Land wars soldier remembered
Beneath the gnarled and creaking limbs of an old oak tree in New Plymouth's St Mary's Cathedral cemetery yesterday a young man's musket fire death was remembered.
John Sarten, 22, volunteered to fight during the land wars of 1860s. He died of wounds received on March 17, 1860 while trying to capture a flag at a pa site in Waitara. He was the first to be killed in action of the unit that went on to become known as the Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles, QAMR, and form part of the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps.
At a small ceremony yesterday Major Maia Baker, of the New Zealand Army, said Trooper Sarten's death forever linked the regiment to Taranaki and so it was fitting their 150th commemorations began at the memorial to Sarten and 20 other volunteers and militia who died during the conflict.
"Our historical linkages are to this area. John Sarten was the first New Zealand mounted rifle to be killed in action. We are here to commemorate his death but, by extension, to honour all those who have been killed in action or died of their wounds."
Sarten died in a war that pitted European settlers against Maori. Now descendants on both sides fight together in the same regiment. "Even during the land wars the lines weren't as black and white as we think," Baker said.
"I guess it's important to celebrate our history without making value judgments about the political situation at the time."
Units of the NZ Scots of the QMAR will be touring past battle sites in Taranaki this week and visiting high schools with their Light Armoured Vehicles and other equipment tomorrow and Friday.
Taranaki Daily News