Canterbury Got A Military – 5th August 1859

On 5th August 1859, an upset crowd poured out of the Golden Fleece Hotel (the south eastern corner of Colombo and Armagh Streets) as the ranting of an ex-soldier disturbed what was meant to be a public meeting about forming Canterbury’s first volunteer militia. The second meeting didn’t go much better as the same soldier turned up with much more to say.

It was no surprise that the subject turned rather cold after these two failed attempts. It wasn’t until the following year that the subject was pushed again to the top of the list with the news of disturbances taking place between the Crown and the Maori in Taranaki. This conflict became known as the New Zealand War.

On 26th April 1860, a new meeting was held and successfully recruited forty volunteers. Although Canterbury felt no back lash of the troubles up north, the region wanted to be able to support the Crown by offering reinforcements. The loyalty of these volunteers was soon tested as they were expected to fork out £3 for their own uniforms. If that wasn’t enough, they were to also purchase their own ammunition.

On 13th September 1860, the Canterbury Volunteer Rifle Corps held their first muster. After gathering in Market Place (Victoria Square), a few hundred soldiers marched behind a brass marching band to Hagley Park to take part in training – even though they had been issued rifles yet. The rifles arrived in 1861.

Pictured here is a Canterbury soldier stationed with the 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles. He bravely poses for the camera before leaving to serve in the Boer War.

*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library –– File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02211

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