Passing time with Eris Parker

Cambridge World War One – Something to Remember

The beginning of World War One was announced from the Cambridge pulpits in New Zealand on Sunday evening 2 August 1914. Britain was at war with Germany.

001--PO 001

There was not much work done the next day as the townspeople waited around the Post Office for more news.


Bob Chambers, who was employed by Geo Clark and Sons was already in Hamilton and was the first Cambridge man to sign up.

Cambridge Cavalry Volunteers

Parker, Runciman and Fisher

Parker, Runciman and Fisher

The troublous times of the 1870s led to the formation of a volunteer force of cavalry from among the settlers. Troops were formed in Cambridge, Hamilton and Te Awamutu and these proved their worth when Te Kooti was on the rampage and during the scare following the murder of Timothy Sullivan in 1873.

In Cambridge there were 60 active members of this force led by Captain James Runciman, which served for eleven years until disbanded in 1882. Lieutenants were John Fisher and Richard Parker and Sub-Lieutenants were Robert Kirkwood and William Howie.

Their great value was in the confidence given to settlers and their families and as a deterrent to any hostile action.

All members were well mounted and uniformed and armed with carbines, revolvers and swords. Regular drills and occasional field days with neighbouring troops were held.

10 Star Redoubt Cambridge NZ

Von Tempsky's Drawing of Cambridge

Von Tempsky’s Drawing of Cambridge 1864

Cambridge Redoubts

The first redoubt built by Cameron in 1864 was on either side of the Waikato River at Pukerimu (near St Peters School). When Tamihana left Te Tiki o te Ihinga-rangi at Pukekura, early 1864, the British moved in and called it ‘The Crow’s Nest’. The garrison from the 3rd Waikato regiment disliked the monotonous routine and bad food and a threatening mutiny was quelled.

Difficulty in navigating the Waikato River beyond its junction with the Karapiro Stream, led to the selection of Cambridge as the chief redoubt and headquarters of the regiment. The wide stretch of water offering good anchorage and the series of flat topped terraces suitable for defence made the site eminently suitable for a military base.

13 July 1864 Cambridge was named after the Commander in Chief of the British Army – the Duke of Cambridge and the men started building the Ten Star Redoubt. A month later headquarters moved from Pukerimu.

Gudex Memoral Maungakawa NZ

Gudex Memorial Maungakawa NZ

Gudex Memorial Maungakawa NZ

Standing at the Gudex Memorial in the Maungakawa Reserve many visitors have enjoyed the view and the peaceful surroundings. On a clear winters day you can see the snow on Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki (Egmont).

The stone obelisk was erected in memory of Mr Michael Christian Gudex MBE, MA, MSc, (teacher, scientist and horticulturists) for his contribution to the preservation of New Zealand’s natural resources.

The reserve was created under the guidance of the Lands and Survey Department in 1953 and the Maungakawa Scenic Reserve Board – a voluntary group – received much benefit from foundation member, Mr Gudex in help and advice.

Seven acres were set aside from the reserve to become GudexMemorial   Park with an unveiling ceremony on 23 June 1968.

The area – the site of the former Te Waikato Sanatorium – still had evidence of the old world garden planted in the 1890’s when Mrs Sophia Thornton and her family were in residence.

Walnuts, camellias, rhododendrons and clumps of snowdrops were all mingled with the surrounding bush, and only a little landscaping and the provision of some facilities were necessary.

This has become a place of tranquil beauty with bush walks, a picnic area, native bush and birdlife, a place to contemplate, an artist’s mecca, a tourist attraction, a place to study natural science and geography.

Soft Stone Headstones

William Clare

William Clare


The soft stones of William Clare, Jane Qualtrough nee Bell and Elizabeth Williams, would disintegrate if some vandal scrubbed them with a wire brush or blitzed them with a water blaster.

Captain William Clare married Jessie Mackintosh in Bombay about 1847 and they had 3 children.

William enlisted in the 3rd Waikato Militia in 1863 arriving in Cambridge New Zealand in August 1864 with a detachment of 450 men. The land was covered with fern and ti-tree scrub and he was the first to build a permanent residence. He and his family made Cambridge their home.

William died 10 December 1878 aged 64 and was buried at the CambridgeCemetery at Hautapu. About three hundred people attended his funeral.


Jane Qualtrough, wife of Thomas, died in childbirth 13 December 1879. She was 23 years old.

“She is gone the delight of all who e’er knew her

Her remains are consigned to the dark silent tomb

She is gone and in sorrow has left us to wonder

That all flowers so fair should be nipt in thy bloom.”

Her headstone is under a camellia tree.

Mrs Elizabeth Williams nee Mata was the mother of Mrs Mary Ann Tucker and they farmed on the outskirts of Cambridge West.

Elizabeth died 19 June 1886 aged 73 years.

Side by Side

P12504900Waikato Advocate, New Zealand, 24 August 1895

‘The families of two well-known and respected residents of the Cambridge district have during the week been plunged in grief under circumstances peculiarly affecting. Late on Saturday evening Miss Kate Fitzgerald succumbed to a lingering illness – from consumption.

‘She had been engaged to Mr R B Bridgman and her rapidly failing health was not without its effect upon her lover. The shock produced upon him by her death was more than his enfeebled health could bear and he quickly followed, dying in convulsions on Monday.’

[Romeo and Juliet – surely!?  But there was no Coroners’ Report.]

‘The last offices of religion were performed by the Rev. L Hudson and the remains of the young people were buried in the one grave.’

They share the same headstone -

In Loving Memory of Katie third daughter of H & A Fitzgerald died 17 August 1895 aged 28

‘I will fear no evil for thou art with me

Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.’

Also Richard B Bridgman second son of J Bridgman died 19 August 1895 aged 29

‘’Tis but a voice that Jesus sends to call them to his arms.’

New Zealand Soldier’s Dog Tag

Army Dog Tags

In the Cambridge Historical Society collection at the Cambridge Museum, there is a round disc about 5 cm in diameter. It has a hole at the top and a number 29477 and the letters NZ and P.

It was donated to the Museum along with other buttons and badges sewn onto a fabric belt that has ‘Gloire aux Allies’ sewn into it.

After some research it has been found that this disc belonged to one of our Cambridge soldiers who died in World War One. John Preston was born 27 June 1891 to parents William and Nancy Preston. John was a farmer at Horahora when he enlisted in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 27 June 1916. He was Killed in Action 7 June 1917 and is listed on the Messines Ridge Memorial in France.

The P stands for Presbyterian.


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