Possibly members of the Canterbury Engineer Volunteers undertaking bridge building and entrenchment exercises.
The uniform of this Volunteer shows the letters "CEV"
On Saturday the annual inspection of the Canterbury Engineer Volunteers terminated with a practical afternoon's work in the various branches of military engineering which would be required in the event of war. The Hon the Defence Minister, and Mrs Seddon and some members of their family were present. Lieut. Colonel Gordon, with Majors Slater and Francis, watched the operations. The waggons comprising the transport left the Drillshed yard at 10.3.0 a.m., under the charge of two non-commissioned officer, the remainder of the corps being ordered to parade at New Brighton at 3 p.m., but to arrive as much earlier as possible, so that the necessary preliminary work of unloading and arranging the stores, laying a telephone line, &c, could be accomplished before parade time.
At 3 p.m., on the arrival of the Defence Minister's party, the men were told off to their duties mounted and foot signal men, submarine and land miners, telephone men and electricians, field work and bridging parties. The strength of the corps present on parade and detached was forty-four, making, with twenty-six members of the band, a total of seventy men. The work having been commenced the band started playing, and continued from time to time during the afternoon, in a style very much appreciated by the large number of people assembled to witness the operations. The arranged plan was that an enemy, having attempted landing, was off the coast waiting a favourable time to renew the attack, and the Engineers were sent to the front to keep the commanding officer informed, by signal men and telephone, of his proceedings, to retard his advance by destroying bridges, placing submarine mines and land mines, and, at the same time provide for the advance of the local forces by placing a bridge across the Avon, that, while available for the defenders, could be readily removed in case the necessity should arise. The work was all carried out simultaneously, Captain Falconer, the Inspector of Engineers and Submarine Mining, being inspecting officer and Captain Webster commanding, with Lieutenant M'Gee as subaltern.
The land mine, containing 50lb of gunpowder, was successfully fired, but owing to the nature of the soil and being too hurriedly placed, did not produce very great effect, although some of the soil was thrown a distance of one hundred and fifty yards. Mrs Bean, daughter of the Hon E. J. Seddon, fired the mine. The submarine mine, which was fired by Mrs Seddon, gave a very startling and suggestive illustration of the power of 70lb of gun-cotton, and what would be the condition of anything placed over it. The water of the river was lifted in a huge column for about a height of one hundred and sixty feet. Mud and fish were thrown high in the air, fish being picked up in considerable numbers; one huge eel, 18lb in weight, was thrown to a height of fully forty feet, and fell on the bank.
The bridging was accomplished quickly, and many people, including ladies, crossed over. Owing to the limited stores the only possible plan was a raft running between bridge ends; this did the work effectively. The corps' photographer, Sapper Wise, took several photographs during the afternoon.
The signalling and telephone work were well carried out. The telephone wire was laid from the tramway bridge along the left bank to a spot about twenty chains down the river. The flying bridge was thrown across at this spot, and the two mines were fired in its vicinity. The New Brighton Tram Company carried all the Engineers free.