Adam's Family History
The Jenkins family originally from Warwickshire,
Welcome to my page. I have put this page to together in an
effort to find more people interested in researching the following
families. The 1918 Raetihi Bush Fire
page is a work in progress. I will add more stories as I come across
The 1918 Raetihi
Bush Fire As children we had been used to bush fires. February and
March each year would bring heavy smoke palls over the sky and the
sun appeared like a huge sulphur ball through the smoke.
GREAT FIRE was different. All day the wind had been rising to gale
force and the smell of fire was heavy in the air.
Our father was
away on business and Mother alone with we three girls and Harold who
was about two years old. Even though we felt the tension in the air,
and everyone was longing for the wind to change, we were not really
conscious of the terrible fear our Mother was facing. As darkness
came the worry increased, as did the wind and the red glow of the
approaching fires. We watched from the window, and the big hill
behind our house was inky black against the angry red sky. We had
gone to bed in the midst of all of this excitement. We must have
slept, but were awakened by Mother who said “its time to leave now”.
This we could not understand – leave the house in the middle of the
night when the wind was a raging inferno carrying burning debris and
even sheets of iron with it. The hill that had been inky black was
now alight with burning trees, like living torches.
in our best frocks. Rita and I wore our new brooches – mine was a
blue bird. Mother had packed the pram with some clothes and put
Harold in it, and maybe Marge too, as she was very small. It was a
big cumbersome pram, and I’ll never know how Mother pushed it, or
even how we even walked to the town, as when the door was opened, we
couldn’t stand against the force of the wind. Our eyes were smarting
with the smoke and sparks and our mouths full of grit. The pram was
blown over several times, but we made it to the outskirts of town
where we all clung desperately to the wooden railing o f Freeman
Jackson’s Salesyards. I had hidden my head, but some one touched me
and tried to pull me up. It was mother and then I saw the wooden
fences all around us alight. “Time to move again”.
people all bungled up and unrecognisable passed us. They shouted but
it was impossible to her what they said above the roar of wind and
Two words seemed to be repeated over and over “Drill Hall,
Drill Hall” so we started off again, but when we got to the Drill
Hall, its roof was sailing over our heads like a pocket handkerchief
.Here Mother gave up. The pram was wrecked and useless. Some man
loomed out of the chaos and took Harold in his arms, and now the cry
was “the River, the River”, but we could not keep up with the man in
the confusion we lost him and our little brother. We were in
At last we reached the river. Someone tried
to give mother a child, but it was a little girl, and Mother said
she had enough girls, she wanted her boy. Then somehow the man with
Harold found us. Crowds were scrambling down the bank to the river
but the man managed to persuade Mother to continue on to the Station
as a relief train was being sent through from Ohakune to the rescue.
So we went on to the Station. The bush was denser here and fires
were raging everywhere, and looking back we saw the bridge burning
behind us. Crowds were on the Station but no train. Then we heard
its whistle blowing, and the screaming of cattle as they crashed
from the Railway lines into the burning fires on each side. The
train waited as long as possible to pick up stragglers, but it
became dangerous to delay and we started moving at a snails pace
with whistle again blowing to get the poor cattle off the line.
Above the roar of the wind and fire we heard their screaming.
was morning when we arrived in Ohakune and the wind had changed at
last and a soft rain was falling. A stranger Lady was smiling at us
and took us to her place for breakfast. Then the Salvation Army came
with Relief and we were fitted out with clean clothes. Auntie Daisy
took charge of us. Our Father must have come later. He had heard the
whole town had been wiped out and that there were no survivors. One
of us said, “can we go home now?” Mother replied “ there’s no home
to go to.”and poor little Harold went around singing to himself “No
w-i-n-d, No w-i-n-d, No more w-i-n-d, over and over.