One of my first cousin five times removed was a soldier named Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834–1866). Born at Eaton Place in London on 18 July 1834, he was the second son of Philip Champion Toker (1802–1882) and Elizabeth née Branthwayt (1808–1889), the third of their eight children. Alliston Champion Toker (1843-1936) (see ‘L is for languages‘) was Arthur’s younger brother.
Arthur’s father was a proctor of Doctors’ Commons, a London society of civil-law lawyers. Proctors were like attorneys in common-law courts and solicitors in the courts of equity.
In 1854 Arthur joined the 65th Regiment of Foot as an ensign by purchase. He served first in the Crimea, then in 1860 he was transferred to New Zealand.
From 1860 to 1865 the 65th Foot had 41 officers and 940 other ranks stationed there, all on the North Island, at Auckland, Wellington, Wanganui, Napier, and Taranaki.
Toker fought in the Māori Wars from 1860 to 1861 and in further hostilities in New Zealand from 1863 until his departure in 1865.
The War began with a dispute between the government and Māori landowners over the sale of a property at Waitara. The result was inconclusive. Although there was a ceasefire neither side explicitly accepted the peace terms offered to it. The British claimed that they had won the war, but it was widely held that they had suffered an unfavourable and humiliating defeat.
The “Roll of the Officers of the York and Lancaster Regiment” (George Alfred Raikes, 1885) records Toker’s service in New Zealand:
present in the following Engagements and Skirmishes, viz.: —Kohea Pah, March 17th and 18th, 1860 ; Expedition to Warea, April 20th to 30th, 1860, Chief Officer in Command, Colonel C. E. Gold ; Mahoetahi, November 6th, 1860 ; Kairau,December 29th and 30th, 1860 ; Huirangi, February 10th, 1861. … Served also at the Storming and Capture of Rangirui, New Zealand, November 20th and 21st, 1863 ; Mentioned in a Despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir D. A. Cameron, K.C.B., to the Secretary of State for War, dated Rangirui, November 26th, 1863.
In the Battle of Rangiriri on 20 and 21 November 1863 more than 1400 British troops defeated about 500 Māori warriors. This battle cost both sides heavily, more than any other engagement of the New Zealand wars. A hundred and eighty Māori prisoners were taken, a loss which sharply reduced Māori capacity to oppose the British.
A Despatch from Lieutenant-General Sir D. A. Cameron, K.C.B., to the Secretary of State for War, dated Rangiriri, November 26th, 1863 was published in the London Gazette of 19 February 1864 (pages 770-2).
Cameron described the enemy position:
The enemy's works consisted of a line of high parapet and double ditch, extending, as I have before stated, between the Waikato and Lake Waikare, the centre of this line being strengthened by a square redoubt of very formidable construction, its ditch being ] 2 feet wide, and the height from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the parapet 18 feet. The strength of this work was not known before the attack as its profile could not be seen either from the river or from the ground in front. Behind the left centre of this main line and at right angles to it, there was a strong intrenched line of rifle pits facing the river and obstructing the advance of troops from that direction.
Toker led a detachment of 72 men with scaling ladders and planks. Cameron planned that “The skirmishers of the 65th Regiment were to cover the advance of the ladder party, and when the latter had succeeded in escalading the entrenchment, were to follow with the support”. Cameron noted the enemy defended with great tenacity and resolution. Cameron praised his officers, including Toker and the ladder party, for gallantly leading their men.
In 1865 the 65th Regiment was recalled from active service in New Zealand where it had been stationed for 19 years. The ‘John Temperley‘ was chartered to transport the troops home. It left Auckland on 25 October 1865 with 267 troops of the 65th Regiment, including Lieutenant Toker and his fellow officers and their families and “7 staff sergeants, 1 schoolmaster, 14 sergeants, 5 drummers, 150 rank and file, 18 women, and 29 children”.
On 6 December, with the regiment still at sea, the London Gazette announced the promotion of Lieutenant Arthur B. Toker, from 65th Foot, “to be Captain, without purchase, on half-pay”. By going on half-pay he was effectively retiring from active service.
Sadly, Toker was never to enjoy a peaceful retirement. On 1 January 1866, just before reaching England, he died of typhoid fever.
Arthur Toker never married.
Wikitree: Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834 – 1866)