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.

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