George Brier My Travels in NZ and home again 1864- 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 and Home Again

[1864 - 1866]

[The transcript of this diary was published in the Historical Review, Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society (7: 11-17]

In my last account of my travels in New zealand I finished by giving you an account of how we were situated at Pukehina-hina. I shall now give you a short account of how we fared after leaving Pukehinahina.

After we had got our dinner on the 24 of February 1866, we got orders to strike our tents and pack them up ready for carrying away on the bullock cart. It was drawn by four bulls and they were slow travilers. I had often noticed their speed while I was at Tauranga and they always seemed to go at one speed whether they were going up the hill or down the hill or crossing a River or Swamp. When we got all the tents ready for carrying away we packed our things into our knap sack, put our belts and knapp sack on and took our rifle and waited, outside the Redoubt ready for a company of the 12 Regiment who had come to relieve us.

Marching into the Redoubt we then marched off to Tauranga. There we Joined 5 more companies of our Regiment who were all ready for going on board a Steamer which was waiting for us. It was called the Ladybird. When we had all got on board with our luggage it was about 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Some of the civil natives that we had traded with were on the Shore watching us off.

After we had got out to sea the Pilate left us. The evening was a very fine one so we had pleasant sailing. The steamer was only a small one so we had to pass the night as best we could with our clothes on, for there was not bunks sufficient for half of us. I was sea sick for a few hours during the night but with walking about I soon got over it. I had a very good appetite for my Breakfast the following morning which we got before 7 o'clock in the morning, some dry Bread and Coffee which tasted as sweet as honey to me. We got into Auckland harbour about 8 o'clock in the morning and landed about 9 o'clock in the morning of the 22 day of February 1866.

When we had all landed we-marched to Albert barracks, and when we got into the Barrack Square we halted and took off our Knack sacks. After we had got our dinner we got orders to pile all our knap sacks together. The Colonel who had given this order had been thinking as we all had been thinking that as the sun was so very hot it was too much for any man to march 9 miles with a full Kit on his back, so the knack sacks were taken by horses.

At 1. o'clock we started on the march from Auckland to Otahuhu. As we marched along we could see the settlers houses scattered about and their land well cultivated and a few of the Richer Class had large gardens round their houses well stocked with fruit trees especially Peaches and apples.

We got to Otahuhu at 5 o'clock. The houses we had to live in were made of wood. In the centre of each house was a space about 2 yards wide, the whole length of the room. It was neither flagged nor boarded, nothing but the bare ground to stand on. Each side of the Room 2 yards wide and 2 feet above the ground, was,boarded the whole length Of the Room. This was our bed and it answered also for our table and chairs. We had two sheets and two blankets and 1 Rug. It was a very hard bed and the blankets were well stocked with sand flyes so it was very seldom we got above two or three hours rest during the night time. Every time we wanted to wash ourselves we had to go a quarter of a mile down to the sea shore.

We had come to Otahuhu to wait for the ship getting ready to take us home. The Colonel we had over us was a yrant. He had us out at drill at half past 5 O'clock in the morning in heavy marching order for 2 hours. Then we paraded again in the afternoon and some times he gave us three or four hours in the heat of the sun and he took a delight in seeing men flogged. He would tell the men who were flogging that they were not striking hard enough. The last two men I saw flogged was on the morning of the 1 day of March 1866. One of them was flogged for being drunk. When they are going to be flogged they are tied to a Triangle, that is pieces of wood about three yards long each of them. They meet together at the top and are spread out at the bottom. The man who is going to be flogged had his boots and socks and trousers on. His hands are tied to the top of the triangle and his legs are tied to the bottom, one to each side leg of the triangle. All the soldiers who are not on duty stand round the triangle with their bayonets fixed. The doctor and a Colonel stands on one side, the bugle major and the two men who is going to flog the man stands on the other side. When all is ready the Bugle major counts 25 in slow time and every time he speaks the man strikes until he had counted 25. Then the other man takes the whip and the bugle major counts another 25. After the man has got flogged he has his back washed with salt and water.

All the time I was at Otuhuhu I had a little Diarraha and I could eat very little. I got very thin and weak so one morning I put my name in the Sick Report. When I got to the Doctor I was a little excited so my Pulse beat quick and my face was red. When he had felt my Pulse and looked at me he told me that I was sceaming and that there was nothing the matter with me. When he told me I felt my blood warm but I dare not say anything. I went out to drill the following morning. When I got back to the hut I lay down on the top of the wood bed. It was a good while before I had strength to Rise up again.

The next dayn we had General Inspection before going on board Ship. We were inspected by General Schute. We were formed a strait line front and rear rank. I was in the rear rank. There was one band in the centre and the bugle band was in two lots, one at each end. When the general came to inspect us we got the word to Present arms and has he commenced to inspect us the band at that end played the General salute and has he got nearer the other commenced to play the General salute and has he got nearer the other end the other played the same. When they got to where I was trembling from head to foot they stopped and looked at me. I expected being placed under arrest but they passed on and said nothing. We marched from Otahuhu to Auckland on the 12 day of March 1866. When we had got about 2 miles from Otahuhu I heard the Sargeant Major calling out my name. So I fell out and went to him. He gave me orders to take charge of a man who had fallen out and said that he could march no further until he had had a rest. I had to get him along the best way I could the remainder of the way to Auckland which was 7 miles. We sat down on the side of the road and watched the troops march past. When the baggage guard came up to us the sargeant wanted to know what we were doing there. I told him. He said come along with us I will carry your rifle, another said I will carry your knap Sack, two more said they would carry his belts. He got up and marched about half a mile then he sat down. The baggage guard left him what they had been carrying for him and marched on and left us behind them.

I felt very uneasy for I could not tell how to get him along. After resting a bit further I carried his rifle and we went a bit further. Then he stopped again. It was only 1 o'clock in the morning but still I thought that we should never get to Auckland before dark. We had not been stopped long before a man came past with 2 horses and 2 carts. He said he was going to within a mile walk of Auckland and he gave us leave to ride. The soldiers had halted at some houses on the way side, to drink, so we rode past them. When we got out of the cart after riding 5 miles we waited for the troops coming. When they got to us we took our places again and marched with them to Auckland down to the quay.

While we were waiting ready for to go on board Ship we saw plenty of men who had emigrated out to New Zeland to better themselves if they could. There was not work in Auckland for all of them and with the country being in an unsettled state they were afraid to go where they could get work, so there was scores of them half starved for want of food. One of them said he would give one of his ears of he could get to England by doing so. When we had all got on board the ship we were told off into messes and divided into three watches.

We set sail for England on the 15 day of March 1866 in the sailing ship Percy. We had 4 hours on watch and 8 hours off. Duty while on watch was to assist the sailors to pull the ropes. When we were pulling the ropes one of the sailors was singing a song and when he got to a certain word in the song we used to pull all together. Their chief song was

Haul away the bowling, our ship she is a rolling, haul away the bowling, haul away Joe.

Every time he got to the word Joe we pulled the rope. In the morning watch from 4 till 8 O'clock we had to wash the deck and bullworks with salt water and to keep the deck clean during the day time.

We had all our own clothes to wash twice a week. All Noncomissioned officers who were in charge of messes had to send a certificate every Monday and Thursday morning certifying that all the men in their mess had changed their shirts and socks that morning.When the weather was very cold neither the noncomissioned officers nor the men liked to wash their clothes for we had to have them washed before 7 o'clock in the morning. Just fancy getting up out of a warm hammock and going on deck to wash your clothes. When you have got them half washed over comes a wave and wets you to the shins and you have no more clothes to put on. Then you would do as we did. That is wear your shirt a fortnight if you could.

One morning after the certificates had gone to the colonel he sent for all of us noncommissioned officers, and when we got to the poop he said — Where are the mens clothes you have certified has been washed this morning? There should have been two or three hundred hung out to dry but there was not 5. He said you know the punishment I could give you for telling me lies and not doing your duty. I could reduce you to the Ranks and give you 50 lashes besides, but I will look over it this time, but if it occurs again I shall give you the full punishment. We thought he would keep his word so we did our duty afterwards.

One night when I was on watch from 8 to 12, at 10 o'clock the Captain was relieved by the 1st mate. The captain went to his bunk to sleep for the night, but he could not sleep. He was so much troubled that he got up and looked at Ms chart and where ne was at 12 o'clock at noon, when he looked at the sun with an instrument he had for the purposs of telling him by looking at the sun with it what part of the globe the ship was in. Then he looked at the direction we had been sailing since noon and the speed we had been sailing at. We had & strong steady 3 quarter Breese and the ship was going at the rate of 18 miles per hour. When he had reckoned all up according to his Reckoning we were sailing direct for a large rock and in 15 minutes more the ship would have struck the rock and gone to the bottom so he came running on deck and called ahout ship.

There was something in his voice which made us all quick to the ropes, and in less than 5 minutes we were sailing in the opposite direction. This was the work of God, my young friends, to save us from a watery grave. Some of us felt thankful to God for his loving care for us, others cursed and swore at the Captain's Neglect as they called it. On the morning of the 8 day of June 1866 we saw land. It turned out to be a large mountain in the western islands. We could see it right above the clouds.

Soon after dinner the captain signaled for a Pilate. He came in a little boat and when he got to the Ship he called out, what is your cargoe? The Captain said, gold. We looked at each other when he said gold, for none of us knew that there was any gold in the Ship. Where are you from? New Zealand. Where are you bound for? England. Then he came on board and took command of the ship until we got into the harbour of the town of Fayal in the Azores Islands and we cast our anchor in 80 fathom of water. The Pilate then asked the Captain if he had a Certificate from the Doctors of Auckland certifying that there was no fever in Auckland when he left there. The Captain had no certificates to show the Pilate, so he ordered him to hoist his yellow flag as a signal that there was fever on board, when we were all well and hearty except two or three who were sick. When the yellow flag was hoisted on a ship there was no one allowed to go on shore. The officers begged hard of the Pilate to let them go on shore hut he stood firm to these laws. They brought us fresh meat and vegetables and fresh water and coals and all colours of birds and other things for sale. If any of the officers tried to get into their boats they pushed them off from the Ship. The officers and captain were so enraged because they could not go on shore that we weighted anchor the following morning and left the place.

One Sunday morning while the senior officer was reading the Prayers to us we could see 6 whales. It was a pleasant sight. They moved like a way boke of a ingine. First their head went down into the water, then we could see their backs, then their tails and when their heads came up again they sent the water right up into the air like a fountain.

We sailed into Plymouth Sound on the 24 day of June 1866, sailed out again on the 25, sailed into Spithead on the 27 of June. While we lay in Spithead we could see Asbourne House in the Isle of Wight. We landed in Portsmouth on the 30 day of June 1866 after being on board 110 days.

We marched to Clarence Barracks. While I was at Portsmouth I went on guard over men who hac been transported. There was then about 11 hundred of them in Portsmouth. Soon after 7 o'clock in the morning they marched out of their prison into the dock yard to work. There was about 20 of them in a gang and a keeper to each gang. As they marched past me I saw that some of them had one side of their dress one colour and the side another colour. I asked the reason for this. I was told they had done something wrong while they had been in prison and were marked so that anyone could tell them. I saw others that had chains up each leg and round the waist. This was for trying to run away from Prison, I got my discharge on the 5 day of September 1866 and I went from Portsmouth to London that night. I stayed in London all night and I came home on the 6 day of September 1866 and so ended my travels.

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George Brier My Travels in NZ and home again 1864- 1866 by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License