Vol­un­teers back­bone of 1800s forces

Nelson Mail - - Travel -

This Waimea Ri­fle Vol­un­teers Uni­form jacket and hel­met, in the Nel­son pro­vin­cial Mu­seum’s col­lec­tion, be­longed to Percy Au­gus­tus Baigent (1868-1951), a mem­ber of the Waimea Ri­fles Vol­un­teer Corps. The vol­un­teers’ bright red uni­forms would have looked splen­did on pa­rade but would have been a li­a­bil­ity in the New Zealand bush.

Un­der the New Zealand 1858 Mili­tia Act, which cov­ered Bri­tish sub­jects [ men] aged 18-60 years, there was a clause that al­lowed for the for­ma­tion of vol­un­teer com­pa­nies. The mili­tia and vol­un­teers were to be the ba­sis of New Zealand’s de­fence, un­der var­i­ous acts, for many years.

The for­tunes of the vol­un­teer forces rose and fell over the years, with surges of mem­ber­ship dur­ing times of ten­sion such as the Taranaki Wars in 1860, the Rus­sianAn­glo war scare of 1885, and again in the later 1890s, cul­mi­nat­ing in the South African War of 1899 to 1902, and dur­ing the 1900s when in­ter­na­tional ten­sions es­ca­lated be­tween Euro­pean na­tions. The vol­un­teer and mili­tia forces were re­mod­elled by the De­fence Act 1910 and vol­un­teers were re­placed with ter­ri­to­rial forces.

We know quite a lot about Percy Au­gus­tus Baigent, the owner of this uni­form and ser­vice medal. He was the son of Al­fred and Sarah Baigent of Wake­field. He mar­ried Eva Evans in 1906 and they had seven chil­dren. They lived in the orig­i­nal ‘‘Ryvers­dale’’ homestead. Percy en­joyed al­low­ing pub­lic ac­cess to his land, now known as Baigent’s bush, which was a pop­u­lar pic­nic spot.

Percy joined the Waimea Vol­un­teer Ri­fles aged 22 years. He at­tained the rank of sergeant and was awarded the New Zealand Twelve Years Ser­vice medal in 1902. As well as the uni­form and medal, the mu­seum holds his pro­mo­tion notes, cer­tifi­cates, and col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphic neg­a­tives. Percy died at home in 1951.

To learn more about Nel­son’s involvemen­t in the Taranaki War, visit the Taranaki War 1860-2012 ex­hi­bi­tion cur­rently show­ing at the Nel­son Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum, on the cor­ner of Trafal­gar and Hardy Sts.

Source: The Nel­son Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum Col­lec­tion: DT1273.1 Source: Nel­son Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum col­lec­tion: DT660

Above: The jacket from the Waimea Ri­fles Vol­un­teer Uni­form. Right: ANZ Vol­un­teer 12-Year Ser­vice Medal.

Source: Nel­son Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum Col­lec­tion: DT1273.2

Above: This hel­met is from the Waimea Ri­fles Vol­un­teer Uni­form.

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