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Captain (later Major) Thomas Broun 1st Regiment of Waikato Militia

Images & text by Aubrey Bairstow

Major Broun c 1900-1910.  He wears the EVA Cross and his Indian Mutiny Medal thus dating the photograph prior to the award of the Legion díHonneur or the NZ War Medal.

Original photo held in The A G Bairstow Collection.

Brounís Medals. Indian Mutiny (no clasp) Lieutenant 35th Regt, New Zealand Medal Captain 1st Waikato Regt 1861-66 dated reverse, French Legion díHonneur, Empire Veteranís Association Cross (in gold) un-named. Medals from the A G Bairstow Collection

Thomas Broun was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 15 July 1838, the son of John Broun, a Lieutenant (and artist), and his wife, Margaret Stewart. Both his father and an uncle were naturalists of considerable repute and so it was not unexpected that Broun took a keen interest in natural history, especially insects. 

As Brounís family were of some social standing he was educated in Edinburgh by a private tutor. 

He enlisted in the Forfar Artillery Militia in the mid 1850ís and on 8 July 1856 was commissioned as an Ensign in the 35th (Royal Sussex) Regiment of Foot, which he then accompanied to Burma. It was here that he started a collection for the British Museum. 

In May 1857 Broun and a small detachment of men from his Regiment were sent to Calcutta at the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny. He is believed to have been engaged in the protection of the French settlement of Pondicherry, which was threatened by a large body of mutineers. 

The main engagement of the 35th Regiment during the Indian Mutiny was in the Jugdispoore jungles in April 1858, where, on 23 April 1858 they suffered heavy casualties (the dead included 3 officers, 5 sergeants and over 100 men). 

On 17 March 1861 Broun was promoted to Lieutenant. Near the end of 1861 he was struck down with cholera and narrowly escaped death. He was invalided home in 1862 and retired from the army on 3 October of that year.

On 26 March 1863 Broun married Ann (Anne) Shepherd at Edinburgh; she was well educated, a talented linguist and musician, and a lover of bird and animal life. They immigrated to New Zealand later in the year, and were to raise a family of at least six daughters. 

Broun had letters of introduction from the Duke of Hamilton to Governor Sir George Grey, and on 19 September 1863 was offered a commission as Captain in the newly formed 1st Regiment of the Waikato Militia. 

Between 1863 and 1866 Broun commanded detachments of Colonial troops encamped at St Johnís (Manukau), Papatoetoe, Alexandra (Tuakau), Judea (Tauranga), Hamilton and Cambridge Redoubts. He was known as a kind and respected commander who always put the interests of his men first. His diary of the period is held at Auckland Museum and a copy is held in The Collection.

In 1866 Broun was in command of a detachment of men from the 7th Company of the 1st Waikato Regiment  when (together with two companies of the 12th Regiment) they engaged Maori in the bush near Katikati. The fight was described as being fierce and vicious and the Maori were defeated. Captain Broun later commanded serval columns from Whakatane which were sent to intercept the Maori leader Te Kooti. Under his command was Cornet Harry Wrigg of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers who was subsequently awarded the New Zealand Cross. 

Broun retired from the army for the second time in  his life in 1868. And, with an entitlement to a Crown land grant, and took up farming at Opotiki. The venture was not successful. Allegations that he had withdrawn the money of four privates but had not paid it to them led to a refusal to issue his Crown grant. He was declared bankrupt in mid 1867, and the allegations were not disproved until the end of the year.

Broun continued to collect and describe insects, particularly beetles. He usually worked at night, at times enlisting the services of his daughters to sort out specimens from his samples. He presented the first of his many papers to the Auckland Institute in 1875. 

In 1876 Broun was offered a position with the Auckland Board of Education via his old colleague and then Minister of Defence Colonel Haultain. From 1876 to 1888 he was employed as a teacher at Tairua, Whangarei Heads, Kawau Island and Howick. During this period he prepared the first volume of his Manual of the New Zealand Coleoptera , which was first published in 1880 and contained descriptions of 1,140 species. Six further volumes were published, the last in 1893. Later descriptions were published in the papers of scientific societies. In total Broun identified some 3979 species of New Zealand insect and his works still remain the definitive text on this subject.

In 1894 Broun was appointed to the Department of Agriculture as government entomologist at Auckland. Between 1896 and 1907 he was also the inspector (latterly chief inspector) of imported fruit at Auckland. He went on to found what became the DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research) (now ESR) and was admitted as a Fellow of the Entomological Society. This is a remarkable achievement given that he had never actually attended University and his qualifications appear limited to what he was taught by his private tutor some 60 years prior. 

In 1905 he was promoted to the rank of Major in the New Zealand Militia and also held the post of Commandant and Vice President of the Empire Veteranís Association.

He lived at a small farmlet ďNga OkiĒ at Runciman, near Drury from about 1889 to 1908. He shifted to 26 William Street (now Willcott Street) in Mount Eden in 1911 and remained there until his death.

He died at Auckland on 24 August 1919, survived by his wife and six daughters. Ann Broun died in 1923. He is buried at Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland

"Nga Oki" (The Oaks) in 1952.(M Harding photo)               26 Willcott St, Mt Eden (B Hutchinson photo)

Major Broun was awarded his New Zealand War Medal (with reverse dates 1861-66) on 18 March 1916 and the French Legion díHonneur the following year. The reason behind the award of the latter medal has not been confirmed however up until his death Broun maintained that it was for his services to the French community at Pondicherry during the Indian Mutiny some 60 years previously. 

Broun was an avid collector of insect specimens for over 50 years. He found 976 new species altogether, although the majority he described were sent from collectors throughout New Zealand.

By the time his final paper was published posthumously in 1923 he had recorded and provided descriptions for 4,323 species; 3,538 of his nominal species were new to science. 

Only 37 were illustrated, meaning most species could not be recognised without having the original specimens available. Broun bequeathed his principal collection of insects to the British Museum. It was sent there in 1922, despite its export having been banned at the instigation of leading New Zealand scientists. 

Other collections, including one of over 1,000 species of exotic beetles from Madagascar and Africa (and contained in his desk), are now held by the Auckland Institute and Museum and Landcare Research, Auckland. 

Some of Brounís specimens in the Auckland Museum.

Although many of Broun's descriptions of New Zealand Coleoptera are now obsolete, he had made perhaps the most important individual contribution to identifying and describing New Zealand's beetles. Many specimens from his beetle collection are on permanent display in the Auckland Museum and were also featured in their publication ď150 TreasuresĒ.
Brounís name appears on Ranfurlyís Roll of Defenders of the Empire (1902). He was awarded an Indian Mutiny Medal with no clasp (Lieut 35th Regt), New Zealand Medal (1861-66 reverse dates) (Captain 1st Waikato Regt), French Legion díHonneur and the Empire Veteranís Cross (a believed unique example in gold Ėpresumably due to the office he held within this veteranís organisation). 

There were 310 NZ Medals awarded to the 1st Waikato Militia. Some were dated 1861-66 others were undated.

Brounís grave at Waikumete Cemetery

A presentation scroll from the citizens of Auckland to Broun at the time of his retirement

 

 

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