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South African War Records now on Archway

April 23, 2010

Details of the first New Zealander to be killed in overseas conflict can be viewed on Archives New Zealand’s website http://archway.archives.govt.nz.
Private George Roland Bradford from the First Contingent of New Zealand Mounted Rifles died on December 28 1899 from wounds received in a clash near Arundel, 10 days earlier during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War of 1899-1902.
Born in Sussex, England in 1870 Bradford served in the Grenadier Guards before immigrating to New Zealand in 1895. He settled near Paeroa where he worked as a labourer and served as Battalion Sergeant Major in the local Volunteer unit, the Ohinemuri Rifles. In 1899 he resigned from the volunteers and enlisted with No 1 Company, First Contingent, New Zealand Mounted Rifles.

Bradford was wounded in action during the New Zealand Army's first ever overseas combat action on 18 December at Jasfontein Farm, Cape Colony. He died of his wounds 10 days later.
 

Second New Zealand Contingent marching through the streets of Wellington. Archives New Zealand ref:PC4 17/00/08

The personnel records of the first and second contingents of New Zealand Mounted Rifles have been digitised and made available online through Archway, Archives New Zealand’s online search engine in time for ANZAC Day this year. The details of all 10 contingents who served in the South African War will be online by ANZAC Day 2011.
 
The First Contingent of NZMR departed left Wellington for South Africa on 21 October 1899. This was the first time New Zealand forces served overseas.
 
The troops arrived in South Africa on 23 November 1899 and fought alongside other forces from Great Britain. Historical accounts report the New Zealanders excelled in action gaining recognition for their bravery. This included a gallant bayonet charge during an advance on Colesburg in January 1900 which added a new place name - New Zealand Hill to the locality.
 
The New Zealanders were the first to relieve Kimberley on 16-17 February 1900; on 21 February they were part of the First Cavalry Brigade which moved out after Cronje’s retreating Boer army. They also took part in battles at Driefontein (March 10), Koornspruit (March 31), the fall of Johnanesburg (May 29), the fall of Pretoria (June 5), the relief of Baden-Powell at Rustenburg (August 5), the occupation of Barberton (September 15) and the battle of Rhenoster Kop (November 29) where six were killed and 21 wounded.
 
Later in the war NZMR contingents were involved in battles against the Boer generals De La Rey, Botha and De Wet in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boers signed the conditions of surrender on May 31 1902.
 
Lieutenant Robert McKeich (9th Contingent NZMR) was the last New Zealand casualty of war. He was killed while game shooting on June 4 1902 by Boers who where unaware of the final surrender.
 
In all, 10 contingents totalling some 6500 men and 8000 horses were sent from New Zealand. New contingents were progressively raised to relieve those in the field. Each had different experiences, depending on the date of their arrival and most saw considerable action.
 
New Zealand’s losses during the war included 69 killed, 190 wounded and 136 who died from disease.
 
The South African War records are part of the New Zealand Defence Force personnel files which Archives New Zealand is digitising and making available on its website. The files also include records from World War One with over 6000 of these records currently accessible and many more to come.
 

National Collection of War Art: J McMaster [Soldier in a landscape 1901] painting from the South African War 
Archives New Zealand Ref: AAAC 898 NCWAQ389