Topic: Durham Redoubt (Tauranga)

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Built on high land by the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry ('The Faithful Durhams') to guard against invasion from the west, the Durham Redoubt was flattened in the 1870s to raise the level of Hamilton Street. The southern part of the Tauranga Domain was used as a parade ground by the 68th. Story by Debbie McCauley.

The Durham Redoubt in Tauranga was the camp of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry ('The Faithful Durhams') around the time of the Battle of Gate Pa.

In 1864 the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry (‘The Faithful Durhams’) arrived in New Zealand from Burma. They arrived in Tauranga aboard the HMS Miranda under Colonel Meurant. The 68th built a defensive earthwork at Te Papa known as the Durham Redoubt which was built over in the 1870s to raise the level of Hamilton Street. The redoubt was situated on the modern day area bounded by Durham Street, Hamilton Street, Cameron Road and Harington Street.

The Durham redoubt, camp Te Papa from officers’ huts by Alexander Grubb (National Library of Australia) nla.pic-an2939001, PIC Drawer 12908 #T2975 NK1937/D, Grubb, Alexander, 1842-1925. [ca. 1865] 1 watercolour ; 10.1 x 14.2 cm.

Elements of the 68th Regiment took part in both of the battles in Tauranga. The full regiment of 700 men under the command of Colonel Greer played a key role at Gate Pa. Their task was to cordon off the rear of the pa to prevent the defenders from escaping. On the night of 28 April 1864 the regiment waded along the tidal swamps of the Waimapu Estuary and spread out in groups around the south of the pa. When the assault was launched by the 43rd Regiment and Naval Brigade the next afternoon, the 68th Regiment closed up on the pa and tightened the cordon. A group of about 60 Maori tried to escape out the back of the pa but were driven in by the 68th. During the evening the defenders were able to evacuate the pa by slipping through the 68th's cordon in small groups.

At the battle of Te Ranga on 21 June 1864, Colonel Greer was in overall command, and a detachment of the 68th was commanded by Major Shuttleworth. Along with detachments of the 43rd and Waikato Militia they successfully charged the Maori entrenchments and swept the defenders from the position. Approximately 150 Maori were killed in this action.

View of the Officers' mess hut at Tauranga, with officers of the 68th (Durham) Light Infantry in Tauranga (1864). Greer family :Photographs relating to the New Zealand Wars. Ref: PAColl-7806-2-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

The above photographs shows the 68th Durham Light Infantry (NCO's at extreme left and right) wearing blue ‘jumper’ uniforms, differentiated by their different styles of forage cap. The ‘jumper’ uniform consisted of a loose single-breasted jacket with a pocket in the right breast, made of very dark blue serge. Worn with the dark blue ‘pork pie’ forage cap with the regimental number in brass on the front (dark green, with the buglehorn badge, for light infantry). Trousers were dark blue with a red welt down the outer seam. The 68th also wore black leather leggings fastened with straps at the side.

The regiment left New Zealand in 1866.

A direct link between the Durham Light Infantry and the New Zealand Infantry Regiment goes back to the fighting in Borneo in the early 1960s where both regiments served consecutively. The New Zealand Infantry Regiment adopted the Durham Light Infantry’s stable belt which is bottle green with two thin red stripes. The belt is still worn by all regular infantry soldiers in New Zealand.

As a result of the re-organisation of the British Army the Durham Light Infantry Regiment no longer exists, although there is still a regimental association of former members.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19070627-8-2 (click image to open on the Auckland Libraries Hertitage Images site)

On the morning of Saturday 29 April 2017, the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Gate Pa, a new information panel was unveiled on the corner of Hamilton Street and Cameron Road in Tauranga where the Durham Redoubt built by the regiment once stood. The event was hosted by Ngai Tamarawaho with Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless unveiling the new plaque and special guest Michael Lawton, whose father was in the 68th Durham Light Infantry, telling the history of the regiment.

Durham Redoubt Information Panel (2017) by Image: Buddy Mikaere

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Durham Redoubt (Tauranga)