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Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion

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Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion
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Author(s): G. Hamilton-Browne (Maori Browne)
Date Published: 2012/04
Page Count: 216
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-861-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-860-6

Anecdotes of soldiers against the Maori tribes and in South Africa

The author of this book, sometimes known as ‘Maori Browne,’ had a long career as a colonial soldier. He left posterity with three books based either on his career or the experiences of men he knew. They focus on warfare as experienced by men like himself—tough, resourceful individuals who enjoyed fighting and were expert marksmen, horsemen and seasoned campaigners. Irrespective of who they were and where they fought Browne affectionately refers to them as the ‘Lost Legion’—those upon whose blood and toil the British Empire (in his opinion) was built but who received scant recognition, praise or reward for their sacrifices. Browne writes in the thoroughly entertaining and often amusing ‘gung-ho’ style of the Victorian Imperialist. He intends to ‘spin a good yarn’ and in that he succeeds magnificently, possibly ‘with advantages.’ Some doubt has been cast on Browne’s veracity since his own Maori War experiences as a despatch rider took place after the end of hostilities, however, to be fair to him, the principal figure in With the Lost Legion in New Zealand bears a fictional name though the contents are undoubtedly mostly factual. The anecdotal ‘yarns’ in Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion are also attributed to others. There can be no doubt about Browne’s Zulu War experiences however. He writes in the first person and was present as the British invaded Zululand. As an officer of the N. N. C. Browne was present at Isandlwhana camp both before and after the battle and took an active role in the campaign making his a genuine ‘first hand’ voice of the period. For those interested in the wars of the Queen Empress all three of Browne’s books are available from Leonaur in a complementary set.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Nearly all the Mohaka warriors were absent, and the garrison of the Huke Pah consisted of six men and a large number of women and children. One of the defenders, however, named Heta, was a grand specimen of a Maori warrior, and under his influence they kept the Hau Haus at bay all that day and night, and might have held out, had not Te Kooti resorted to stratagem and by a foul piece of treachery succeeded in entering the works early the following morning, when he caused every living being, regardless of sex and age, to be massacred in cold blood.<br>
He then turned his attention to the other pah, Hiruharama, which was garrisoned by only ten men, but also contained many women and children. Here he again tried treachery, but this time failed, as the defenders had seen what had happened at Huke and were determined to die fighting. He therefore had to commence to sap up to the palisades, which were old and rotten, but the nature of the ground, very hard limestone, delayed him.<br>
It was now that Trooper George Hill chipped in and took a hand.<br>
Te Kooti’s lightning raid had been well conceived and brilliantly carried out, but luck was decidedly in his favour, as unfortunately it so chanced that the officers in charge of the safety of Hawke’s Bay district were on the whole a very poor lot, as far as efficiency went. Many of the regular Colonial officers had been killed or rendered hors de combat during the previous twelve months, the remainder were with the Field Forces at the front, so that the duty of guarding the settlements was left in the hands of the militia or volunteer officers, and these were quite unfit to cope with Te Kooti.<br>
They had plenty of good men, both friendly natives and volunteers, with a sufficiency of Armed Constabulary (the Colonial Regulars) to give them backbone, but the officers (unfortunately) considered discretion to be the better part of valour and mistook timidity for prudence, so much so that they missed their chance and covered themselves with something like disgrace. At Te Wairoa the O.C. had at his disposal 50 mounted men, 25 of whom were Armed Constabulary, splendidly trained and mounted, the other 25 armed settlers, all good men. He also had 200 friendly natives, and the whole of these men were simply spoiling for a fight.<br>
With one half of them he could have saved the Huke Pah, and cut up the Hau Haus, very many of whom had sacked the public-house and were lying about dead drunk; but he did nothing, for on receipt of the news, which was quickly confirmed, and although he was quite aware of the weakness of the pah’s garrison, he asserted he still had doubts as to the truth of his information and only despatched Trooper George Hill, of the Armed Constabulary, to see if Te Kooti was really playing high jinks at the Mohaka.<br>
Trooper Hill left Te Wairoa, on horseback, and rode in the direction of the Mohaka. About halfway he met two mounted settlers, Lamplough and Burton, who, having heard of Te Kooti’s advent, were doing a scout on their own; these men at once offered to accompany him, and did so. On reaching the vicinity of the Mohaka they dismounted, tied up their horses and crept up a ridge from which they could observe the place. From this point of vantage they could see the Huke Pah, with the flag still flying, and also the puffs of smoke from the rifle pits of the enemy, so that they were fairly able to judge the number of the attackers and locate the positions they occupied.<br>
As there could now be no longer any doubt that Te Kooti and his gang were on the warpath. Trooper Hill, leaving the two settlers, both of them good men, on the ridge to observe the enemy, mounted his horse and returned towards the camp as fast as he could get his horse to go. Unfortunately his horse knocked up, but just then he met three of his comrades, who had been sent out to look for him. Despatching one of them to Te Wairoa with his report. Hill and the other two men, Tew and Mitchell, returned to Mohaka. Here they tied up their horses and joined the settlers on the ridge, so as to keep the enemy under observation and be able to supply the O.C. of the relieving force with information.<br>
Of course the A.C. troopers never doubted that a relieving force would be sent at once, probably wondered why there was not one on the job already; but they were not accustomed to militia officers. Their own officers had no use for timidity, and regarded prudence and discretion as very good horses only to be trotted out at long intervals; anyhow, not one of the men on the ridge would have believed an angel, had he informed them that no relieving party would be sent at all.<br>
The five men remained on the ridge till after dark, and then descended to the flat where they had tied up their horses. They had, however, been guilty of an act of folly, insomuch that they had not left one of their number in charge of their mounts, for on reaching the place where they had left them tied up they found one of them had broken his tether rope and had levanted. As it was necessary to find the brute, Hill and Tew started away on foot to do so, each man taking his own line of search. The other men, instead of remaining quiet, waited a few minutes, then mounted their horses and rode over the flat to assist in the hunt. While doing so, in the pitch darkness, they stumbled over Tew and foolishly challenged him in Maori. He promptly answered with a carbine shot that killed Lamplough’s horse.
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