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SA4207 Trooper Charles Robertson – 7th Contingent, New Zealand Mounted Rifles
 
Research leads to the  conclusion that Charles Robertson was in fact Charles Robertson Steven who had changed his name in order to meet the age requirement for the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Charles Robertson enlisted on the 13th March 1901 giving his age as 21 where it is probable that his real age was 19. The change of name was only queried on the death of Charles in 1966.
 
Charles’ enlistment papers, signed on the 13th March 1901, noted that he was living in Johnsonville but was unemployed and that his next of kin was his Uncle Charles Robertson, also from Johnsonville. Charles is recorded as serving two years in the Heretaunga Mounted Rifles as a volunteer prior to enlistment. [i]
 
On the 6th April  1901 SA 4207 Trooper Charles Robertson,  SA4645 Farrier Len Retter, his younger  brother SA 4644 Farrier Darcy Retter, SA 4643 Trooper John Robinson all from Johnsonville,  SA4605 Lance Corporal Joseph Brown from Tawa, SA4650 Trooper George Styles from Pauatahanui and  SA4657 Trooper Leo Gestro from Paremata all sailed as part of the 7th Contingent for South Africa.
 
On arrival in South Africa the 7th New Zealand and the 6th Queensland Contingent were assigned to Colonel Garratt’s column operating in the Eastern Transvaal and north-east of the Orange Free State. During June 1901 there was constant skirmishing with the Boers with casualties inflicted at Blesboxspruit, Kaffir’s Spruit. In July 1901 they captured a Boer Commando at Koppjiesfontein. Also 11 Boers were killed or wounded, 25 captured along with 34 waggons, 31 carts and 1240 cattle.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The 7th Contingent NZMR
break camp on the Veldt 
early in their campaign in 
South Africa 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
More successful capture of material and men continued in August 1901 at Bultfontein, Spannerberg. These clearing operations continued, seriously weakening the Boers. The final major contact was in February 1902 where the British forces attempted the capture of key Boer leader De Wet, the report on the action sent as a dispatch on the night of the action, 23rd February 1902 at Langverwacht. The action is also known as the Bloody Battle of Bothasbergat.[ii]
 
‘De Wet adopted the plan of advancing under cover of a large mob of cattle, which were
rapidly driven up by natives to the point where the rush through was to be attempted.
This expedient met, it is true, with a part of the desired success, for there is little doubt
that De Wet, Ex-President Steyn, and a number of their men thus managed to break out
of the toils. As a whole, however, the Boer force was very severely punished by the New
Zealanders of Lieutenant Colonel Garratt's column, who displayed great gallantry and
resolution at a critical moment in resisting and in part repelling the attack. The conduct
of the New Zealanders upon this occasion reflects the highest credit upon all ranks of the
contingent, and upon the Colony to which it belongs. Nothing could have been finer than
the behaviour of the men. The whole of the Boer cattle and vehicles were captured, and
31 of the enemy, together with over 160 horses, were killed at the point where the attempt
to penetrate our line was made. Our own casualties were also severe, 2 officers and 18 men
being killed, and 5 officers and 33 men wounded, the large majority of whom belonged to the
New Zealand 7th Contingent’
 
One of those killed in this action was SA4645 Farrier Len Retter.
 
In late March after a year of operations, the 7th Contingent started their journey to Durban and the return to New Zealand. On the journey the 7th Contingent, at Newcastle, was addressed by the New Zealand Premier Mr Richard Seddon. The 7th Contingent sailed from Durban, South Africa on the 22nd May 1902.
 
Trooper Robertson was finally discharged from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on the 15th September 1902 on the ‘completion of service’ and where his character was described as ‘very good.’[iii]
 
Charles indicated that he was returning to Johnsonville, but by 1902 he had moved to Woodville as his files indicate that the Mayor of Woodville presented the Transvaal and Orange Free clasps to go with the Kings South Africa Medal on Coronation Day 9th August 1902.
 
In 1906 Charles Robertson was still in Woodville as he signed for  the 1901 and 1902 clasps for the South Africa on the 25th October 1906. 
 
In 1905 Charles Robertson Steven married Ann Mason and they had four children, the youngest child born in 1913 was John Lunn Steven.
 
Charles Robertson’s military file carries a death notification form noting that Mr J Steven reported the death on the 27th February 1966, of a Boer War veteran Charles Robertson Steven. The death is also recorded by the New Zealand Internal affairs also indicating that Charles Robertson Steven was 84 (born in 1882) The file indicates that the Defence
Department accepted that the SA4207 Charles Robertson on the file was the same person as Charles Robertson Steven.
 
 
 
Notes:
Ranks Private and Trooper are used in military files and newspaper items for consistency Trooper has been used for Porirua stories.
For more details on the Battle of Bothasbergat see the stories on the Retter brothers.
 
References :
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA4207 Trooper Charles Robertson
NZ Births, Deaths and Marriages Online
NZ Units in South Africa: Boer War Online
 
Photos:
Background and test - Men of the 7th break camp on the Veldt - Boer War Online
 
 
[i] Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Files: SA4207 Trooper Charles Robertson 
[ii] Boer War – 7th Contingent: NZ History online
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA4207 Trooper Charles Robertson
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Men of the 7th Contingent, NZMR break camp on the Veldt