Memories of a mounted rifleman
As the 100th anniversary of WWI prepares to dawn, so too do the men, women and horses of the Mounted Rifles, who will be stationed at Kaikoura’s cenotaph for the Anzac Day dawn service.
And as the years go on, fewer and fewer memories are shared by those closest to the battlefields one century ago.
But in the quiet corners of Kaikoura’s history still remain connections to those men and horses, including Bill and Marge Ferry.
Up until the November earthquake the couple had a photo on display in their living room. It showed Bill’s father, William Augustine Ferry, on his horse in Palestine.
Known as Gus, he was born in 1888 in Dunedin but made his life as a jeweller in Blenheim before enlisting in the Canterbury Rifles in September 1914, aged 26, having previously trained with the Waikari Rifles.
With his horse and kit he travelled from Lyttleton to Egypt, the CMR joining other NZ Mounted Rifle Regiments, the Australian Light Horse and the British Troops for desert training.
By the end of that year Egypt was back in the hands of the Egyptians and the invading Turks were pushed north.
Gus was sent to Gallipoli without his horse — no one took their horse — and the war ended for him on August 7, 1915, when he was shot in the thigh and medivac-ed to the UK by sea.
Later he was sent to Egypt to recuperate before he was shipped home to New Zealand and discharged in October 1916.
He settled in Kaikoura and opened a shop, and as a jeweller by trade he proved popular with selling and repairing clocks and watches.
When WWII broke out another wave of New Zealand’s finest left to fight.
Gus joined the Civil Defence in Kaikoura and was part of the 24-hour surveillance team based at the lighthouse on the peninsula.
The following year he and several other Kaikoura men (Rusty Laidlaw the Commanding General, Jordy and Dick Broadhurst and Milo Parson to name a few) joined the Nelson Marlborough Mounted Rifles.
The Kaikoura branch would meet up for training camps and later moved to Spring Creek, Blenheim for the camps.
Because the new war was more mechanised than WWI and most of this mounted regiment were in their late 40’s and early 50’s they were referred to as the Hill Billies.
In spite of the label they were experienced horsemen who carried out effective beach patrols and acted as the local Home Guard.
Gus lived to 92. His son Bill is 89.
Bill and Marge Ferry share the memories of BIll’s father Gus Ferry.