Thursday, August 29, 2013

Avondale's "Squadron" military camps 1908 and 1910

All credit due to a heritage researcher at Auckland Council, who has found references in Paper's Past to what was the first of Avondale's military camps on the racecourse in 1910, one of the last "squadron" camps before the formal organisation of the territorials under the 1909 Defence Act. The "A" Squadron First Regiment Auckland Mounted Rifles camped on the Avondale Racecourse from 7-12 November 1910, nearly a year after the Act, just months before Colonel Alexander John Godley was appointed commandant of the territorials in 1911, and two years before the camp I wrote about in They Trained Beside The River.
"A"Squadron First Regiment Auckland Mounted Rifles, went into camp on the Avondale racecourse on Saturday. At present about 75 men are under canvas. On Sunday morning church parade was held, and in the afternoon a large number of friends visited the camp. On Monday morning the squadron was inspected by Lieut.-Colonel Holgate. Lieut-Colonel Carolan is medical officer in charge of the camp. The squadron will hold their annual sports on Saturday next. A large programme is provided, and some interesting contests should ensue. All friends of the members of the squadron are invited. After the sports camp will lie broken up.
 NZ Herald 9 November 1910

The Lt.-Col Carolan may have been Dr James Frederick Carolan, one of our early GPs here in Avondale, and just before he moved to Matamata.

Two years earlier, there was another "Squadron" camp, partly using "Mr Stow's paddock" at Avondale from 7-14 November 1908. This was Robert Stow's land, a Victoria Street businessman in the city. He owned around 4 acres of land on the north side of Walsall Street (roughly 2-18 Walsall Street) from 1900 until he started to subdivide in 1910. (Deeds Index 14A.817)
"A"' Squadron First Regiment A M Rifles, 35 strong, under Captain Potter and Lieutenants Atkinson and Holden, started their trek camp and annual training at Mr Stow's paddock, Avondale, on Saturday last, and the results should be most successful. Camp was struck on Monday morning at five a.m., and a couple of hours later the squadron moved off to Henderson, where they pitched camp again for the night. Yesterday morning a move was ordered to the coast, where it is intended to spend a couple of days, and then trek back home, arriving at Avondale on Saturday next. All ranks are training under strict service conditions, only the tents and a few cooking utensils being transported by waggon. A pleasant surprise awaited the members of the squadron on Saturday night after everything had been made snug. The ladies of Avondale, led by Mesdames Carolan and Potter, had arranged a social evening for the members in tho Public Hall, and some 40 ladies attended to entertain their guests. The evening was started with progressive euchre, and at 10 pm a most excellent supper was partaken of, after which dancing was indulged in until it was well-nigh midnight. The whole evening was most enjoyable, and much appreciated by all ranks. On Sunday morning a church parade was held at St Jude's, the Rev T J Parry preaching an appropriate sermon. On Sunday afternoon tho squadron was "At Home" to friends, and a good number visited the camp. Among the visitors were Major Carolan, medical staff, and Captain H C Nutsford, adjutant of the regiment.

NZ Herald 11 November 1908

The Squadron Camps were part of the defence scheme which was first put forward during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, in 1900. Squadrons were military units of cavalry used during that war, set up under restructuring of the volunteer forces as far back as 1882.

With respect to the formation of an Imperial reserve, your committee recommend that the following provisions shall apply: —It shall be open to all officers and men belonging to the ordinary volunteer corps to become efficient in both services, and to enlist for three years in the reserve. The officers and men so enlisting shall receive a fixed sum of £5 per annum as a personal payment on being certified as efficient, and shall be required to go into camp at stated periods for, say, two weeks in each year: the drills in camp as a volunteer to count as part of the said two weeks.
NZ Herald 28 September 1900

The Mounted Rifles are a very fairly efficient body of men, and are of excellent material. The majority of corps go into camp for seven whole days annually, and derive very great benefit therefrom, but owing to their civil occupations these camps are for the most part held in the winter months, and the bad weather then experienced much interferes with their training. Their training too is carried out under greater difficulties than in any other branch of the Defence Forces. The men are good horsemen, and their horses, though not showy, are for the most part hardy and serviceable; the stamp of horse too is improving. The recruiting of corps over too large an area is to be discouraged; it entails bad attendance and consequent inefficiency. Those men, too, who are irregular attendants at parade should not be retained; they cannot be properly trained, and consequently are of no value to the State, and are detrimental to the corps they belong to; this remark applies to all branches.

"Report of the Defense Forces of New Zealand" by Major-General J M Babington,
AJHR 1906 H-19

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