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SA1294 Farrier (Claude) Hector Claude Retter  4th Contingent, New Zealand Mounted Rifles
 
Hector Claude Retter (Claude) was born on the 4th March 1877 the third  of six sons in a family of 13 born to Frederick Charles and Martha Annie Retter.[i]
 
The Retter family were early settlers in Wellington with Frederick Charles Retter being born in Wadestown, Wellington in 1849. Frederick Charles married Martha Annie Smith in 1870 and he ran a blacksmith shop in the main street of Johnsonville, Wellington. As the family grew up the boys also became blacksmiths with the eldest Frederick William Retter establishing another shop in 1894, in Main Road, Johnsonville.  Blacksmithing ran in the family as two other of Claude’s brothers, Leonard and Darcy also being listed as farriers when they enlisted in the New Zealand Mounted Rifles to serve
in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902). Farriers were vital keeping horses well shod and able to be used in the very mobile cavalry campaign that the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were committed to.
 
Claude was working as a farrier for John McMillian of Courtney Place, Wellington when he signed up in the 7th Company
of the 4th Contingent of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. The 4th Contingent was known as the Rough Riders and they sailed in March 1900, for South Africa.  Also sailing with the Rough Riders was SA2679 Trooper William Hume from Johnsonville. The Hume and Retter families had a close relationship in Johnsonville with both families playing cricket for the Johnsonville Cricket Club.[ii]
 
The 4th and 5th Contingents of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles
arrived in Africa landing at the port of Beira, Mozambique where
along with the 6th New South Wales Imperial Bushmen, they
formed  the 2nd Brigade of the Rhodesian Field force. This force
crossed Rhodesia to enter Transavaal from the North West.
SA1294 Farrier Retter was awarded the Rhodesian clasp and also
he was paid 5 shillings a day during the time spent ‘crossing
Rhodesia,” 1 April until 9th May 1900.[iii]
 
 
A Tight spot  - a Rough Rider in action 
 
 
The 2nd Brigade entered Northern Transvaal initially moving
towards Mafeking with the two NZ Contingents then moving
towards the Elands River where a large Boer force was laying
siege to Braikfontein Drift held by a force of Australian and
Rhodesians. The 4th & 5th NZ Contingents were to the north
of Braikfontein when a relieving column, lead by Lord Kitchener
reached Braikfontein from the south.
The nature of the conflict and the harsh terrain resulted in a
large number of men from the New Zealand contingents
becoming casualties because of disease. Farrier Retter is listed
as being taken sick in October 1900 with influenza and after time
in Mafeking hospital, was then transferred to Kimberly hospital
and finally to Woodstock Hospital, Cape Town to be invalided back
to New Zealand.
On 14th January 1901 Frarrie Retter was discharged to the
SS Karemea for the return to New Zealand ‘cured of influenza.’[iv]  
This diagnosis was later challenged with a claim that he was
suffering from Enteric fever and sunstroke.
 
On arrival in New Zealand SA1294 Farrier Retter was assessed in Wellington on 15th February 1901 by a medical panel as ‘convalescent’ and granted three months leave. In May 1901 Claude was being treated at the Rotorua Sanatorium where, on the 10th May 1901, the resident medical officer, commenting on treatment associated with enteric fever and
sunstroke, requested that he be given six weeks more leave to aid recovery.[v] This was granted but there is no other medical information but on final discharge on the 30th August 1902, it was noted the discharge was due to being invalided.
 
Claude’s character is noted as very good  and that he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with year clap of
1901 and provincial clasps, Rhodesia, Transvaal and Cape Colony.
 
There were ongoing medical issues for Claude and in February 1911 his father sought assistance from the Defence Department for the cost in keeping his son in the Porirua Mental Hospital.  The Defence Department insisted that any medical issues with Claude where not as a result of service in South Africa and while they noted the fathers concern they would take no responsibility.
 
It appears that Claude remained in the mental institute and died there on the 30th July 1911 aged 34.[vi]
 
Notes:
Farrier was a rank used rather than the usual Private or Trooper and denoted someone with veterinary and blacksmith skills.
 
References:
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Files: SA1294 Farrier Hector Cluade Retter
Papers Past Online
Births, Deaths & marriages Online
www.allaboutenfields.co.nz
Up in the Hills- One Hundred and twenty five years of Villiage Cricket (Johnsonville Cricket Club 1886-2011) Alan Isaac
NZ Units in South Africa 1899 – 1902: NZ History online
 
Photos:
Background – men of the 4th Contingent – allaboutenfileds
A tight corner – Rough Rider in action- NZ History Online
 
[i] BDM Online
[ii] Up in the Hills (Johnsonville Cricket Club)
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand- Military Files: SA1294 Farrier Hector Claude Retter
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA1294 Farrier Hector Claude Retter
[v] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA1294 Farrier Hector Claude Retter
[vi] BDM Online
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Men of the 4th Contingent (Rough Riders) NZMR pose with their Enfields