The First Contingent, is set in New Zealand in October 1899.
Captain Dominic Farrell is in the mounted rifles, a regiment in the New Zealand army. He’s working for Colonel Pole Penton, the commander in chief, as one of his aides.
Dominic and Major Madocks, Colonel Penton’s adjutant are writing a training manual for the new Enfield rifle, as the government ordered fifteen hundred .303 Martini Enfield MK1 Artillery Carbines and bayonets. Dominic is in Auckland overseeing the introduction of the new rifle to the volunteer units in the region and to talk to the commanders of the units about what they would like to see in the manual.
On September 28th, 1899, the house of representatives votes to send a contingent of soldiers to Transvaal to help Britain fight the Boers and calls for volunteers. The next day the commanders of the districts around the country receive a telegram asking for volunteers to fight in Transvaal, they are looking for 210 volunteer soldiers from around the country.
Lieutenant Colonel Banks the officer in command of the Auckland volunteer district asks Dominic to go to the Coromandel to talk to the commanders of the volunteer units there about the men they have who would be willing to go and fight in Transvaal. Dominic will oversee the recruitment of the volunteers in the Auckland region, and at the same time smooth over problems that have arisen in the Ohinemuri Rifles, based in Paeroa with units from Paeroa, Waihi and Thames.
Dominic is unhappy about the orders. He is usually based in Wellington and is only in Auckland because of the work on the training manual. He has nearly finished and is due to go back to Wellington, these new orders will delay his return to Wellington.
However, he grew up in Waihi and worked in Paeroa for William Hennessey before he joined the army, and he was already planning on visiting so he can do that and do what Banks wants as well. Army life suits him and there are too many memories of the past he has left behind, so he’s had little to do with his family for the last ten years. He decides to stay with the Hennessey family in Paeroa and will fit in a visit to his family while he is there.
He decides to do the job as quickly as he can and then get back to Auckland to work on the manual.
When he gets to the Hennessey’s, Dom is met at the door by his sister in law Eliza, his brother Declan’s wife. His family, including Alice, the girl he used to be in love with, have decided to visit the Hennessey’s while he’s there to spend time with him.