George Brier My Travels in New Zealand 1865 - 1866

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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My Travels in New Zealand.

[Jan 1865 to Jan 1866]

[The transcript of this diary was published in the Historical Review, Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society (5:2-11 and 6:1-5).

We landed in Auckland the Capital of New Zealand on the 21st of January 1865. We marched from the quay to the Barracks. They were wood houses. There was no room in the wood houses for us so we had a tent pitched in the Barrack Square & three Blankets Served out to us. We could not sleep so well at night for with sleeping on the ground our blankets got full of dust & sand flyes. With the exception of having to sleep on the Ground I liked Auckland very well for it was a very Pleasant Place. The streets are broad & there was plenty of gardens to look at & Churches & Chapels to go to & the Public houses where Closed the whole of the Sabbath day.

While I was in Auckland I saw very few of the Maoris as the Natives of New Zealand are called. The first I saw he had a White Blanket thrown over his shoulders which came down to his heels. His colour was bronze & his look very determined. They go about Auckland selling fish & eels & peaches. They are tall well made & active people. On the 10 of February 1865 we went on board the Schooner Tauranga for Tauranga.

While we were sailing from Auckland to Tauranga we saw a few canoes full of natives. Their canoes are of different sizes. When they are in the water empty they Rock about the same as a Cradle & they look as if they would be up side down if anyone got into them they are so narrow. They lodk very well when they are full of men and women about 20 in a canoe all Paddling with their Short Paddles 10 on each side all Striking (together. They can soon Paddle their canoe a few miles. We landed in Tauranga on the 12 of February 1865. We formed our Regiment there. When we had all landed we were told off to different companies. When I got to the Room I was to stay in I took my belts & knapsack off & lay down on the top of one of the beds for I was tired for I had not had my clothes off for 4 days & 3 nights, I had only been off guard an hour when we got orders to go on board the Schooner & the first night we were on the Schooner it Rained & we had no where to shelter. I lay down on the deck to Sleep but I was so wet & cold that I could not sleep. So I got up and walked about. The next night the Sea was so Ruf that we could not sleep.

I felt very comfortable when I was laid on the top of the bed but I had not laid there long before I was disturbed by a man giving me a good shake & asking me if I wanted anything to eat. I said yes for I had had nothing since dinner & it had got about 8 o'clock at night. So he fetched me some hot coffee & dry Bread* While I was eating it the men were asking me questions about my voyage & where I came from & how they were going on in Ireland when I left there.

We had wood huts to live in. We had to make our own Brooms. We made them of Rushes out of the Swamps which were around Tauranga. There was not a dozen houses in Tauranga besides the houses belonging to the troops. Some of them were built of wood & covered with galvanised iron. Some of wood & some of mud & sods & thatched with Rushes which grew in the swamps.

There was a Missionary School at Tauranga but after the battles of Puke hina & Teranga it was made into a hospital for the wounded. We had Prayers read on Sunday by an old Church of England Missionary Named John Brown [Note here George has got the name wrong, he means Alfred Brown]. There was also a Roman Catholic Missionary who read the Prayers at the Catholics. They both had to read them in the open air for there was no Church or Chapel in Tauranga.. The Church of England Missionary had a good house to live in & a large garden round it well stocked with fruit trees. He had a native man servant. One of our guard tents was just outside his garden. The centry was placed there to see that no enimy came across the warter from the opposite shore for they could wade the warter when the tide was out. The Catholics paid their Priest 1d. Per month.

We had a lot of Natives Prisoners who had been taken in battle & it was no nice job to be on guard over them. We had two drams of rum allowed to drink every daiy one at 12 o'clock at noon & the other at 4 in the afternoon. There was a small graveyard in Tauranga where the Soldiers were buried that were killed at Pukehinahina & Teranga. Over each grave there was a piece of wood put up to answer as a head stone with the names of the men who were buried in the grave & their Regimental Number & the No. of the Regiment they belonged to, & the Place & date where they were killed at cut into the wood, & it was fenced round with Wood Railings.


[This section of the transcription was published in he Historical Review, Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society (6:1-6)]

We had no fighting while we were here but if the enemy were anywhere near we had to rise an hour before day light & stand under arms till day light with our rifles loaded & caped for instant action. It is the custom of the natives of New Zealand to alarm their enimies at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning when their enimies is hard asleep as they think. But when they came to the British troops they were met by a shower of Bullets & the steel bayonets instead of finding them asleep. When there was 6 or 7 hundred of us stood under arms we could have heard a clock tick all was so quiet & if any one struck a light he was entitled to fifty lashes.

We marched from Tauranga to Pukehinahina on the 7 day of April 1865. It was only 3 miles from Tauranga so we got there in about an hour. There was 50 of us & three officers. There was only 6 houses then at Puke hina hina. One of them was built of wood & covered with galvanised iron. The man that belonged to this was an old sailor. He kept a small stock of all kinds of goods that were wanted in a house for general use. One of the 6 was built of wood, it was the officers mess house. The other 4 was built of sods & thatched with rushes. 2 of them was occupied by 2 married men & their wlfes. One was built close to the store keepers house, & he used it for to sell us beer in at 10 Pence Per quart. The other sod house was occupied by a horse soldier. His duty was to go to Tauranga any time our Captain sent him either day or night.

We where in a redoubt in bell tents. There was 8 of us in the tent that I was in. Some of the tents had more men in them some less. The officers had each a tent to them Selves. We got 3 Blankets served out to us & an oil sheet. The oil sheet we spread on the ground to keep the damp from Striking up through the blankets & the oil sheet was useful to keep the blankets Clean as well as to keep them Dry. We dug a small trench Round the tents to keep the water from Running in. We had no table to eat of no chair to sit on. Our blankets where not white they were a Bark Brown colour. We rose about 6 o'clock in the morning Rolled up our Blankets & had to be out at drill at half past 6 for an hour. We paraded again at half past 10. We were then inspected & dismissed for the day. Private Soldier were on guard every third night. Us noncommissioned officers had 6 out of 8 nights in bed on the ground one of the 2 nights we were on guard the other on outline Picuet.

There was a noncommissioned officer & 9 Privates mounted guard every night at 6 o'clock. The day we were on guard we had to relieve the Centries every two hours & in the night time we had to see that all was right & that the Centry kept alert on their posts & to turn out the guard for inspection when the orderly officer came round once in the day time & once in the night.

The night we were on out line picquet there was one noncommissioned officer & 3 Privates. Our duty was to march Round the Redoubt every hour of the night when it was dark. It was a duty I never liked for all round as far as we had to go the land was covered with fern. Most of it was about 1 foot high & some of it was 3 or 4 feet high. When we marched round we had our rifles loaded & caped & our Bayonets fixed. If we came across an enemy your duty was to fire then Retreat to the Redoubt of we could. The out line Picquet was sent out so that the troops in the Redoubt should not be taken by surprise. It did not matter if they got killed if the other troops were alarmed in time to be ready for the enemy.

The Redoubt we was in was made by digging a trench about 8 feet wide & 6 feet deep. The dirt was all thrown up on to one side of the trench so that when it was finished if any one wanted to get into the Redoubt they had to jump down into the trench & then they had to climb up the other side of the trench which was 5 yards hight before they could get into the Redoubt. We had a wood bridge accross the trench to get into the redoubt that we could drop into the Redoubt. If an enemy attacked us we had two Rows of sand bags all Round the top of the Redoubt. They where about 2 feet long & between each bag there was a open space left for us to fire through. We had a foot path Round the inside of the Redoubt about 5 feet from the top of the Redoubt wall & 3 feet from the bottom of the Redoubt where our tents where pitched. There was 7 artillary men with us & they had one gun an 112 Pound Brutch loader.

We had to cook our vituals on a wood fire in large tin cans called Camp Kettles, We had nothing in the pottery line. All we had was our mess tins & a tin plate. We had our coffee in the morning to our Breakfast in our mess tins, then at 12 o'clock we had a Dram of Rum in it, at one o'clock we had our Broth in it, at 4 o'clock we had our tea in it. So, you see that we made very good use of our mess tins. We were allowed 12 ounces of beef or mutton per man a day 6 days in the week. Once a week we had either 12 ounces of Salted beef or Salted pork. The day we got salted meat we got 1 ounce of lime juice & 2 ounces of brown sugar. We put the lime juice & the sugar and aboutt half a gill of water & mixed them together, then it was ready for drinking. We had to drink the lime juice to Prevent us from having Scurvy. We got a pound & a half of Bread per man per Day & 1 pound of Potatoes.

2 or 3 days a week the natives used to bring us eels & fish & we gave them bread for them. They also Brought us Plenty of Peaches & in the honey season they brought us honey. We spread the honey on to our bread instead of butter & treacle. The natives where very fond of tobacco, men, women, boys & girls all used to smoke when they could get any tobacco so we gave them tobacco for their Peaches & honey & they were all very well satisfied. The natives who traded with us were what we called the civil natives. The clothes they wore were old clothes they had got from Europeans. The natives in their wild State wear no clothes, only to cover their nakedness. They are very dirty & lazey. Some of them cultivate the land & trades with the settlers who have emigrated to New Zealand, others Roam about tha Country living on what they can get by any means whether right or wrong & when they can get nothing else they live of fish eels & Bread that they make of fern roots. When it is made it as a dark gray Colour & a great deal courser than our course flour. All the houses I saw of the natives were very low & thatched with Rushes. I cannot say anything about their furniture for I never saw inside of their houses. I saw not even any thing to answer as a bed only the ground covered with rushes & fern.

Our Redoubt was on the top of a hill & all round as far as we could see their was no houses to be seen only a small native village & we had to cross an arm of the sea before we could get to it. We had strict orders not to go to this village but I went across once in a boat that we took without leave, belonging to our Captain. There was a small Missionary school there. It was going to ruin fast for the windows were broken and the grass was growing on the floor. It was built of wood and it had been very pretty inside once, for it was covered with different coloured Matterials all Plaited together the same as Basket work. The land was all in a wild uncultivated State as far as we could see but it was very rich. It was 3 or 4 feet deep of good soil and there was no stone in the land. At night there was generally 2 or 4 large fires to be seen lighted by the natives who were traviling about the country & if they were within a few hours walk of us we had to stand under arms an hour before daylight.

We had all our own clothes to wash and mend and every Saturday we cleaned out our tents and put fresh fern and rushes in them. We had Blue serge clothes to wear and a white Cap Cover to keep us from being Sun Struck. The Climate is warmer than ours and it is our winter when it is there Summer and our night time when it is there day time. One day I saw a man and a woman with their tongue in each others mouth and rubbing their noses together. I watched them a few minutes and then I asked one of our men what they meant by doing so. He told me that they always did so when they met any of their friends whom they had not seen for a long time and the longer they rubbed their noses together the better friends they where considered to be. When they were having their war dances they shout out as loud as they can and put out their tongue and there is no part of their eyes to be seen, only the white and they keep dancing round and making themselves look as ugly and frightful as they can. Some of the women wear green stones in their ears. Some of our officers bought a bit of the Green stone from the natives but they had to pay very dear for it. The men of New Zealand has their face tatoed when they are young. The women get tatoed on the face after they are married so it is very easy to know when they are married. There was no wild animals in New Zealand only Pigs So the offioers belonging to our Regiment to keep up their Practice of hunting, used to have what they called a Papper hunt. They cut out the Paper into little bits and one of them used to start off two hours before the others. He had two large bags full of bits of Paper and as he rode along he threw the bits of Paper out of the bags. Then the hunt had to find him.

I went down to Tauranga one day and the officers where having a shooting match. They were shooting at rats. There was a boundary line drawn round where the officers stood, with a Rat trap and a rat in it, and at a signal from the officers he opened the trap door & when the rat commenced to run the officer fired at it. If it got beyond the boundary line without being hit there were two men there to Pick them up who had been employed to catch them. There were a great deal of laughing for some of the rats were a long while before they would venture out of the trap.

We had a large dog with us at Puke hina hina. It belonged to four of the men. They used to catch wild Pigs with-it. The dog seased the Pigs by one of their ears & stuck fast untill one of the men killed the Pig, then the men sold it to the other men at 4d Per Pound. At Puke hina hina Butter was 4d per Pound, eggs 4 pence each, milk 8 pence per quart, and Bacon 1/6 per pound, Beef & Mutton about 6 Pence per Pound.

On the 12 day of October 1865 I was on guard & at tea time the orderly man came & asked me if I wanted any fried eels to eat & I said yes. Well he said come to our tent and get some. The tent I had charge of was only about 10 yards from the guard tent, so I went. I was away about 5 minutes and when I got back to the guard tent the orderly officer for the day was there, so he placed me under arrest and there was a non-commissioned officer placed over me, to take charge of me. My crime was absent from his guard at or about 5.15 p.m. the 12 day of October 1865. The next day I was taken before the Captain. He had a letter in his hand, he gave me a good Repremand about being so careless and then he said look here, showing me the letter he held in his hand, I got this letter this morning for your promotion to the Rank of a full Corporal but as you have missbehaved yourself you will miss your turn at promotion. When he told me I felt very sorry for my missconduct for I had lost 4 Pence per day besides my character. But I had got Out of it very easy for they could have given me fifty lashes besides reducing me to the Ranks.

I was promoted to the Rank of full Corporal on the 20th day of December 1865. We had 3 Pence more per day in New Zealand than we had on home service, so after I was made full Corporal I had 11 Pence per day clear money. Our beef and mutton came to Tauranga a ship load at once. When they were landed they were turned on to the land and there was a Butchers fatigue Party told of every day, 8 men and 1 Corporal, There was a large Place fenced round by a mud wall where the cattle were drove in and caught and killed. There was a bull killed one day and 8 sheep the next day. The fatigue party had to drive one of the bulls into the Place fenced Round, then it was shot and the Butchers assisted by the fatigue party Bled the bull and cut it up. The fatigue party the next day had to drive a lot of Sheep in and then had to catch 8 of them and carry them to the Butcher to kill.

For the first two months we were at Puke hina hina we had no women to look at except only 2 old women besides the natives. Then one of the married men had two of his daughters come to live with him. One of them was about 18 years old and the other 16. Their father was a Sargeant belonging to the militia of New Zealand. They were two Irish girls but very good looking and as they were the only young women within a dozen Miles of the Place they had plenty of admirers and applicants. When they had been there a few weeks there was two men came from Tauranga on horse back and each of them had a Spare horse with him. They learnt the young women how to ride on horse back and about 3 months after got married to them.

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