Sunday, 13 March 2011

Colvile's Story, Part 3: Massacre at Te Ranga

In the previous instalment Major Colvile had been instructed to fortify a redoubt at Maketu. After some indeterminate skirmishes, detachments of the 43rd and 68th Regiments and the militia, assisted by the shelling of gunboats off the coast, had managed to drive the East Coast invaders southwards.

Image © and courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Burial Ground at Te Papa, Tauranga,
after the Battle of Gate Pa, April 1864 [29]

Meanwhile, back in Tauranga, General Cameron had his hands full with plans for the assault on Maori fortifications at Pukehinahina on the following day. The resulting debacle of the Battle of Gate Pa on 29th April with its horrific casualties, particularly among the elite 43rd Regiment who formed a significant part of the storming party, is covered in great detail elsewhere [30] and need not be repeated here since Colvile took no part in it. Probably as a direct result of this massive defeat at the hands of vastly inferior numbers, Cameron "abandoned aggressive operations," returning to Auckland with a substantial portion of the troops [17].

Image © and courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
The Redoubt at Gate Pa, Pukehinahina, Tauranga, c.1864 [31]

At the same time, the detachment of the 43rd which had garrisoned the fort at Maketu returned to Tauranga, being replaced by two companies of the 68th Regiment under the command of Major J.H. Kirby, on the 20th and 25th May, Colvile departing on the latter date [32,33]. All of the companies of the 43rd Regiment were now encamped at Te Papa, although their numbers had been substantially depleted at Gate Pa. Redoubts were built on the site of the Battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina and at Judea, both manned by detachments of the 68th Regiment, and large scouting patrols continued to be mounted periodically, probing areas to the south and west [34]. At the beginning of June the government were speaking of the "cessation of hostilities" in Tauranga [17].

By mid-June, however, rumours of large numbers of Maori warriors massing in the hinterland, under the command of Wiremu Tamihana (aka William Thompson), for an attack on the soldiers at Te Papa caused Colonel Greer to cancel further withdrawals of troops to Auckland [35,36]. Probing patrols of several hundred British and Colonial Defence Force troops sent out daily, under the command of Colonel Greer, Captain Turner and Captain Pye, encountered large groups of several hundred Maori apparently transporting supplies at various locations. According to a report written on 21st June, "no shots were exchanged, as strict orders are said to have been issued that no firing should take place until first initiated by the natives."

Image courtesy of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
(after Cowan, 1922) [30]

Then, on 21st June, Colonel Greer with a large patrol of 600 from the 43rd, 68th and 1st Waikatos stumbled across a estimated 600 of Rawiri Pukirake's men, and probably some women, digging a single line of rifle pits on a narrow neck of ground about 150 metres wide at Te Ranga, five kilometres south of Gate Pa [37]. Since Captain Turner had most likely reconnoitred this ground the previous day without noticing anything untoward [38], the Maori fortifications were clearly in their initial stages of preparation, and the surprised excavators therefore almost completely exposed. Lieutenant Robley, then with the 68th Regiment, described the scene thus:

The work then consisted of a single line of rifle-pits four or five feet deep by about two hundred yards long, extending from east to west across the most forward narrow neck of the ground occupied. Taken by surprise the digging party, among whom were several women, retired into their trenches and on some of the rebel outposts opening fire on our column, Colonel Greer decided to dislodge them before they could carry out any intention they may have had of constructing a formidable pa [39].

Image © and courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Storming the Rifle Pits at Te Ranga, June 21, 1864 [40]

Nevertheless Greer was cautious, sending back to Te Papa for reinforcements and, while waiting for them to arrive, deployed his soldiers and pinned down the defenders with "a sharp fire for about two hours." After a further 200 soldiers were close enough to provide support Greer's forces, according to his brief report written later that evening and a more elaborate one compiled almost a week later, "charged and carried the rifle pits in the most dashing manner, under tremendous fire, but which was for the most part too high. For a few minutes the Maories fought desperately, and then were utterly routed," Major Colvile "gallantly [leading] the left of the line of skirmishers into the rifle pits, being himself one of the first in." [37,41,42]

The romanticised image shown above, prepared for readers of the Illustrated London News, is unlikely to be a realistic representation of the battle, but does give an impression of the tiny area in which, according to Greer, some six hundred of the enemy were supposed to have been massed.

Image © and courtesy of the Australian War Memorial
Action at Te Ranga, 21 June 1864 [43]

This painting by Henry Atcherley, who fought with the 1st Waikato Militia Regiment at Te Ranga [44], shows:
• a line of Maori in the middle ground, on the far side of the light-coloured area, furthest from the artist
• a long line of blue-jacketed skirmishers along the rise on the near side of the light-coloured area, with smoke issuing forth from a 6-pounder Armstrong gun at the left hand end of the line,
• the mounted 43rd and 68th detachments on the left,
• two groups of reserves in the left and right foreground (the latter partly hidden from the artist by a low hill)
• a small group of four in the middle, possibly officers, two of them mounted, and
• a group of artillerymen manning another Armstrong gun on the right.

Image © 2011 Camilla Payne
Te Ranga Battle Site, 10 February 2011 [45]

Unfortunately, the presence of high orchard shelterbelts in this area precludes the taking of any decent comparative "now and then" style photographs. This south-westerly view taken from Joyce Road, about 100 metres east of its northern junction with Pyes Pa Road, and 230 metres from the original line of rifle pits, now marked with a memorial erected by the Historical Places Trust (see below). It shows the open grassland across which Colvile and his detachment would have attacked, the enemy being concentrated on the 150 metre wide "isthmus" in the centre middle ground.

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Location of the rifle pits & Te Ranga memorial [46]

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Bronze plaque on the Te Ranga memorial [47]

Greer sent Major Colvile with a strong patrol out to Te Ranga on the following morning to "bury the dead and fill in the rifle pits." In addition to the 68 killed in the initial attack, a further 39 bodies of those who had been slain in the follow up of the Maori retreat were collected, bringing to 107 the total "buried in the rifle pits which they had themselves dug the morning before." [42]

Image © 2010 Brett Payne
Memorial to Rawiri Puhiraki and Henare Taratoa,
Mission Cemetery, Tauranga [48]

In the 1874 the body of Rawiri Puhiraki, the leader of the Maori forces, and one of those discovered in the rifle pits after the battle, was exhumed and reburied in the Mission Cemetry at Te Papa, and a substantial red granite monument to both him and Henare later erected in 1914 [49].

Image © 2010 Brett Payne Image © 2010 Brett Payne
43rd Regiment Memorial, Mission Cemetery, Tauranga [50,51]

Close by is the monument to those of the 43rd Regiment who fell at Gate Pa and Te Ranga. The total casualties among the British forces at Te Ranga were low, eight soldiers killed and 44 officers, NCOs and men wounded, of whom 3 died later. Roughly half of these were from the 43rd, and the names of those who died are commemorated on of the three plaques which adorn the obelisk.

Image © and courtesy of Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa
Maori Arms taken at Te Ranga, 21 June 1864 [52]

Colonel Morant of the 68th Regiment stated:
More loot fell into the hands of the troops than is usual in these affairs, as I understand some soldiers found a good deal of money upon certain of the chiefs who were slain, as well as “maris” and greenstone ear ornaments.
Other writers are more explicit:
After the battle the Maori dead were looted. Rawiri Puhirake’s greenstone pendant was taken by a 68th man, who sold it to Major Colville. Also found at this position were heirlooms, tupara, flint guns, single and double-barreled percussion; long and short handled tomahawks; whale bone and geenstone mere, old bayonets made into spears, green-stone ear ornaments; long and short-handled spades, provisions in the shape of cakes, compressed fern root, pipis, maize, cooking utensils, mats, old clothing, blankets, kits and a host of other miscellaneous stock. An old haversack full of bank notes is said to have been picked up by a soldier while another found ten sovereigns. A letter to Hakaraia from Opotiki was found. Even Colonel Greer "got many things after Te Ranga." [53]

Image © and courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Cemetery at Te Papa with 43rd Regiment Memorial [54]

The 43rd Regiment, in particular, were keen to extract revenge for the "stain on [their] honour," according to Von Tempsky. In addition, it appears that various aspects of the battle, such as the strength of the enemy and the number of the Maori casualties, may have been inflated in order to render the victory more decisive and significant, and thus ameliorating the shock of the Gate Pa defeat [17].

Image © and courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Officers of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry, Tauranga [55]

The 43rd Regiment under Lieut.-Colonel Synge and the 68th under Major Shuttleworth, remained at Te Papa long enough to become bored with camp life [56], and to be present at the signing of the peace agreement between Ngaiterangi and the Crown in early August [57]. By the 7th September, however, Colvile and the 43rd had been shipped back to Auckland in preparation for a move to the Taranaki theatre of war in November [58].

Continued in Part 4: Wounded at Warea

References

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

[29] Burial Ground at Te Papa, Tauranga, after the Battle of Gate Pa, April 1864, Pencil and watercolour (242 x 372mm) by H.A. Scrivener, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: B-064-024, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[30] Cowan, James (1922, 1955) The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Periods: Volume I (1845-1864), Wellington: R.E. Owen, Courtesy of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.

[31] Soldiers and the Redoubt at Gate Pa, Pukehinahina, Tauranga, c.1864, Undated photographic print, possibly by John Kinder, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: PA1-f-046-13-3, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[32] Anon (1864) Maketu (From our own correspondent), Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2153, 14 June 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[33] Matheson, Alister (2005) Fort Colvile: Pukemaire Redoubt - from Emily Kirby's Letters, 1864-66, Historical Review, Vol. 53, Issue 2, p.68-71, Tauranga Historical Society.

[34] Anon (1864) Tauranga (from our own Correspondent), Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2147, p.3, 7 June 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[35] Anon (1864) Tauranga (from a Correspondent), Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2152, 13 June 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[36] Anon (1864) Tauranga (from our own Correspondent), June 15, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2156, p.4, 17 June 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[37] Greer, H.H., Col. (1864) The New Zealand War. Letter to War Office. 21 June 1864, London: Daily News, 17 September 1864, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Courtesy of Gale CENGAGE.

[38] Gudgeon, T.W. (1887) The Defenders of New Zealand, being a Short Biography of Colonists who Distinguished Themselves in Upholding Her Majesty's Supremacy in These Islands, Auckland: H. Brett, Early New Zealand Books, The University of Auckland.

[39] Fildes, H.E.M. (1985) Extracts from "Major General H. Gordon Robley: Soldier and Artist," Courtesy of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.

[40] The war in New Zealand - storming the rifle pits at Te Ranga, June 21 1864, Wood engraving, tinted, 288 x 420 mm, by Nicholas Chevalier, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: PUBL-0060, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[41] Anon (1864) Four Officers Wounded (from our own Correspondent), Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2161, 23 June 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[42] Greer, H.H., Col. (1864) The New Zealand War. Letter to War Office. 27 June 1864, London: Daily News, 17 September 1864, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Courtesy of Gale CENGAGE.

[43] Action at Te Ranga, 21 June 1864, Watercolour (156 x 426mm) by H.M.L. Atcherley, Australian War Memorial ID. ART19817.

[44] Platts, Una (1980) Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook, Christchurch: Avon Fine Prints, New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.

[45] Digital photograph of Te Ranga Battle Site, Joyce/Pyes Pa Roads, Tauranga, taken by Camilla Payne with Panasonic DMC-FZ40, 10 February 2011.

[46] Digital photograph of the location of rifle pits & Te Ranga Memorial, Pyes Pa Road, Tauranga, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 2 December 2010.

[47] Digital photograph of the bronze plaque on the Te Ranga Memorial, Pyes Pa Road, Tauranga, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 2 December 2010.

[48] Digital photograph of the memorial to Rawiri Puhiraki and Henare Taratoa, Mission Cemetery, Tauranga, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 30 November 2010.

[49] Rorke, Jinty (2010) Rawiri Puhirake, Te Ara/Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

[50] Digital photograph of the memorial to soldiers of the 43rd Regiment who were killed or died of wounds received at the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga, Mission Cemetery, Tauranga, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 30 November 2010.

[51] Digital photograph of detail of the plaque on the 43rd Regiment Memorial, Mission Cemetery, Tauranga, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 30 November 2010.

[52] Maori Arms taken at Te Ranga, 21 June 1864, Watercolour (174 x 123mm) by H.G. Robley, Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa Regn. No. 1992-0035-2354.

[53] Battle of Te Ranga, on New Zealand Land Wars, by Bryce Brown Art.

[54] Photograph of the cemetery, Te Papa, Tauranga, c.1864, Albumen print (154 x 225mm) mounted on detached album leaf, by John Kinder, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: PAColl-7806-3, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[55] Photograph of Officers of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry outside their Mess Hut, Tauranga, c.1864, Albumen print (152 x 215mm) mounted on detached album leaf, by unidentified photographer, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: PAColl-7806-2-2, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[56] Anon (1864) Tauranga District Confiscated. August 9, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2219, p.5, 31 August 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[57] Anon (1864) Tauranga. The Peace Conference - Reply of His Excellency the Governor. August 6, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2201, p.5, 10 August 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[58] Anon (1864) Port of Auckland. Miscellaneous, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2225, p.4, 7 September 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

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