Corporal Richard Auger was one of two non-commissioned officers of the Royal Sappers and Miners who volunteered to join Lieutenant George Grey’s exploration parties 1837 to 1839. He was admired by Grey and throughout his journal, Auger is mentioned over twenty times in a positive light. In Grey’s dispatches he paid tribute to ‘the steadiness, skill and devotion’ of his two sappers, each of whom drew working pay of one shilling a day in addition to his regimental pay. Later the Secretary of State for the Colonies (then Lord John Russell) acknowledged their ‘good and enterprising conduct’ with a gratuity of ten pounds.
Auger transferred to South Australia briefly and then returned to England, landing at Woolwich in September 1840. He took his discharge from the Army at Woolwich in September and discharged from the Army by purchase*. After Grey had served his first stint as Governor of New Zealand (1854), he sought out Auger in England and presented him with a silver teapot and stand inscribed ‘Sir George Grey to his old follower, Richard Auger’.
In 1841 T & W Boon published Grey’s two-volume journal ‘under the authority of Her Majesty’s Government’ while Grey was Governor of South Australia. The page numbers refer to those in the journal.
*There are therefore no Chelsea Pension records extant for Richard Auger.
First of Grey’s Expeditions from Plymouth to Capetown to Hanover Bay, New Holland
February 5 1837
All our preparations being completed, there embarked in the ‘Beagle’, besides myself and Mr. Lushington, Mr. Walker, a surgeon and naturalist, and Corporals Coles and Auger, Royal Sappers and Miners, who had volunteered their services; and we sailed from Plymouth on the 5th July 1837. (page 5).
February 8 1838
Men could not have behaved better than they all did on this occasion, particularly Corporal Auger who, possessing the power of carrying on his back very heavy burdens, took every occasion of exercising it in such a way as to stimulate the others, and very much to accelerate our movements. (page 139).
February 22 1838
I also reclined upon the ground, until sores broke out from lying on so hard a surface in one position. Corporal Auger latterly however made a sort of low stretcher, which gave me a little more ease. (page 158).
March 26 1838
The party soon arrived and, when my sketches and notes* were completed, we retraced a portion of our route of this morning, moving round the sandstone ridge through one portion of which I saw a sort of pass which I thought might perhaps afford us a means of egress. I therefore halted the party and moved up with Corporal Auger to examine it. I could not but admire the perseverance of Auger in having discovered so very intricate a ford as this was. (page 205).
*The sketches and notes mentioned were of a number of cave drawings which Grey faithfully represented in his journal.
Second of Grey’s Expeditions from the Gascoyne to Gantheaume Bay.
March 20 1839
When I reached the party and told the tale of the total disappearance of all we had left at the depot blank and dismayed faces met me on all sides. Mr. Walker and Corporal Auger set an excellent example to the others. (page 395).
Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in North-West and Western Australia, George Grey Esq. 1841.
History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners, T W J Connolly, 1855.
The Royal Australian Engineers 1835 to 1902: The Colonial Engineers, Major General R R McNicoll, CBE.