Sunday, January 30, 2011

Remembering Fred Wylie

Many NZ public parks feature old statues - often to British royalty, now virtually forgotten.
In Rotorua's Government Gardens are two statues, one to King George V and the other to Fred Wylie.
The latter is interesting - it does not beatify some distant officer whose proximity to action may have been no closer than a map. This memorial was erected to a young local man who lost his life fighting the Boers.
The Second Boer War (Oct.1899-May 1902) was between the British and the dutch-speaking Boers of the two independent Boer republics: the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State. It ended with the annexation of the region under the British Empire, ultimately forming South Africa as part of the Commonwealth.
Born in 1876, Frederick William Wylie was a carrier and storekeeper in Galatea, a small town about 75km SE of Rotorua. He volunteered for service and shipped out of Lyttleton, with stores and horses, aboard Knight Templar on 17 Feb.1900.
Serving with the 4th.NZ Mounted Rifles, 8 Company (Regt.No.1478), Private Wylie's moment of glory followed the over-running of a British 15-pdr. field gun by Boers. Fred singlehandedly retook the gun as well as two prisoners - for this gallantry, he was promoted to sergeant. Two months later with his new unit, the 7th.NZ Mounted Rifles (Regt.No.4705), he was leading an advance on an enemy-held building when he was cut down by rifle fire. Fred was 25 years old.
His statue's plaque reads:
"To commemorate the valour of King's Sergt. FRED W.WYLIE of Galatea, Rotorua, Fourth NZ Contingent.
He recaptured unaided a 15-pdr.gun, taking two prisoners in the action at Hartebeestefontein 25th.March 1901. Promoted King's Segt. by command, subsequently joining the Seventh Contingent he was killed while leading the attack in action at Klipfontein 26th May 1901."
Brigade orders noted that "the death of King's Sergt. F.Wylie is deeply regretted. A brave man and a good soldier." His superior officer Captain Walker added "He was brave as a lion."
Fred was buried where he fell, at Klipfontein in the Transvaal.
The Bay Of Plenty Times of 14 Aug.1901 reported a memorial fund while a brief anecdotal account of his death appeared on 14 Feb.1902.
Like all wars, the Boer War chewed up people like Fred without much more than a note in the Brigade war diary. So he must have been held in extremely high regard, for his town and Rifle Volunteers of Rotorua to erect such a proud statue.
The memorial, which was unveiled at the annual Maori Carnival in 1904, reads: Fama semper vivat ("May his fame last forever").
Here's a link to his Cenotaph Record at the Auckland War Memorial Museum...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've seen this monument quite a lot but have never stopped to read the plaque. Thanks for doing the research on it.

Flo, Rotorua