Sunday, 13 March 2011

Colvile's Story, Part 2: Duck Shoot at Maketu

This is the second in a series of articles about Fiennes Middleton Colvile and his service with the 48th Regiment of Foot in New Zealand. Part 1 introduces the series with a carte de visite portrait of Colonel Colvile sent to me by historian Michael Hargreave-Mawson. It also provides some early biographical details and background to his sevrice with the 48th Regiment. We now come to the 48th's arrival in Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty on the north-east coast of the North Island.

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Monmouth Redoubt, Tauranga [15]

The bulk of the troops disembarked from the H.M.S. Miranda and H.M.S. Corio near the Archdeacon Brown's Church Missionary Society station at Te Papa, on the shores of Tauranga harbour. Over the next few weeks they established the Monmouth and Durham Redoubts, overlooking the harbour and land approaches respectively, and a large tented and hutted camp [16]. Further troops continued to arrive, in preparation for General Cameron's plan to disrupt the supply of both warriors and food to the Waikato tribes by the Ngaiterangi [17].

Image © and courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library
Colvile's Redoubt at Maketu, c. 1864 [18]

In the mean time, a request was received from the inhabitants of Maketu, some 35 kilometres to the south-east, for protection from Ngati Porou warriors from the East Coast who were reported to be approaching. On 5 March two hundred troops from the 68th Regiment had been sent down the coast on board the H.M.S. Miranda but, finding the seas too rough to land, they had been forced to return to Tauranga. A detachment of troops under the command of Major Colville was then marched overland to Maketu, arriving on 11th March. Colvile established his camp in an abandoned Maori pa known as Pukemaire, situated at the top of a steep hill in a commanding position overlooking the settlement [19].

Image © and courtesy of Auckland City Library
Fort Colvile (or Pukemaire Pa) viewed from the south-east [20]

Despite continuing rumours of the approach of East Coast warriors, the situation remained quiet at Maketu over the next few weeks, permitting the troops to settle into their new home. Their security was bolstered by the arrival of a large contingent some 300 "friendly" Arawa on the 20th April. Conditions appeared peaceful enough for Major Colvile to consider indulging in leisure activities.

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Little Waihi, from the sand hills on the Pukehina spit [21]

The lagoon over the hill at Little Waihi - actually the estuary of the Waihi River with a narrow, fordable outlet - was well known for its abundant wildfowl. Colvile and Ensign Way, commander of the 3rd Waikato Militia detachment, accompanied by an orderly headed over there for some recreational shooting on the morning of Thursday 21st, 1864.

Image © and Courtesy of Google EarthOblique view of the Maketu Peninsula,
showing Major Colvile's escape route [22]

The report from a newspaper correspondent in Maketu follows:

When the Major and his party arrived at Waihi they were detained about fifteen minutes launching the canoe, which was high and dry on the beach. After succeeding in launching their craft they started on their expedition, and they had not been on the water but a short time when Mr. Way saw armed natives on the opposite side coming towards them. He at once drew the Major's attention to the fact, remarking at the same time that he had no doubt there were many more in the neighbourhood.

The Major then said to Mr. Way, "I think we had better return," which suggestion was immediately carried out, Mr. Way remarking, that he was glad the suggestion had come from the Major in the first instance. They at once turned the canoe back, and after proceeding about 200 yards the Major called out, "quick, put the canoe on shore." The canoe was then run on a mud bank — when a volley of about 50 shots whistled round their heads — the Major's orderly fell over the side of the canoe, Mr. Way followed, and the Major laid down in the canoe.

Almost immediately after they commenced wading to the shore, having to cross a mud flat about a quarter of a mile in breadth, every step they took sinking above six inches in the mud. All this time they were closely followed by the Maoris, who continued loading and firing as fast as they could. After a vast amount of exertion the Major and his party succeeded in reaching the shore; they had then a steep hill to mount, which they succeeded in doing after a great exertion. The Major mounting first, the orderly second, and Mr. Way last; the Maoris still following and firing, the last shot falling about two yards from Mr Way. [23]

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Little Waihi from the Maketu tableland,
showing the gully up which Colvile, Way and Key escaped [24]

Colvile's own account to Headquarters, perhaps understandably, neglected to mention the original purpose of the expedition:

Port Maketu, April 21st, 1864. Sir, — I have the honor to report to you an engagement with the East Coast natives at Why-hee, two miles from the fort at Maketu, in which about 110 men of the force under my command were engaged. An ambuscade was laid near the ford at Why-hee this morning; and at least 50 rebels opened lire on Ensign Way (3rd Waikato Regiment), Private Key (43rd Light Infantry), and myself, when we were crossing the river at 10 a.m., in a canoe. The rebels were certainly not above 50 yards distant at the time, and I consider our escape as most providential and wonderful. They pursued us across the ford, on our jumping out of the canoe into the water, and followed us, yelling and firing, till we got into the bush and escaped. [25]

Image © and courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library
Little Waihi, Sketch Map of Military Action, April 1864 [26]

With that ignominious thwarting of their day's activities, Colvile issued orders to send "a picket of 50 men directly," and then had to retire to his tent for half an hour to recover his composure. Way had collapsed in the fern, completely exhausted but, after administration of a "stimulant" - perhaps a little brandy - recovered enough to return to the fray. Further troops were sent down to the rifle pits which had previously been dug on the near side of the estuary, but the East Coast natives, estimated at some 300 strong, had re-crossed the ford and established themselves in the protective sandhills of Pukehina, resulting in a standoff [23]. Fighting continued back and forth across the estuary for almost a week, with some casualties, but no permanent advances on either side, so Colvile sent a message with Retreat Tapsell, then a Sergeant in the Armed Constabulary, to Colonel Booth in Tauranga, requesting assistance [27].

Gunboats were sent down from Tauranga on 27 April and, after taking aboard Ensign Langlands to direct the shelling, succeeded in routing the enemy from their positions.

Their retreat became a run over the sand hills. H.M.S.S. 'Falcon' and the 'Sandfly,' steamed in hot pursuit, shelling them as they went ... The detachment of the Colonial Defence Corps and Forest Rangers crossed the Waihi river, with about 250 natives of the Arawas, about 4 p.m., 100 of the same tribe having gone in hot pursuit some time before, catching up the rear of the enemy and killing two. [28]

Te Arawa warriors, accompanied by MacDonnell and other from the colonial forces, pursued the enemy down the coast past Otamarakau as far as Matata on the 28th, killing many, although not without casualties. By that evening, the enemy had scattered and the troops were all back at Maketu, tending to the wounded and burying the dead [28].

Continued in Part 3: Massacre at Te Ranga


[15] Digital Photograph of Monmouth Redoubt, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 24 November 2010.

[16] Anon (1864) The War in Auckland, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2110, 25 April 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[17] Belich, James (1988) The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, Auckland: Penguin Books, 396p.

[18] Colvile's Redoubt at Maketu, 1864, Watercolour (142 x 226mm) by H.M.L. Atcherley, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: A-196-009, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[19] Piercy, J.J. (2005) The War of 1864 and its Aftermath, Historical Review, Vol. 53, Issue 2, p. 56-65, Tauranga Historical Society.

[20] Photograph of Fort Colvile (or Pukemaire Pa) viewed from the south-east, Undated, Print by unidentified photographer, Auckland City Library.

[21] Digital Photograph of Little Waihi, from the sand hills on the Pukehina spit, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 30 December 2010.

[22] Annotated oblique view of the Maketu Peninsula, Adapted and accessed from Google Earth, 15 February 2011.

[23] Anon (1864) Maketu. (From our Special Correspondent), Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2114, p.3-4, 29 April 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[24] Digital Photograph of Little Waihi, from the Maketu tableland, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 30 December 2010.

[25] Anon (1864) News from Tauranga, Wellington: Wellington Independent, Vol XIX, Issue 2054, p.5, 28 April 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[26] Sketch map of military action near Little Waihi, Bay of Plenty, April 1864, by Thomas McDonnell, Pencil on paper, scale not given (203 x 330mm), Alexander Turnbull Library ID: MapColl-832.16hkm/1864/Acc.51976, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[27] Arawa (1937) Historic Maketu: Bledisloe Park and its Associations, The New Zealand Railway Magazine, Vol. 12, No. 7, p.37-38, Wellington: New Zealand Government Railways Department, New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.

[28] Anon (1864) The War in Auckland. Maketu, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2121, p.5, 7 May 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.


  1. Fascinating. Just today I finished reading an article about Custer and his troops so your story became quite vivid for me.

  2. Thank you, T+L, part 3 on its way :-) Regards, Brett


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