Walter Gudgeon was the first child of Thomas Wayth Gudgeon, an upholsterer, and his first wife, Mary Johnston. The family immigrated to New Zealand in 1850 and settled in New Plymouth. Walter left school to work on the family farm at the age of 11. Conscious all his life of his lack of formal education, he made up for it by reading voraciously. After leaving home at 16 he became an accomplished shepherd and drover.
Gudgeon was managing a farm near Wanganui when fighting broke out in the area. In March 1865 he joined the Wanganui Bushrangers, and three months later became second-in-command of the Wanganui Native Contingent under Thomas McDonnell.
Gudgeon was next given command of the Runanga redoubt, one of a string of forts built between Tapuaeharuru (Taupo) and Napier to restrict Te Kooti's movements. With the guerrilla leader on the run, the duties of the Armed Constabulary focused on drilling and road making. In February 1874 Gudgeon's tedium was relieved when he was put in charge of the sensitive Poverty Bay district. Based at Ormond, he made typically astute land purchases and also met Edith Maria Best (sister of Elsdon Best), whom he married in Wellington on 16 January 1875. She was to die of tuberculosis on 21 March 1879 after bearing three children, Hilda, Constance and Westwood.
By May 1880 Gudgeon had been transferred back to Taranaki to join the forces being concentrated against Parihaka. When the settlement was invaded on 5 November 1881 he led the company that arrested Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi. Posted to Manaia, he built a sophisticated redoubt, grew ornamental trees and supervised road making. He also courted Emily Bertha Tuke (known as Bertha), the daughter of his former commanding officer and a member of a landed Hawke's Bay family. They married at Napier on 24 January 1882, and were to have two sons, Herman and Melville (evidence of Gudgeon's erudition was thus transmitted to posterity), and two daughters, Gladys and Beryl.
In August 1898 Gudgeon, now a lieutenant colonel, was appointed British Resident in the Cook Islands. Seddon intimated that Gudgeon's real task was to annex the islands to New Zealand, and Gudgeon, whose belief in his 'manifest destiny' had led him to dream of one day being 'Governor of Fighi', accepted this mission with alacrity. In April 1900 the Rarotonga ariki consented to annexation, but to Great Britain, not New Zealand. A quickly arranged visit 'for health reasons' by Seddon, who made lavish and mostly unfulfilled promises of aid, and some fast talking by Gudgeon persuaded the ariki to agree to be annexed to Great Britain and federated with New Zealand. In reality, the island became New Zealand territory. When the formalities were completed in June 1901, Gudgeon was rewarded as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) 19 June 1901, on the occasion of the visit of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) to New Zealand
In 1909 the increasingly cantankerous Gudgeon was retired by Prime Minister Joseph Ward, according to Gudgeon because of his lapsed Catholicism. In 1914 he served briefly as censor of telegraphic messages before his official career ended, appropriately, in a row over his salary. He died at his home in Devonport, Auckland, on 5 January 1920. Bertha Gudgeon died in 1933. Public - Lorraine M - Researcher - 26 October 2015 - http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2g23/gudgeon-walter-edward