Col A Coster 1980 notes on the Battle of Gate Pa

These notes were also used in the 1990 interview with Col Bob Burt and Col Alan Coster.

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The story of the "battle at Tauranga on 29 April 1864.
Colonel A.P. COSTER OBE ED - Dep Comd 1 Task Force and    
Lieutenant Colonel H.R. BURT MBE - CO 6 HAURAKI.

References.   A.   Cowan - James - New Zealand Wars - Volume 1.
B. Alexander - Major General Sir James - Bush fighting
C. Mair - Captain Gilbert NZC - The story of Gate Pa.
D. Extracts - Prom the Regimental chronicle of the 43rd and 52nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment dated 1903.
E. Records and Photographs held at the Tauranga Historic village museum.
Researched and compiled by Lt Col H.R. BURT MBE.


On 28 March 1864 Col HH GREER Commanding Officer of the 68th Regiment (Durham light Infantry) and the officer commanding all the British troops stationed in the Tauranga area received a letter which read.

To the Colonel,
Friend the Colonel give heed.   We are searching for the meaning of your thoughts "because we have considered your offences.
Your first offence - the shooting of Maoris by soldiers on the 24th February 1864.
The second - the going of soldiers to Maketa, the meaning of which is an eager desire to fight the Ngatipouri.
The third - the Queen's natives have taken up arms.
The fourth - the coming of soldiers to Peterikemea.
Friend, we thoroughly understand your intentions now.   Do you Harken - a challenge for a fight between us is now declared.   The day of fighting, Friday the first of April 1864.   This is a fixed challenge from all the tribe.   When our letter reaches you, write a reply to us.   No more.
Henare Wirima Taratoa (From all the Tribe)

What was the outcome of this challenge?   Why was Colonel Greer at Tauranga with his regiment?
Who were the people who issued the challenge?

I will tell you the story of- the battle of Gate Pa,   The more famous battle of the two which were faught at Tauranga in the winter of 1864 in response to the Maori challenge.
From the mass of conflicting information available on this battle we have endeavoured to extract only that which could be verified from contemporary records, and our sources are the following:
a. Cowans' History of the maori wars
b. Bush Fighting - by Maj Gen Sir James Alexander
c. The Story of Gate Pa - By Captain Gilbert Mair. NZC.
d. Extracts from the Regimental Chronicle of the 43rd and 52nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regt. dated 1903
e. and finally the records and photographs held at the Tauranga historic village museum.


In order to understand the circumstances surrounding the fight at the Gate Pa it is necessary to look briefly into the campaign fought in the Waikato between the British forces led by General Duncan Cameron and the Maori Kingite forces who made the famous stand at Orakau on 1st and 2nd of April 1864.

This Vu graph depicts the Northern portion of the North Island.   Points to be noted are
a. The position of Orakau near Te Awamutu in the southern Waikato.
b. The area of Maungatautjtti to which the Kin^te maoris withdrew after the battle of Orakau.
c. Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty coast separated from the Waikato by the Kaimai and Mamaku ranges
d.   The Maketu and Rotorua a*reas peopled by the Arawa tribe who were loyal to the Queen,
e.   And the East coast area populated by the Ngati Porra, the Tuhoe, and the Whakatohea tribes, all
of whom were sympathetic to the Kingite cause and intending to send war parties to the Waikato by way of the Arawa lands at Maketu and thence over the Kaimai ranges behind Tauranga.

Up to this time the Ngaiterangi people who occupied the Tauranga area, had committed no overt acts against the Queens sovereignty, beyond permitting intermittent parties of young hot bloods to join their kinsmen and hereditory allies then fighting against the Pakeha in the Waikato.   Though the Ngarterangi were in general sympathy with the King movement they had not taken up arms as a tribe, and in fact were living in perfect harmony with the
missionaries and Europeans who were established on the Tauranga harbour at Te Papa, where the city of Tauranga is today.

Although there was peace in the Tauranga area Governor Grey in Auckland on 19 January 1864, signed a memorandum which authorised the dispatch of British troops to the area.   This was done on the recommendation of his ministers who told him that:

a. There is no doubt that Tauranga has been the route for all the disaffected natives of the East Coast to go and return from the war in Waikato.
b. All the natives on the west side of Tauranga harbour are decided enemies, have been to the war, are there now, or are prepared to go.
c. There are large crops there, just ready for gathering in, upon which the Waikato rebels depend.
d. -In-t860 the principal store house of gunpowder
was at the back of Tauranga, and the supplies taken to it were taken through the harbour.
During the present war it has been the route by which both munitions of war, and food, have been taken to the Waikato.
e. To stop this route would be a serious blow to the enemy and would assure and encourage our friends.   It would not raise additional enemies but rather the reverse.
f. General Cameron is of the opinion that in a military point of view he would drive considerable advantage from the diversion, and great deference is due to this opinion.


On 21 January 1864 in response to Governor Greys order, two small vessels the Corio and the Sandfly anchored in Tauranga harbour near where the Army Office jeteass^s7, and landed a small force of "British soldiers. Shortly afterwards HMS Miranda arrived carrying the 68th Durham Light Infantry and the 43 regiment commanded by Lt Col HJ Booth and these troops rapidly built and garrisoned the Durham and Monmouth redoubts overlooking the harbour and adjacent to the mission station already established at Te Papa.
Then the flying column of 500 men consisting of drafts from the 12th, 14th, 50th, 65th, and 70th regiments under major Ryan arrived with the medical ambulance transport and all other necessary services. The artillery consisting of 6 powder armstrong guns was mounted in the redoubts and a very substantial British force of over 1,500 all ranks was then ensconced at Tauranga.
These were the troops whose activities had caused the Ngaiterangi people to issue their challenge to Col Greer.


Shortly after the arrival of the troops in Tauranga those of the Ngaiterangi tribe who were in the Waikato, on hearing the news, left the Maungat-autri area and returned over the Kaimai ranges to their homes.   The tribe then prepared several fortified positions or Pas' on the edge of the forest surrounding Tauranga.   The largest of these, manned by the majority of the tribe was an ancient earth work called Waoku which when renovated and pallisaded provided a very strong defensive position.   It was from this Pa that the challenge was issued. Pour other smaller Pas were prepared and garrisoned and one of these at Te Puna close to Te Papa was so close to the troops that the maoris confidently expected the soldiers to attack them.

The soldiers however remained in Tauranga and Col Greer^ much to the disgust and disappointment of the Ngaiterangi chief Rawiri Puloerake at Waoku, did not reply to the letter of challenge.   There upon Rawiri sent the Col another letter informing him that he and his people had built a road up to the Pa, a distance of some 11 miles from the harbour, so that the soldiers would not be too tired to fight when they reached it.

Again there was no reaction from Col Greer, and as his young men were becoming impatient Rawiri decided to make an attack on the soldiers camp at Tauranga, a sort of feeler or recon in force. Accordingly small detachments from each of the Pas gathered near Tauranga and during the night of 1/2 April 1864 they set off for the garrison lines at Te Papa.   An accidental discharge just as they approached the military camp raised the alarm and the soldiers reaction was strong.   The troops supported by their artillery advanced toward Rawiris walT party so the maoris withdrew.   The casualties in this skirmish were 1 maori wounded by the AO and two soldiers wounded.

The next day Rawiri sent a verbal message to Col Greer saying that as their position inland was too far off for the troops to march, he would make it easier for them by taking up a position nearer to Te-Papa.   He was as good as his word, for on that very night of 2/3 April the maoris occupied a small rise in the Pukehinahina ridge about 2 miles from the soldiers camp, and began to construct the Pa which is now famous as the Gate Pa.

The place was called the Gate by the europeans at Tauranga because on this spot, the crown of the ridge, there was a gateway through a post and rail fence and a ditch and bank, which ran across the hill from swamp to swamp.   The fence was on the boundary line between the european and native land, and had originally been built by the maoris to block the way against pakeha trespassers.   The church mission authorities had then arranged with the maoris that a gateway should be made where the track passed along the spur, so that carts could go in and out, and it was from the circumstances of Rawiris fort being built at this spot that it came to be called the Gate Pa.

The trench and bank on the fence line were enlarged, and on the summit, where the church stands today, the Ngaiterangi built their redoubt. The land sloped quickly on either side to the swamps that ran up from the tidal arms of Tauranga harbour, the Waimapu on the east and the Waikareao on the west.

This Vu foil shows the general area of the Pukehinahina ridge some two miles from the military camp at Te Papa.   Note the position of the fence and ditch and the swamps on both sides of the fairly steep ridge.
Timber was scarce there, and so the palisading was quite frail, being constructed from manuka stakes flax sticks, and some oosts and rails from a settlers stockyard and fences near the British camp. Trenches were dug and traversed against enfilading fire, under ground ruas were made for shelter against shell fire, and covered ways connected inner and outer trenches and rifle pits.

The main redoubt, in the form of a rough oblong was on the highest part of the neck of land. On the west side the defences were continued by the construe tion of a smaller Pa, and the ditch across the whole width of the hill was deepened. The irregular fence line along the whole front gave an appearance of considerable strength to the position.

Women as well as men toiled in the building of the fortifications but the women were sent away to the inland villages on Rawiri's orders before the fighting began.   The only exception made was in the case of Heni te Kiri-koramu who refused to leave her brother by whose side she had faught in the Waikato./aa known to be able to use a gun, and was ^cognised as a fighting woman. When completed the position was manned by only 250 of whom some 35 were stationed in the small fort on the west of the main defence works.

A survivor of the battle one Hori Ngatai a chief of Ngaiterangi in later years described to Captain Gilbert Mair the t)reperations made at the Gate Pa. He told Mair that his group had met detachments from the other Pas' in the rear of the Pukehinahina ridge and went on to say.
We reached the position about midnight and started at once to build two Pas'.   We trenched out one, the smaller of the two, on the west side of the ridge. This was built by the Piri-raku and Ngaitamawharuia hapus of Ngaiterangi, and the Koheriki people.   Heta and thirty five men garrisoned it.   The large Pa on the eastern side was built' and garrisoned by about 200 men of Ngaiterangi. Our women were with us, working as hard as the men, carrying back loads of material for the defences, and food for the warriors.   We sent them away safely before the fighting began.

We were very short of wood for the stockade so on the second night a number of us went down towards the township, quite close to the soldiers quarters, and pulled down Mr Samuel Clarke's fences, and collected all the timber we could.   We demolished a stockyard, and hauled the strong posts and rails up to our position, they came in handy for the Pas.   With the materials so obtained we built a low fence enclosing the two redoubts.   Besides the fences, there were parapets, and ditches and rifle pits, and within the redoubts shelters were dug for the protection of the garrison.   Men went to Pukerma* to collect timber to roof over our rifle pits and covered ways.

While so engaged, three "Europeans were seen approaching on horseback.   Our men concealed themselves in the fern, and the Pakehas1 rode right up to where they lay.   I think Col Harrington was one.   They suddenly came upon the maoris, but were not molested, and seemed very glad to escape, going back faster than they came.
It seems that on only that one occasion were the maoris disturbed during the 25 days in which they occuppied and prepared the Gate Pa prior to the battle.

Now lets look at this Vu foil showing the layout of the position.   Note the intricate trench system, the areas that were covered over and the inter connecting passage ways.    It is clear from the records that the trenches were in places up to 8 feet deep and the whole system was like a maze.   There is no doubt that in the time provided by the inactivity of the British, the maoris had built a very strong defence works. Crimean war veterans who examined the place after the battle said that they had not seen anything like the trench system in the fixed defensive positions of that campaign.
The question that now must be answered is Why were the maoris allowed the time to prepare the Gate Pa?

There seem to be two reasons:
In early April the expected war party from the Ngati Poru of the east coast did make an attempt to pass through Maketu to the Waikato using the old route over the Kaimais behind Tauranga.   This party was some 1500 strong but it was turned back at Maketu by a detachment of the Regt which was stationed there, supported by the loyal Arawas
and by HMS Falcon which shelled the rebels from 1600 yds.   The Arawa persued the Ngati Poru East along the sandhills and finally defeated them in a major battle fought at the spot where the Matata railway station now stands, some 35 miles east of Tauranga.

The approach of this war party towards Tauranga and the possibility that he would have to prevent them crossing the Kaimai ranges had caused Col G-reer to call for reinforcements from Auckland, and these were eventually sent, arriving in Tauranga after the Ngahi Part* had turned back.   It seems that it was the wait by Col Greer for reinforcements, which gave the Ngaiterangi the opportunity to fortify the Gate Pa.   It is worth noting that the Ool Harrington who disturbed the workers at the Pa site had just arrived in Tauranga with his command, the First Waikato Regt, bringing Ool Greers total strength to about 2,000 men.

General CAMERON Arrives.

On 17 April General Cameron had just returned to Auckland after the battle at Orakau, with the intention of moving his headquarters to Taranaki where fighting was in progress.   He was met in Auckland by a despatch from Col Greer in Tauranga which advised him that the maoris had assembled in considerable force and had entrenched themselves at Pukehinahina, the Gate Pa. After consultation with Governor Grey General Cameron embarked his staff on HMS Esk which immediately sailed for Tauranga.

On 21st April the General and his staff arrived in Tauranga and by 26 April HNS Miranda, HMS Curacoa and
HMS Harrier had also arrived and disembarked 600 sailors and Marines 1,x 110 lb and 2 x 40 lb arm-strong guns and a large quantity of stores. On 27 April the British finally began to move towards the Maori positions.

THE BATTLE Preliminary moves

On that day 27 April 1864 the 68th Regt and the Plying column under Major Ryan moved to a position on Pukereia hill a low feature about 1 ,200 yds from the maori fortifications where they made camp.   A recon of the PA was carried out and it seems that for the first time the British soldiers began to realise that they faced a very formidable position. On this same day General Gamer on moved his artillery forward to positions in front of the Pa where they had a direct line of fire towards the entrenchments. It is recorded that light defences were erected around the guns which were carefully blinded (camouflaged) with newly cut fern.
By the afternoon of 28 April General Cameron had completed his arrangements for the attack on the Gate Pa but that afternoon he gained some important information to the effect that by moving at low tide he could pass a body of troops outside the swamp on the eastern side of the Pa and thus place some of his men in rear of the maoris position.   Col Greer with the 700 men of the 68th was ordered to make this flank march, and .to cover his preparations on the late afternoon of the 28th a sham attack was mounted by the British towards the front of the Pa.   This was obviously successful in distracting the defenders as the 68th were not molested,   JTo casualties were suffered in the sham attack.

The flank march was described by Maj Gen Alexander in his book Bush warfare as follows:

Gol Greer well executed, with the 68th Light Infantry, the duty assigned to him.   At a quarter to 7 PM he marched out of camp, each man carrying one days cooked rations, and a great coat.   His object was to get in rear? of the enemy's position by means of a flank march round his right.   To accomplish this it was necessary to cross part of a mud flat at the head of the bay about three quarters of a mile long, only passable at low water, and then nearly knee deep, and within musketry range of the shore in possession of the enemy - rough high ground covered with titri and fern.

At the point at which the 68th got off the mud flat there was a swamp about 100 yds broad, covered with titri about five feet high, on the opposite side of which, the end of a spur (which ran down from the high ground in rear of the Pa) rose abruptly: this also was covered with titri and fern„
It being of the first importance that movement should be accomplished without attracting the attention of the enemy, Ool Greers orders were to gain the top of the spur during darkness, and remain there till daylight showed sufficient light to move on.

The 68th were all across and lying down in line along the crest of the ridge, with picquets posted round them at 10 oclock, which was two hours before the moon rose.
Col Greer acknowledged it was owing to the well timed feigned attack made by General Cameron in front of the enemys Pa, as was arranged, that the 68th were enabled to accomplish the most difficult part of the march without being attacked at great disadvantage and exposing the movement to the enemy, for when the 68th reached the top of the ridge, the remains of the enemy's picquet fires were discovered, the picquets having no doubt returned to assist in the defence of the Pa.

A young settler Mr William Purvis acted as guide to the 68th during the flank march.
At about 1 o'clock in the morning Col Greer moved the 68th on, and two hours later he had reached a position about 1000 yrds directly in rear of the Pa. It was quite dark and raining throughout the -nove but the 68th were guided by Mr Purvis and by the voices of the maoris talking in the Pa as well as by the sentries challenging in the Headquarters camp some 2,000 yds away on the other side of the Pa.
Col Greer then sent three coys under Maj Shuttle-worth to take up positions at the left rear of the Pa and picquets were placed round the remainder of the rear about 700 yds from it.   At daybreak he sent another three coys under Major Kirby to the right rear of the Pa and also posted a chain of sentries so that no one could come out of the Pa without being seen.

Up to this time the maoris do not appear to have been aware they vere surrounded as the 68th could hear them singing and making speeches in the Pa.

A little later in the morning a detachment of 30 men of the Naval brigade under Lt Hathan RN joined the 68th
and they were posted- in the right rear of the Pa. Those of you who know Tauranga will know that the area occupied by the 68th is now the suburb of Greerton.

So on the early morning of 29 April, the British were finally in position to attack. The British forces which prepared for battle that morning were:

Explain order of Battle.     

Now the dispositions of the British forces.

Explain the British layout in detail.


Soon after daybreak the guns and mortars opened fire.   This was directed principally against the left angle of the main Pa which the General had assessed as the most favourable position for an assault. The practice was described as being excellent and reflecting great credit on the officers in command of the batteries.   However the maoris had placed their flagpole some 60 yds in rear of the Pa and it seems that this was used as an aiming mark by some of the gunners with the result that many of the rounds flew harmlessly over the top of the pallisade and into the area occupied by the 68th.   There is some evidence that the 68th were forced at times to adjust their positions in rear of the Pa to reduce the risk of suffering casualties from their own artillery.   The batteries were the heaviest used in the war of 1863-64, extraordinarily heavy was the description given by one observer.

The bombardment continued throughout the day in the light rain and by 3 in the afternoon the 110 lb Armstrong gun alone had fired over 100-rounds at the Pa.

Now let us hear from Hori Ngati about the effect of the shelling.  

He told Mair :
There was a flash and a roar from the big gun near the road to our front and a shell flew whistling like a Kehua (spirit) of the air over our heads, Several other shots followed and some rockets were fired at us without much effect.   Then the cannonade became heavier and an awful fire was concentrated on our redoubt.

Eighteen big guns (so we learned afterwards) were hurling their projectiles at us and shells were bursting all round us.    Our fences and frail parapets crumbled away under the heavy artillery fire and splinters and earth were continually flying through the air. We were every now and then smothered by dirt thrown by the exploding shells, and this the rain which had set in, soon converted into mud.    To add to our sufferings the soldiers had managed to get a gun across the swamp onto a hill on our left and it completely raked our position.
Our position now seemed desperate all our defences above ground were being demolished and while we sheltered in our underground pits we were covered with mud and drenched with rain.   A party of our people tried to break away through the troops at the rear but the 68th fired, .on them heavily.    A number of our men were killed then, and apart from two who escaped the rest ran back and rejoined us in the Pa where we were now
resisting the storming party.

A most remarkable incident occurred during the morning shelling of the Pa. The maoris had two tohungas or priests in the Pa. One was a christian minister named Ihaka and the other a heathen priest called Te Wano who performed the ancient war rites. This enabled the maoris to make things right with both sides - the christian God and the Atuas of the maori.

Ihaka was standing on the parapet involty&ag a blessing when the shelling began.   Just as he uttered the words "May the grace of our lord Jesus Christ and the love of - a shell struck him in the waist scattering his body in fragments all over the place.    Some of the maoris were just about to eat a meal of potatoes and one old chap called Ponepane had leaned his gun against the earthworks while he took his meal. After the bursting of the shell which killed Ihaka, Pcpiepane went to pick up his gun and found some of the dead ministers entrails wrapped round the barrel, and the old chap then said,

"See the white men even load and fire delicacies at us through their big guns".

A few hours later the other Tohunga Te Waru was killed in a precisely similar manner.


The 6 pdr Armstrong gun

At about noon Major Greaves reported to General Cameron the fact that it was possible to move a gun across the swamp on the west of the Pa and to engage the position in enfilade.   Fascines and planks were laid and a six pounder was dragged across the swamp and emplaced on a small ridge from which position it fired very effectively into the western portion of both the small and the main redoubt. The route taken was as shown on the Vu foil and today this area is still swamp through which it would be very difficult to take even a 106.

By mid afternoon the artillery had caused considerable damage to the Pa, at least on the surface, and a breach had been made in the pallisade on the maoris left of the main entrenchment.   This was the point which General Cameron had selected for the assault and at about 4 o'clock after 8 hrs of bombardment the General ordered the assaulting troops into position.

The assault column of 150 men of the 43rd Regt under Lt Col Booth and the same number from the Naval Brigade led by Commander Hay of HMS Harrier formed up on the British extreme right, forward of the Cohorn BTy, where a contour of the ground sheltered the men from the fire of the small redoubt.

At the same time 170 men of the 70th Regt under Major Ryan positioned themselves under covering fire from the batteries about 100 yds in front of the Pa and lay concealed in the fern.   The intention was that they would give the assaulting troops supporting fire and then follow them into the breach.    300 men, from the 43rd and the Naval Brigade, under Captain Hamilton of HMS Esk comprised the reserve which was also to follow into the Pa.
THE ASSAULT -r The signal for the assaultAwas fired and the artillery ceased firing. The storming party four abreast (two soldiers and two sailors) with their officers on the flanks moved cheering, and at the double towards the breach in the pallisade.

At the same time the men of the 70th opened a tremendous fire and the 68th, behind the Pa, with loud cheers closed up at the rear firing heavily. The assaulting column, protected by the nature of the ground, from fire from the small Pa;covered the 112 yards to the breach with little loss and entered the body of the main defence works, escavated and broken up by the artillery and with underground passages - most confusing to the assailants. A fierce hand to hand battle ensued with the maoris fighting desperately with guns and tomahawks. The confined space within the earthworks made things very?difficult for the British with their long rifles and bayonets, but the axes of the defenders were able to be used very effectively.

Lt Col Booth and Commander Hay who led into the works both fell mortally wounded and just at this time the maoris from the Eastern end of the main Pa leapt from their underground pits and attacked the assault force.   Darkness was falling and within the Pa confusion reigned.   In a few minutes the officers, exposed on the flanks of the assault had been killed or wounded. General Cameron who had moved up close to the Pa with his staff believed the position had been won and he ordered up the reserve which, led by Captain Hamilton of HMS Esk charged into the breach through which the assaulting column had already passed.

captain Hamilton was shot through the head, at the moment he entered the Pa and the additional troops crowding into the maze of trenches added to the confusion within the Pa.

At this vital moment, in the gathering dusk, it is said that one of the British called out - My God here they come in their thousands, and the troops, deprived of their leaders pannicked and crowded back towards the gap in the pallisade through which the assault had entered.

It is probable that the warning had been shouted out by one of the assault party when he saw a large group of maoris entering the rear of the position. These warriors were the survivors of the group that had tried to escape through the 68th Regts area but were driven back by the fire of that unit. Now, returning to the Pa they fought with the strength of desperation and the tide of battle changed abruptly.

Now let us hear the Maori version of the battle within the Pa.  

Hori Ngatai again:
The British assault on the Pa was delivered about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.   The storming party, soldiers and sailors rushed gallantly to the attack.   Then we loosed our fire on them when they got well within range - still they charged on, with fixed bayonets and swords waving, cheering as they came.   Through and over the breached walls they rushed; they entered the larger Pa most of it was in their possession but all at once the battle charged. Up charged our men from the rifle pits and trenches as if vomited from the bowels of the earth, and together with those who had been forced back by the
/tSVci Regt in the rear, began a deadly hand to hand fight with the storming party.   The defenders of the smaller Pa held their position and raked the Pakeha with a heavy fire.   Men fell thick and fast. Tomahawk clashed on cutlass and bayonet - Tupara (double*barrelled fowling piece) met rifle and pistol. Skulls were cloven, maoris were bayoneted. Ngaiterangi hatchets bit deep into white heads and shoulders.   The place was soon full of dying and dead men, pakeha and maori.   We in the Eastern portion of the main Pa stood firm and held our position.
It was terrible work but soon over. The pakehas were driven clean out of the Pa; they ran, our men falling on them as they retreated.   They fell back on their main body below our work, leaving scores of their killed and wounded strewn on the battle ground.  

The troops suffered most from getting into a crossfire between the two Pas, but particularly from the small one. The soldiers and sailors were all mixed up together 'and were equally fearless.
General Cameron rallied the troops as they withdrew from the Pa and he then ordered an earthwork to be constructed about 100 yds from the Pa with the intention of renewing the assault on the following morning.
Most of the British dead and wounded had been left in the Pa when the troops retreated but at least three members of the British force attempted to save some of the wounded.

A. sailor called Samuel. Mitchell from HMS Harrier went back into the Pa and carried the mortally wounded
^nander Hay back to the "British lines. He Mitchell earned a Victoria Gross for this deed.
Captain Glover of the 43 reentered the Pa in an attempt to rescue his mortally wounded younger brother Lt Glover but he was killed in the attempt and his brother died of his wounds during the night.

Surgeon Major Manley was the last to leave the Pa after doing what he could to help the wounded near the pallisade under heavy fire from within the Pa.   He also earned a Victoria Cross for his work. It is interesting to note that this officer later saved a sailor from drowning at New Plymouth and was awarded the Royal Humane Society bronze medal for that exploit.   Then in 1870 he was attached as surgeon to a Prussian Division at the battles of Chateauneuf and Orleans and for his courage on those occasions was awarded the Iron Cross second Class. Surely the only "British Officer ever to wear those three decorations

The Maoris Withdraw

During the night of 29/30 April the British force remained close to the Pa waiting for the daylight before attacking again.   At midnight Major Greaves the DAQJ^G who appears to have been something of an expert at recon, crept up to the Pa and reported back to the General that he believed the maoris had retired. Indeed they had.   Taking advantage of the darkness and rain the whole maori force had crept between the lines of the 68th Regt and escaped to the Pa at Waoku some 9 miles inland.    Several of the 68th Picquets had observed movement during the night and had fired shots into the darkness but the maoris had not fired back and had slipped away having suffered only a few wounded during the move.

At 5 o'clock on 30 April a sailor from HMS Harrier entered the Pa and found the defenders had gone.


When the British took possession of the Pa in the morning a sad spectacle presented itself. Three men of the 43rd were lying dead against the inner pqling of the fence.   Within a few yards the bodies of four captains of the 43rd were lying and further inside the Pa Lt Ool Booth of the 43rd was leaning against the rear pallisade, his spine smashed by a musket ball and his arm broken. He was still living and on being carried out of the Pa he saluted G-eneral Cameron and expressed his regrets at not having carried out his orders. He died later that day.   The British casualties, Matty""" of whom were found within the Pa that morning were

Officers   10 killed and 4 wounded.
Other ranks 28 killed and 78 wounded.
Total   38 killed and 78 wounded or more than 1/3rd of the initial assault party.  

The bodies of 20 maoris were found within the Pa.   A further 10 were later found in the fern at the rear of the Pa making the total maori loss 30 dead.   The number of wounded maoris is not recorded but there were a considerable number who escaped wounded and some who were found within the Pa who were taken to the hospital at Te Papa with the British wounded.

The rings, watches, money, trinkets, and clothing of the British dead and wounded within the Pa had not been touched by the maoris.   A British officer later said.    "This was the finest action by the enemy throughout the struggle.   No one expected it, or would have believed that the exultant rebels would refrain from satiating their passion for revenge by mutilating the helpless bodies.   But thank God it was not so. They had previously determined on a chivalrous and honorable method of carrying on the war, and most scrupulously observed it.
The defenders of the Gate Pa had treated the British wounded with a humanity and chivalry which surprised their enemies.   They did not tomahawk them after they had fallen and they gave water to the wounded lying in their lines.   This behaviour on the part of the maoris was uncharacteristic and it so impressed the British that this battle is probably best remembered as the one during which Lt Col Booth was tended and given water as he lay mortally wounded in the Pa.

Bishop Selwen some years later commissioned a memorial window in a church in England which shows the wounded colonel being given water by a maori warrior.   The chappel in the Tauranga Historic village also has such a stained glass window.   History does not however seem to have been just, in that it is clear from Cowans writings that it was not a male warrior but rather the woman Hini Te Kiri-Kqrumu who ministered to-Co-1 Booth.   You will recall that Hini was the only woman in the Pa at the time of the battle, well, survived and later joined Capt Mairs Arawa force with which she faught several battles including the seige of the Hau Hau Pa at Te Teko.   She later with her husband ran a hotel at Maketu called the Travellers Rest.   Cowan is quite sure from numerous discussions with survivors, that it was Hini who should be represented in the memorial windows. Hini herself later said "Col St John came to the hotel one day and asked to see me.   Seizing me by the hand he said, I did not know until lately that it was you who gave water to my dear friend Col Booth at the Gate Pa.    Then he told me that Col Booth, when dying in the hospital at Te Papa, informed the surgeon Dr Manley that it was a maori woman who spoke english that gave him water.   Long after the war a friend sent me a picture by a New Zealand artist showing a man with a calabash carrying water to the colonel. It amused me for besides the mistake about the man there was no calabash but only an old iron nail can.

Now lets examine the reason for the chivalrous behaviour of the maoris at Gate Pa, we have already said that they had previously determined on a oJiiiyartj*wrtwi honorable method of carrying on the war but for explanation we must look at a later battle, Te Ranga.

Te Ranga is three miles further inland from the Gate Pa and at this place some seven weeks after Gate Pa the British under Col Greer heavily defeated a maori force which included most of the victors from the.Gate Pa.   Over 120 maoris died at Te Ranga and among them were Rawiri Puhirahe the commander at the Gate Pa and a young man named Henare Taratoa, the same man who had drafted and signed the challenge to Ool Greer prior to the Gate Pa battle.   On Henares body the British found an unusual document, in his own hand and dated 28 March 1864, which read.

To the Colonel.
Friend, salutations to you.   The end of that, friend do you give heed to our laws for the fight.
Rule 1.   If wounded or captured whole and butt
of musket or hilt of the sword be turned to me,
he will be saved.
Rule 2.   If any Pakeha being a soldier by name, shell be travelling unarmed and meet me, he will be captured and handed over to the direction of the law.
Rule 5.   The soldier who flees, being carried away by his fears, and goes to the house of the priest with his gun, will be saved, I will not go there.
Rule 4. The unarmed pakehas, women and children will be spared.
The End.   These are binding laws for Tauranga. Signed.
Terea Puimanuka Wi Kotiro Pine Anopu Kereti Pateriki or rather by all the catholics at Tauranga. This remarkable document was headed with the Scriptural injunction, "If thine enemy hunger, feed
him, if he thirst give him drink".


So the "battle of Gate Pa ended with the British suffering a severe defeat.   Captain Mair wrote.
No satisfactory explanation has yet been given, how it happened that nearly two thousand men of Her Majesty's forces, the finest troops known, amply provided with the best artillery and arms of precision in the world, were signally defeated by less than two hundred and fifty Ngaiterangi warriors whose only weapons consisted of old flint tower muskets, Brummagem double and single barrelled shot guns and long handled tomahawks.
General Cameron seems to have had little doubt as to the reasons for his defeat.   He reported to Governor Grey as follows.

This repulse I am at a loss to explain otherwise than by attributing it to the confusion created among the men by the intricate nature of the interior defences^and the sudden fall of so many of their officers.


On that note we end our presentation on the Battle of Gate Pa, but perhaps there are some repercussions which are still reverberating through this land which we should discuss.

After the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga the Government as a reprisal confiscated some 50,000 acres of Native land around Tauranga.   Defence still have "51 acres of this land just behind the old Pa
site and in fact our one defence house in Tauranga is on this land.   The whole of the suburb of Greerton, the Tauranga Golf course and the Tauranga Race course are on confiscated land.
In 1926 the Government agreed to compensate the Ngaiterangi for the land taken from them but to date compensation in any form has not been made. Last month an offer of $250,000 was made by the Government as compensation but the decendants of the victors of Gate Pa did not accept that offer.   Not surprisingly they want a larger sum, 2 million in. fact, and this has not been agreed by Government.   Perhaps in the next few years the matter will finally be settled.
The recovery from the Pa area and from Greerton of unexploded shells, particularly armstrong rounds up to 40* lb provides fairly constant work for the ATO.   In the past year 2x40 lb and 1 six pound round have been handed in by people who have uncovered them on their sections.   There must have been a great number of rounds which failed to explode on impact.


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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Col A Coster 1980 notes on the Battle of Gate Pa by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License