New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871

In 2006, Auckland Libraries launched the Armed Constabulary of New Zealand 1867 – 1877 database on its website
This identified 3,281 members of the Constabulary from 1867 to 1871, including the Native (Maori) Constabulary, and was researched over many years by John Binsley. 

John has now expanded his research to identify 12,710 men who served in the Militia or Volunteers. 

Not every Militia member is covered, as the capitation rolls are incomplete, and those rolls contain only those who attended quarterly parades and other related events. 

In fact, it is impossible to determine how many Militia members there were, let alone all their names.

Auckland Libraries has now added the Militia and Volunteers details to the Armed Constabulary database, for a combined total of near 16,000 names for the period 1863 to 1871; - creating a new database called New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871 note that some served in both the Militia or Volunteers and the Armed Constabulary.

Militias included those formed at Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki, while Corps included those of local Artillery Volunteers, Cavalry Volunteers. Engineer Volunteers, Naval Volunteers, Rifle Volunteers, Light Horse, Forest or Bush Rangers and Military Settlers. Some also served in the Commissariat Transport Corps.

The old Armed Constabulary database allowed searches by surname, first name, previous U.K. regimental or corps or police service, where served, as well as any notes – the latter included the facility to specifically identify all Maori constables. There was also a facility to keyword search. These have all been retained in the new combined database and there is now the ability to search for 'Subsequent service', as well as the ability to identify all Maori members of the Native (Maori) Contingent and the Arawa Flying Column (use Maori in the keyword search). Searching can also be restricted to just 'Militia and Volunteers' or 'Armed Constabulary'. 

Additional information and corrections are welcome.

When Militia members were called out, there was a compulsory register of all able-bodied Pakeha males aged between 18 and 65 years. Members had to be available for training 28 days a year. The “Native (Maori) Contingent” were officered by Pakeha.

Each battalion was divided into three classes: first class for single men between 16 and 40 years of age, second class for married men between 16 and 40 with children, and the third all those between 40 and 55 – known as “the Reserve men”. 

The first call was for volunteers, then the first class, then the second, and then the third to make up the numbers required. If not all within a class were required then there would be a ballot, and those balloted could provide a substitute if they paid 10 Pounds – there were 108 substitutions in the Auckland Province in February 1864, along with 238 medical exemptions for 1863/1864. Service was extremely unpopular because of poor pay, disruption to business and farming, and was a strain on colonial finances.

In Auckland, the local Militia was called out in June 1863 when three Militia battalions were formed, along with Corps for artillery, engineer, cavalry, rifle and naval volunteers. Militia members were limited to garrison duties in the South Auckland area, although a few were involved in minor skirmishes. Some instead formed local Volunteer Corps, which were self-governing with their own officers, regulations and uniforms.

The best description of the various campaigns is still James Cowan’s classic “The New Zealand wars”. The bulk of the fighting was in the Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Whanganui areas, and fell to British regular troops, Military Settlers and local Volunteer Corps, rather than the Militias. There were also Volunteer Corps formed in Thames and Wellington, some members of which moved to the fighting areas and joined local Corps.

One feature is to be able to identify some of the Land Grant numbers for Militia and Corps members in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Whanganui areas.

Auckland Libraries has the Land Grant map for Hamilton West (Survey Office map 378 A1 & A2), while Hamilton Public Library, as an example, has a map for Hamilton East as well.

There have been some scholarly works on the military settlements in the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, along with more popular level publications by John Cresswell and Jeffrey Hopkins-Weise. In particular, Hopkins-Weise’s “ Blood brothers; the ANZAC genesis” is the best source for the Australian connection, following on from Barton.

Most Militia were wound up around 1865, but some of the Volunteer Corps carried on into the 1870s and later – after the end of John Binsley’s research. The Armed Constabulary was dissolved in 1877 and replaced by the Police.

David Verran

David is the Team Leader in the Central Auckland Research Centre at Auckland Libraries –

Photos: “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries,
4-1336 and AWNS – 19140402-52-4”

Further reading:

Barton, Leonard L. Australians in the Waikato War, 1863-1864. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1979.

Binsley, John and David Verran. “Armed Constabulary feature of new database”, New Zealand Genealogist, November/December 2006, pages 385 to 387.

Cowan, James. The New Zealand wars; a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period. Wellington, Government Printer, 1922-1923 (and subsequent editions).

Cresswell, John C.M. The Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry. Paradise Point (Qld), PCS Publications, 1991.

Hamilton, Ross B. Military vision and economic reality: the failure of the military settlement scheme in the Waikato, 1863-1880 (thesis). Auckland, University of Auckland, 1968.

Hill, Richard S. The history of policing in New Zealand, Volume Two, the colonial frontier tamed; New Zealand policing in transition. Wellington, Historical Branch Department of Internal Affairs, 1989 (particularly Section One on the Armed Constabulary).

Hopkins, Weise, Jeffrey. Blood brothers; the ANZAC genesis. Sydney, Penguin, 2009.

Hopkins-Weise, Jeffrey. A brief history of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers, Tauranga Cavalry Volunteers & the Opotiki Rangers Volunteers. ‘The Volunteers; the journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society’, Volume 28 Number 1, July 2002, pages 66-70.

Palmer, Jeni. Nominal and descriptive rolls of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Waikato Regiments 1863-1867. Tauranga, Gencentre, c2007.

Spyve, Paul Joseph. The First Waikato Regiment and the settlement process of the Bay of Plenty 1864-1874 (thesis). Hamilton, University of Waikato, 1981.

Verran, David. “Researching militia members”, New Zealand Genealogist, January / February 2001, page 38.

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2 Responses to “New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871”

  1. Thank you very much for the information on Alexander James Leslie, 1st & 3rd AC and Alexander Leslie as it explains how the two were confused with the Cambridge Land Grants. Alexander James Leslie AC was my Great Grandfather

  2. Armed Constabulary/Militia Armed Constabulary
    Name SATLER, George
    Notes (SALTER)
    Armed Constabulary Division 6
    Served at Moturoa
    Service ended 7.11.1868
    The above is incorrect NAME it should be
    George TATLER, late of the 65th Regiment No. 3256
    It is incorrect also in various records including the Lion Memorial Whanganui.


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