© 2009 Lynsey

097 – Blest by suns of home

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
— Rupert Brooke, The Soldier

About 110 years ago my great-uncle Aub (Aubrey) camped on this field. It was part of a farm then. Uncle Aub (aged 22) had arrived with his horse from Nelson, and joined the 2nd and 3rd Contingents as a private. The Contingents were assembling here and training prior to departing for South Africa, to engage in the Boer (South African) War.

The Boer War was New Zealand’s first ‘foreign’ war. New Zealand, then a colony of the British Isles, was to sacrifice many young lives over the next 50 or so years for Queen and country. Uncle Aub departed from Wellington on the SS Waiwera, 20 January 1900, bound for Albany, Australia; en route for Cape Town. They arrived on 27 February 1900, in high spirits having raced across the Indian Ocean with other ships bound for the war. The troops became engaged with the Boers in a number of battles. Uncle Aub celebrated his 23rd birthday in some unknown corner of South Africa on May 2.

On November 23 the 2nd and 3rd Contingents began an engagement with the Boers at Rhenoster Kop in the northern Transvaal. Uncle Aub took the shot that killed him at Reitfontein, on November 29, and he is buried on Reitfontein farm about 20 miles north of Balmoral.

The farm field that Uncle Aub trained in has become a park today. It’s near where I live. Every time I see young men playing soccer or cricket there I think about how a member of my family was here. On the way to fight (and die) in someone else’s war. I bet he would’ve had a laugh with his mates and that they would’ve loved to have had a ball to kick around or swing a willow bat. I bet they would’ve rather played sport rather than soldiers with the South Africans.

32. Every day have a laugh.
37. Every day fight for what’s worth fighting for. Pick your battles.
49. Every day is a good day.

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