Topic: Militiaz - New Zealand
New Zealand Militia and Volunteers
THE SKELETON ARMY
The following article about the New Zealand volunteers proves the supposed Napoleonic adage that an "Army marches on its stomach." The Volunteers from the Wellington region drafted in to perform ceremonial duties during the visit of the Duke of Cornwall found their conditions unacceptable. Tea that tasted like cabbage water, rancid meat and stale bread let alone no fodder for their horses was a recipe for mutiny.
THE SKELETON ARMY
[From: The Adelaide Advertiser, 1 July 1901, p. 6.]
The transcription of the article follows:
INCIDENTS IN NEW ZEALAND.
THE MILITARY SCANDAL. THE SKELETON ARMY.
The jarring note of the festivities during the reception of the Duke of Cornwall in the capital city of New Zealand was the scandal in connection with the treatment of a number of visiting volunteers. The very heavy rain which had fallen had con- verted Newton Park, where the men were encamped, into a quagmire. Several inches of mud ano water were on the surface of the park, and 'the moisture found its way through into the tents, soaking the straw beds and belongings of the men, and making them very unhappy. Several deputations of men complained of insufficiency of accommodation and lack of food, and said that their horses were practically starving, there being a lack of fodder and water for their use. When the men went to get some hot water to make tea there was none avail- able, the supply having been cut off. When they informed the officer in command that unless they were adequately provisioned they would have to leave camp he threatened them with pains and penalties.
One trooper declared "you had to scramble for what you got; it was served in dirty dishes, the tea was like cabbage water, and the whole thing was-ugh! let me go home!" One of the officers, who had seen service with our contingents in South Africa, is reported to have said that in the whole of his experience at the 'front he had never put in such a week as this just passed at Newtown Park. "Hungry we often were when at the front," because there was no food," He remarked, "but when we did get food it was cooked, not sent to us half cooked." . One trooper said he wouldn’t; have minded the treatment so much if it only concerned himself, but when it came to starving his horse "it was time to squeak". He added that he had bad to go into town and buy a feed for 'his horse, as well as for himself.
Undeterred by the terrors of militarism, a "skeleton army" of men in uniform actually paraded the streets of Wellington, carrying some stale bread and questionable meat upon a pole, a board above which bore the significant legend, "Our Rations."
The bearer of the pole attracted much attention, and quite a procession was formed, which, amid much cheering and groaning, passed not only along the main streets, but through the streets around Government House. Four troopers were noticed taking a prominent part in the head of the procession, and their demonstrations (says the Wellington "Post") gave the affair an importance which otherwise would not have been attached to the demonstration.
In the morning the proceedings took a serious turn. Colonel Penton (Commandant of the forces) ordered a parade of the troops. He addressed them in severe tone upon the subject of "last night’s disgraceful proceedings." The action of the four troopers who took part in the procession, he said, had brought disgrace upon the whole of the proceedings of the week. It was the most disgraceful thing that had happened in the whole of the colonies, and it was deeply painful that it should have happened when the representative of the King was with us. An example must be made of the men who had been the cause of the scandal, and he (Colonel Penton) looked to the officers to find out those men and bring them before him for punishment. It was also to be regretted that the men should have aired their grievances to the press. Finally the Colonel said he laid the whole blame upon the officers. "You should have seen to the complaints of the men, found out what was wanted, and by remedying them, prevented this disgrace.'
Colonel Sommerville, who was in charge of the camp, was understood to say that he had tried his best to get the bad condition of affairs remedied, but without success. The officers then dispersed, some muttering unutterable things, and went along the ranks of their companies, seeking the names of "the four." Some of the men laughed outright when the question was put to them, and the officers had to report that no names were procurable.
Then Colonel Penton addressed himself to the whole of the troops. He commenced by saying that up till that time the men had borne their hard lot like soldiers, but by the action of four "infernal cowards" the whole regiment had been disgraced. There were in the ranks, he said, some "infernal curs" Who were not men enough to step forward and own up, so as to save the good name of their comrades. "You four curs," exclaimed the Colonel, "who have spoilt the whole show, had not the pluck to come out, but you go and make a disgraceful scene when the son of your King is present in the city. In my regiment if any of the men had done as these four have done their comrades would have given them a jolly bad time."
At this interesting point of the proceedings Colonel Penton, who was addressing the men with a great deal of warmth, observed a representative of a newspaper, who was standing some little distance away, on the footpath,-taking a note. The Colonel paused, and in a stentorian voice, called to the pressman, "Will you leave here, please?" And the pressman withdrew out of earshot. The colonel then continued to address the troops for a few minutes, after which the men were dismissed to their quarters.
Citation: New Zealand Militia and Volunteers, THE SKELETON ARMY