Topic: Battle will live in history of Tauranga

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The battle of Gate Pa will be remembered in New Zealand history for two things - the chivalry of the Maoris and their bravery and strategy. There are conflicting reports on the way the Maoris repelled the assault, but one fact remains - less than 250 Ngaiterangi warriors defeated about 2000 British troops despite facing an eight-hour bombardment first. This article appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on Monday, 27 April 1964, and is reproduced here with their permission.

During the night after the battle a Christian Maori crept through the British lines to get water for an injured British soldier.

The Maori is usually identified as Heni te Kirikaramu, a half-caste wahine, or Henare Taratoa, the man who drafted up the famous rules for the battle.

These laid down the conditions for the battle and the treatment of wounded or prisoners.

Three men-of-war and 700 men arrived in Tauranga in January 1864.

The Maoris then met, drew up the rules for the fight and withdrew to defensive positions about 12 miles away. From there they sent a challenge to the British forces, informing them that in order that the troops should not be too tires to fight, the Maoris had built eight miles of road to the fort.

There was no reply to this so the Maori moved in and fortified the Gate Pa.

More British troops arrived, then on April 28 a sham attack was launched on the Pa, enabling a force of 700 men of the 68th Regiment under the command of Colonel H. H. Greer to work round behind the Pa.

On April 29 the Pa was bombarded steadily and the shells and pouring rain turned the light outside earthworks into a mud bath.

At 4 a.m. the British troops poured into the Pa and appeared to have taken it when they fled in panic.

Accounts of the reason for this vary.  One is that after hand to hand fighting the Maoris retreated to their ditches and poured a withering fire into the attackers, aided by the cross fire from the smaller pa.

The officers were nearly all killed and the troops panicked.

From Dr W. G. N. Manley, one of the two men to win the Victoria Cross in the assault, came another story.

He said that when the British soldiers entered the pa it appeared deserted apart from a few wounded Maoris.

The soldiers threw down their arms and started to look for plunder, then from underground chambers and covered trenches the Maoris opened up a withering fire.

It was intended to continue the battle the next day but early scouts reported that the Maoris had crept away in the night.

On June 21 a force under Colonel Greer surprised the Maoris entrenching at Te Ranga and after a fierce hand to hand fight defeated them.

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