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There are three uniforms on display – two of these are highly significant as rare survivors of early military uniforms worn in New Zealand. Until recently this significance was not known or appreciated because no-one had asked the right questions, or recorded the answers, when these collections were originally gifted.
The Royal New Zealand Fencible uniform jacket of Col. TM Haultain (U93) (pictured above) was originally described simply as ‘Dress Uniform of Col. Haultain’. It is now believed to be the only verifiable item of uniform of this corps to have survived. Stylistically, it conforms to the pattern worn by Staff Officers of Pensioners during the late 1840s-early 1850s, which suggests that it was worn by Haultain when he was first appointed Staff Officer of Pensioners in March 1849. Later the same year Haultain came out to New Zealand in charge of the 8th Detachment of the New Zealand Fencibles; military pensioners who were settled in villages established to protect the southern approaches to Auckland.
A 96th Foot Regiment coatee (U10) was presented to Auckland Museum in 1947, with no information about its original owner. An outside researcher has dated the uniform to the early 1840s and suggested that it is probably the earliest surviving uniform item associated with the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s. The Curator’s current speculation is that it ‘almost certainly belonged to’ Col. William Hulme, Commanding Officer of the 96th Regiment which served in New Zealand from 1843 to 1847.
The third uniform a 100th Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment tunic (1998.24) (pictured above) has less significance for New Zealand military history but its wearer, Thomas Viret Shepherd (1845-1916), of the 100th / 109th Leinster Regiment, was showcased as being the ‘first N.Z. born (1840) gazetted officer in the British Army (1859)’.
He served, mainly in India, with the 109th (Bombay Infantry) Regiment and the 100th Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment. In 1879, while in England, Thomas married Grace Alice Shakespear, daughter of Major-General Shakespear, Royal Artillery. Grace accompanied her husband back to India where two of their seven children were born and in 1883 accompanied him back to Auckland following his retirement and subsequent appointment ascommandant or adjutant of the Auckland Militia District. Thomas Shepherd rose to the rank of Colonel and subsequently served as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives from 1902-1915. At the time of Thomas Shepherd's death in 1916 he had two sons serving with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, one of whom, Corporal Maurice Wyndham Shepherd, died of wounds on 19 July 1918.
It is also likely that he later wore the uniform in New Zealand where he served with the Auckland Militia.