a family story

John Roxborogh

Effie's Father : Corporal Edward Walker

The 65th Regiment, 2nd Yorkshire North Riding in New Zealand
1846 - 1865

Edward Walker, father-in-law to Donald and Alexander McKenzie, was enlisted for the 70th Regiment in the British Army on 11 June, 1845 and later was transferred to the 65th Regiment of Footes.

          In the mid 1840s there was unrest in the young colony of New Zealand and a call was made for more British troops to assist with maintaining law and order. The 65th Regiment was dispatched forthwith.

          This was also a period of forced emigration for the thousands of Britons who, convicted of crimes, were condemned to serve their sentences in the Colony of New South Wales. Whereas many troops from the 65th Regiment were assigned guard duty on the convict ships transporting these poor unfortunates to Australia Edward Walker was selected to come with the Regimental Headquarters. This contingent of 500 men sailed on the Java.

          It was fully three weeks before Teneriffe, the first port of call, was reached. The Java and its company then faced a long voyage under trying mid-winter conditions in the Southern Hemisphere. It took 17 more hazardous weeks before they arrived at Hobart Town, Tasmania. From there it was another 10 days to Sydney Australia. Barely had the men become accustomed to being on land again than a group of them had to set sail for New Zealand. On 21 November, 1846, when only 19 years of age, Edward landed at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands, and took up duty at the Wakapu Post.

           It was only a few months prior to the arrival of the 65th detachment that conditions at the post had been such that Major Cyprian Bridges, the commander, had recorded in his diary: "My men were getting sickly for want of proper quarters and covering since the wet weather commmenced." Some stores were hired at Wakapu and the men were made more comfortable. Thick bush had to be cleared in the surrounding area and a start made on the erection of Field Work for the proper defence of the post. This was still incomplete when the 200 foot soldiers landed.

          For the next 19 years the Royal Tigers, or the Hickety-Pips ,as Maori called them, served throughout the North Island. Their distinctive uniforms and their bearing set them apart wherever they were stationed. They policed and protected settlements, engaged in skirmishes and then in the 1860s fought in major battles, including those at Rangiriri, Orakau and Gate Pa.

          To honour those of both races who fell at Orakau and at Rangiaohia the officers and men of the Regiment placed two tablets in St John's Church, Te Awamutu. One of these is in  Maori while the other is in English.

          By 1865 the soldiers were discharged with gratuities, some to settle in New Zealand while others returned to Britain.

          The New Zealand Medal was awarded to Corporal Edward Walker following his service in Taranaki in the 1850s. In addition he was in possession of four good-conduct badges when discharged.

          A New Zealand Medal is on display in the Waiouru Military Museum.