Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 12, October 1969
By C. W. MALCOLM, B .A.
The No.1 Ohinemuri Rifles was formed on 16th June, 1897 at Paeroa. In 1898, together with the Te Aroha, Karangahake, Waihi, Coromandel, and Onehunga groups the Ohinemuri Rifles were incorporated into the Second Battalion Auckland Rifle Volunteers. The first Commanding Officer was Major Thomas Nepean Edward Kenny (late 73 Royal Highlanders and 23 Royal Welsh Fusiliers). A well-respected, soldierly figure in Paeroa, George Roland Bradford, formerly of the famous Coldstream Guards, was appointed Battalion Sergeant-major on 27th January, 1899. In that year the integrity of the British Empire was threatened by the growing antagonism of the Boers in South Africa. Anticipating war, volunteers enlisted to be ready if the worst happened.
In Paeroa the names of six men stood on the list: Avery, Bradford, Hubbard, McPherson, Shaw, and Tetley. War came! They assembled. McPherson was the farthest off, sleeping in his bunk at Waitekauri, where he was awakened by a messenger who had led a horse there for him to ride through the night, arriving in Paeroa with the dawn to join his waiting companions. By long train journey (in those days) to Auckland. By boat from Onehunga, and so to Wellington where the First Contingent was assembling with their horses for the sea voyage to Cape Town. The use of horses in war is, of course, a thing of the past, but not the least of the miseries of these noble beasts was the frightful sea-sickness that assailed them on their long journey to the Cape. They sailed on 21st October, Trafalgar Day,1899.
On 18th December, 1899, Bradford mounted horse to ride to battle at Jasfontein. I have heard my late uncle, Trooper William McPherson, and the late P. R. Hubbard say that, excellent soldier that he was, Bradford was no expert horseman. Hubbard it was who, on that fatal morning, assisted Bradford to the saddle and bade him good-bye and good luck. Wounded in the battle, Bradford fell into the hands of the Boer's. Had he been a more skilled rider he might perhaps have made good his escape and received better medical attention in his own lines. Who can say? In captivity, he died of his wound and was buried by alien hands in an unmarked grave in a foreign land. He was the first from any of the Colonial Contingents to give his life for the Empire.
His monument, until recently wrecked by vandal hands, stood in tribute on Tuikairangi (Primrose Hill, Paeroa) for many years since its unveiling at the turn of the century by the Right Hon. Richard John Seddon, P.C., LL.D., the Prime Minister of New Zealand who has gone down in History as "King Dick". It bears the inscription: This fountain was erected by Public subscription in memory of George Roland Bradford Sgt. Major Second Battalion (Hauraki) Infantry Volunteers who died of wounds received at Jasfontein - South Africa, 18th December, 1899.
"A Soldier and a Man".
Since Mr. Malcolm wrote the above article and accompanying poem, the Bradford Memorial has been restored by the Paeroa Borough Council. The large top ornamental section had been smashed beyond repair so this was replaced by a specially selected stone, donated by Mr. C. Bradford, from the "White Rocks" Karangahake.
On Anzac Day this year when a Service was held at the adjacent Cenotaph a wreath was laid at 'the Bradford Memorial by Mr. Fred Hubbard M.C. whose late brother 'Dick' had also served during the Boer War. (Editor)
The cenotaph in Whitehall stands
Where wreaths are placed by Royal hands
Midst mournful music of her bands
Rememb'ring men in far-flung lands
Who heard the Empire call.
In London's heart the Abbey lies
And St. Paul's dome lifts to the skies
Its golden cross of sacrifice
Recalling men who paid the price
Who heard the Empire's call.
At sacred shrines we homage pay
To mighty Empire passed away !
At sunset of her glorious day
Honouring men of noble clay
Who heard the Empire call.
A forlorn fountain on a hill
Recalls us to our homage still –
To Bradford who, of his free will,
Answered the trumpet sounding shrill
That was the Empire's call.
Briton and Boer in War arrayed.
Across the veld in conflict swayed;
He rode to battle unafraid,
And fell in combat, undismayed –
For 'twas the Empire's call
And he the first to fall
In answer to her call