder of the voyage. Before we got to the Cape of Good Hope we was not so many days without seeing a Ship of Some kind. The first land we saw after leaving Ireland was the Azores Islands. The next land we came in sight of was the Cape Verd Islands. When we got into the tropics we could see the flying fish flying about in all directions. When we got within a few miles of the equator we lay in a calm 10 days. It was very hot while we were becalmed. At 12 o1 clock at noon we could see no shadows for the Sun was right above our heads. While we lay in a calm we had a machine to pump air down between decks, & it was worked both night & day by the men on watch.

On the evening of the day we passed the equator the Sailors dressed themselves in different coloured dresses & marched Round the Ship with a Can of tar & a Brush, & all who did not give them some thing were according to their Rule to have their head & face covered with tar & scraped of with a bit of old iron. The first that was tared was an emigrant. After they had tared him they threw him into a tub of water & some one threw a swab in it & it got round his head. I said you are smothering him. Then they took him out of the tub. He was a long while before he came to himself, & it was a week after that before he was quite well again.

It put a stop to the tarring.

After we had Got Past the Cape of Good Hope the Captain of the Ship Put us on 3 Pints of water Per dozin, instead of 6. The quantity we should have for Breakfast dinner & tea was served out to the Cooks. The remainder was put into a iron tank & a centry Placed over it to See that no one wasted any of the water. Any one was allowed to drink as much of it as 'he liked but not to take any of it away with him. The tank was allways empty before 12 o'clock. If it commenced to rain we caught the water any way we could to drink. The water we had was salt water filtered by a little engine. The water after it was filtered ran into iron tanks & the Salt ran into the Sea. The Captains excuse for Putting us on Short allowance of water was that he had no coals. We said one to another, why didn't he call at the Cape of Good Hope & get Supplied with coal.

The officers had fresh meat nearly every day during the voyage. When we set sail there was a stock of about 40 young pigs & sheep & some poultry. They killed them as they required them untill they were all killed. There was also a cow on board, but with being confined and tossed about from one side of its wooden house to the other it got thinner & thinner untill it died. One day after we had been sailing about six weeks it turned out that there was a man on board who was a stowaway. He had a brother on board who was a soldier & he got some thing to eat along with his brother & the other soldiers. There was a quarrel among the men in the mess about him living on what they should have to eat. The Captain got to hear about the man so he had to go before the Captain. He made him work & found him some thing to eat.

We had 2 Robberies on board during the voyage. The first was that some of the soldiers got into the hold and stole 8 dozen bottles of bottled Ale & Porter. The second time they stole 12 dozen bottles of bottled ale & Porter. Each time all the men who had any sign of beer about them were Confined & Punished for it. We had a Few weeks of very ruf weather during the voyage. On the 18 January 1865 we passed very close to 3 ininhabited islands. The sailors called them the 3 King islands. There was a very large quantity of birds flying about. There was one kind that I noticed very much. They appeared to be about the size of a Pigeon & very light coloured. I thought I should never be tired of watching them dive into the sea & bring up a small fish in their mouth.

We could see New Zealand on the 19 of January & we landed in Auckland the Capital of New Zealand on the 21 of January 1865, after being on board 107 days. 

My travels in New Zealand & home again I will tell to you at some future time if it be agreeable to you & God gives me health & strength to do so.

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