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The Piper In Peace And War
Part II - New Zealand Forces


The various Pipers’ Societies in New Zealand that were actively engaged in pre-war years in keeping alive the old martial music of Scotland could never have guessed that their efforts would result in providing two battalions with battle music for the greatest war in modern history. The 2nd Auckland Regiment and the 1st Otago Rifles marched forth to their war zone — the Dardanelles — each equipped with a full pipe band. Several of the pipers had been members of a British regimental pipe band or of one of the old Volunteer pipe bands of Scotland, while others had never heard the sound of the pipes until the New Zealand piper colonists had made them acquainted with the different airs and the method of playing them. One of these was Harry Kennedy, son of a Scottish settler, born in Fiji; another was James Brown, who was born in Temuka, South Canterbury. There was no lack of material. When, as happened, many of the pipers of both regiments were killed or badly wounded on Gallipoli, their places were taken by pipers sent out from New Zealand with the reinforcements. And yet there were in the ranks men who in some instances were accounted better pipers than any in the bands. Jack Cameron was one of these; indeed he was reckoned the best piper in New Zealand. Cameron was with the battalion of the Otagos when they moved to France and was badly wounded in the battle of the Somme, 1916, when Robert M'Kechnie, also a good piper and Highland dancer, was killed. More curious yet, there were in the ranks of the combatants, Charles M‘Donald, an ex-pipe-major of the Black Watch, Archie and Jack MacMillan, George Moffat and Peter M'Naughton — all acknowledged pipers. These pipers evidently considered that there would not be opportunity enough for playing at the head of their companies and in this they were right, though the duties to which the actual pipers were put were alike honourable and dangerous. Running with despatches, carrying ammunition and rations and stretcher-bearing provided quite enough of excitement—and wounds.

The pipers of the Otago Regiment were unfortunate. During the Gallipoli campaign one piper was killed and nine, including the pipemajor, were wounded, while three were invalided home. When the battalion was moved to France some of the wounded rejoined and the band wras again restored. But there Piper N. M'Donald, who had been one of the wounded of Gallipoli, and had been promoted pipe-major in place of Pipe-Major D. Macdonald, who had not recovered from his wounds, was killed in action.

In the Auckland Regiment the pipe-major, Hector Cameron, had forsaken both pipes and regiment for a commission in the Cameron Highlanders.

It is most gratifying to find that all the pipers of these two New Zealand battalions whose interest in pipe-playing is as keen as—if not keener than—any of those in the home country, had that interest shared by the officers and men of their battalions. And it is not surprising that their valour and reliability in action should have been as great as that displayed by the pipers of the crack British regiments.

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