The New Zealanders who fought in the South African War were the first soldiers from this country to take part in an overseas conflict. Prompted by Premier Richard Seddon, the First Contingent was rapidly assembled and became the first colonial contingent to reach South Africa.
NZ's war in numbers
6507 NZ troops served in South Africa
230 fatal casualties (71 killed in action or died of wounds; 26 accidental deaths; 133 died of disease)
c. 30 NZ nurses and 20 teachers also sent to South Africa
Source: J. Crawford and E. Ellis, To fight for the empire, Reed, Auckland, 1999
Between 1899 and 1902 New Zealand sent 10 contingents to South Africa. The men who enlisted came from a variety of backgrounds and from all over New Zealand. Many had prior experience in the Volunteer forces but others were ordinary citizens who were skilled riders and marksmen. The contingents were often made up of companies that had strong regional identities and many were supported by local fundraising.
In addition to the men of the contingents, two small groups of New Zealand women served in South Africa. Hospital-trained nurses helped combat the ever-present threat of disease in the unsanitary conditions of field hospitals in South Africa. New Zealand also sent a contingent of female teachers, dubbed the ‘Learned Eleventh’, to teach Boer refugee children in the schools set up in British-run concentration camps.