A special donation of a hand painted ostrich egg dating back to the Boer War was recently accepted by the National Army Museum in Waiouru. The donation was a special ‘ANZAC Centenary Gift to the people of New Zealand from Australia’s Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East’. The gift was to commemorate the long standing close relationship between the two countries, and in recognition of the Centenary Year of ANZAC. Rear Admiral Trevor Jones of the Australian Navy presented the gift to the ‘New Zealand People’ via the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra on 25 April 2015.
Rear Admiral Jones’ research uncovered some interesting information about this Boer War artefact dating from 1900. It was either painted or commissioned by Trooper Nicholls shortly after his arrival in South Africa. It is in the form of an Ostrich Egg painted with a depiction of the Screw Steamship the SS Monowai and scroll denoting the passage to South Africa of the 4th Contingent of the NZ Rough Riders to the Boer War. Trooper Nicholls served for just over a year in the Boer War. Tragically, he passed away and was buried at sea on 2 March 1909 while on passage back to family in England. This artefact has therefore likely been held in family and other collections in England since then.
In a letter Rear Admiral Jones presented with the egg were the words, “The close bond shared between Australia and New Zealand is often claimed to have had its roots in the shared hardships endured by our respective military forces on the battlefield of the Gallipoli Peninsula when the combined Australian an d New Zealand Corps (ANZAC) came ashore on 25 April 1915 as part of a British expeditionary force attempting to force the Ottoman Empire out of World War I.
This was not the first occasion, however, on which Australians and New Zealanders came together in conflict. Just as New Zealand prepared and dispatched military forces to South Africa at the turn of the last Century to fight in the Boer War, so too Australia’s own pre-federation colonies prepared and despatched forces to assist the British in the fight against the Boers. Consequently it was not uncommon for New Zealand forces and colonial Australian forces to share the battlefield in pursuit of a shared goal.
According to New Zealand archives records the SS Monowai set sail from the Port of Lyttleton on 26 March 1900, with around 200 personnel and 250 horses from the Otago and Southland Companies of the 4th Contingent of the New Zealand Rough Riders bound for the Port of Durban in South Africa. Trooper Howard Moncour Nicholls was a member of that contingent and his name appears in the 4th Contingent Honour Roll which was published on page 4 of the 26 March 1900 Edition (issue 11691) of the Otago Daily Times within the Napier Section of No.10 Company – Southland, West Coast and Hawkes Bay Section.
Given this Centenary of ANZAC, noting our current contemporary cooperation on military operations in Iraq, and recognising the link between this artefact and the very earliest occasion on which Australian and New Zealand forces came together in conflict in pursuit of a common cause, the men and women of Joint Task Force 633 considered this artefact a suitable gift to commemorate our long standing close relationships. To this end it is passed to the people of New Zealand on the occasion of the Centenary of ANZAC and as a token of our esteem and affection for the bonds repeatedly forged between our two countries in times of both conflict and peace.” T.N. Jones 25 April 2015.
National Army Museum Director, Tracy Puklowski said, “we are very honoured to accept this Boer War ostrich egg and accompanying provenance, and in true ANZAC spirit would like to sincerely thank Rear Admiral Jones and the Australian Defence Force for this special gift. We would also like to thank the New Zealand High Commission for assisting with the donation coming to Waiouru.”