Monday, July 20, 2009

The senior citizen militiaman

1857, and Auckland was preparing in case there was trouble (which, in six years' time, indeed there was) by calling up the able-bodied to serve on citizens militia. This included 61 year old, near-sighted Benjamin Turner, who expressed his surprise in a letter to the Southern Cross.

To the Editor of the Southern Cross.

Sir, — You will excuse me asking advice, through your columns, how I should act in getting my discharge (with a good pension) from No. 4 Company of the New Zealand Militia. Yesterday evening, as I was lying on my sofa, groaning with pain, and thinking more about the next world than war, to my surprise I was served with a notice dated January 31, 1857, to inform me that my name was placed on the Militia roll of No. 4 Company by the Magistrates. I am sure they must be new chums of Magistrates, who don't know me, nor yet the duty of a soldier, to place a feeble, worn-out old man, turned 61 years of age, to be a soldier.

I am very near-sighted, and obliged to wear spectacles, which would be very dangerous if I should get shot in the eyes, — as the glass might blind my comrades. I am rather hard of hearing; I have only one hand that is of much use to me; and worse than all, bad teeth to nip the cartridges; and, if I was ordered by my officer to "bolt," it would be impossible for me to run, as it is a trouble for me to walk.

It is not because I am a coward (which I never was in my life) that I do not wish to be a soldier, nor because I have any dislike to the officers belonging to my said Company No. 4: quite different to that— I have so high an opinion of those gentlemen that I have no fear of their leading me into any danger against the enemy; and to make myself further secure, I will do all I can to stick close to their backs.

But now, Mr. Editor, if I am forced to be a soldier, and am posted opposite the Pound at Newmarket, I should very much like, along with my brother comrades, to get up a petition to his "soul of honour" the Superintendent, to have a blockhouse built at Newmarket, so that we could bolt into it when informed the enemy was coming, and let them pass on to Auckland, to No. 1 Company; and we will be ready for them, if there is no danger, when they come back.

Your Humble Servant (if required,)
Benj. E. Turner.
Newmarket, 24th March, 1857.

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