Topic: The Tauranga Campaign of 21 January 1864 to 21 June 1864 by John Osborne

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This article was researched, written and compiled by Dr John Osborne MG DTT PhD FSG in preparation for the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gate Pa on 29 April 2014.

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The main cause of the war was the stance taken by the Maori King Movement – the Kingitanga (Kingites) – against land sales and their wish to pursue an independent political course. This was unacceptable to the New Zealand colonial government and war ensued.

This campaign involved Maori “Queenites” supporting the Crown, the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines, 1st Waikato Militia, NZ Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, NZ Forest Rangers, settlers, provincial militia and police, fighting a confederation of Maori tribes known as the King Movement (Kingites). The Kingites were receiving assistance, arms, materials and recruits from several other Kingite North Island tribes. In an effort to curb this flow of support the British sent an expedition to Tauranga where they established a base named “Te Papa” (now the Tauranga Central Business District) under the command of Lt Col H. H. Greer and adopted a defensive position. However the local Maori Kingites threatened to attack Te Papa and built a strong pa at Pukehinahina (Gate pa) about 3 miles from Te Papa. A large contingent of about 700 East Coast Kingite toa (Maori warriors) were comimg to assist the Tauranga Kingites. Their overland route took them through the territory of the Nagti Te Arawa tribe “Queenites” (who were allies of the British) based around Rotorua. Forewarned about the East Coast toa’s mission, the Te Arawa chiefs obtained more rifles and supplies from the British and on 7 April 1864 about four hundred Te Arawa warriors attempted (with limited success) to stop these East Coast Kingites in a two day skirmish on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. On 21 April 1864 Lt Gen Duncan Cameron overall commander of the British forces arrived in HMS Esk with his staff and by 26 April 600 sailors and Royal Marines had disembarked from HMS Harrier, Curacoa, Esk and Miranda. One 110pounder Armstrong gun and two 40pounder Armstrong guns from HMS Esk, along with 12 other artillery guns, were taken to within range of Gate Pa.


The Battle at Maketu 28 April 1864

About 700 East Coast Maori Kingites were heading for Maketu, a small settlement on the coast south east of Tauranga. From 21st April a detachment of troops including NZ Forest Rangers and Militia hastily occupied the area and built a substantial redoubt on an old Maori pa site Pukemaire. The East Coast Kingites arrived on 27 April 1864 by which time two 6 pdr Armstrong field guns had been installed in the redoubt commanded by Major F. M. Colvile 43rd. Regiment. The East Coast Kingites surrounded the redoubt and began digging trenches and firing at it. On 28 April about 250 Te Arawa Queenite Maori reinforcements arrived at Maketu and on the same day HMS Falcon 17 guns and the NZ colonial two gun paddle steamer gunboat Sandfly were able to maneuver close in to shore and shell the Kingite attackers killing or wounding many. The Kingites soon found their position untenable and had to retreat. The Kingites tried to dig in further along the coast but were promptly attacked by the NZ Forest Rangers led by Captain Thomas McDonnell. A running fight - skirmishing through the sand dunes east towards Whakatane ensued and continued until dusk and again in the morning with the Te Arawa and local Maori Queenites lending enthusiastic support. Meanwhile the two armed vessels kept pace with the fighting and any of the Kingite Maori coming too close to the shore line were shelled. Eventually the East Coast Maori Kingites dispersed into the swamps and returned home. About 100 Kingites were killed or wounded including their Chief’s Winiata and Aporo. The British and NZ military and Queenites loses were small.

Watercolour of Colvilles Redoubt at Maketu 1864 (Artist unknown)

Major Fiennes Middleton Colville’s redoubt (Pukemaire) at Maketu 1864. Artist unknown. Courtesy Tauranga City Libraries

Siege of Maketu watercolour 1864 11-169

HMS Falcon 1045 tons was a steam-screw-sloop (two masts) rigged as a brig (not a three mast square rigged ship as depicted) armed with 1 x 32pdr long pivot gun & 16 X 32 pdr carriage broadside guns, launched in 1854. She served in the Crimean War, North America, West Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Also the NZ Colonial Sandfly 90 tons an iron clad wooden steam paddle gunboat with two 12 pdr Armstrong pivot guns, from 1863 it was used to blockade the Waihou River,Thames and then at Maketu in April 1864.  Artist unknown. CourtesyTauranga City Libraries


The Battle at Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) 28 - 29 April 1864 

About 1700 British and NZ Forces were opposed by about 230 Kingite defenders at Gate pa. On the afternoon of 28 April, Lt General Cameron ordered an hour-long shelling at Gate pa with four batteries of artillery placed at ranges from 350 to 800 yards. The heaviest guns used in the wars of 1863-64 - a 110-pounder Armstrong  gun, two 40-pounder and two six-pounder Armstrong guns, two 24-pounder field howitzers, two 8” field mortars and six 4.5” Coehorn mortars. In total 15 guns


 Right: Map from James Cowan’s book “New Zealand Wars” showing the position of the artillery and troops at 12 noon

At daybreak on the 29th, artillery fire resumed and at noon two 6-pounder Armstrong guns were taken across the swamp and placed to the west of the pa in position on a high ridge from where they destroyed the left side pa defences. The 110 and 40 pounder Armstrong guns concentrated fire on the right hand corner of the pa. The 24-pounder howitzers, 8” and 4.5” Coehorn mortars as well as the continuous rain, converted the light soil of the pa defences into mud, and demolished some front fences. At about 3 p.m. the 110 pounder ceased firing, having expended 100 rounds. At about 4 p.m. the assaulting column of 150 men of the 43rd, under Colonel Booth, and the same number of the Naval Brigade led by Commander Hay, HMS Harrier, formed up on the extreme right, where the contour of the ground sheltered them from fire from the pa. At the same time 170 men of the 70th under Major Ryan marched to the right under cover of the artillery fire and lay concealed in the fern with orders to follow the assaulting column into the breach. 300 of the 43rd, seamen and marines under Captain C. F. Hamilton, HMS. Esk, comprised the reserve, was also to follow into thePa. By mid afternoon there was a large breach in the centre of the pa palisade and at 4 pm the barrage was stopped and shortly after 4pm 300 troops were sent up to capture and secure the pa. Within ten minutes over one hundred British were dead or wounded and the rest retreated back to their lines, this was the single most devastating repulse suffered by a British storming party during the whole of the New Zealand Wars period. Following the British assault a considerable body of the defenders attempted to escape but the 68th supported by Lieutenant Hotham's Naval Brigade, drove them back with some loss. During the night the Maori in the pa gave assistance to the wounded and gathered up the British smallarms, then before daybreak abandoned the pa. Lt Gen Cameron returned to Auckland leaving Lt Col H. H. Greer in command, with orders to patrol aggressively and, if he found Maori digging in or attempting to build a pa, to attack immediately.

Officers of 68th Durham Light Infantry (Lt Colonel Greer standing 6th from left) at Te Papa, Tauranga April 1864. Courtesy Tauranga City Libraries


Some of the British and NZ Colonial officers and men at Gate pa April 1864 – shown at centre a 12pounder (4.5”) Coehorn Mortar with shells and lead coated elongated 6pounder Armstrong gun shells  - Lt Gen Cameron with his arm resting on the wheel of the limber of a field gun Courtesy Tauranga City Libraries.

The British casualties at Gate Pa, 10 officers were killed or died from wounds. 23 non-commissioned officers and privates were killed and 73 wounded.  Kingite casualties 29 killed and about 35 wounded.

Robley, Horatio Gordon, 1840-1930. [Robley, Horatio Gordon] 1840-1930 :Breach of the Gate Pa - looking east. Early 30th April, 1864.. Ref: A-033-007. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Battle at Te Ranga 20 June 1864

Reports to Lt Col Greer advised that about 600 Kingites were constructing defences at Te Ranga about 5 miles south of Tauranga. Greer knowing any delay would allow the Kingites to strengthen their defences. At 8am on the 20 June 1864 Greer marched to Te Ranga with 594 officers and men of the 43rd and 68th Regiments and 1st Waikato Militia and sent to Te Papa for reinforcements about 220 men including the NZ Colonial Cavalry and one 6 pounder Armstrong field gun. At about 12.30pm with the arrival of the reinforcements Greer ordered an assault on Te Ranga pa. The Maori defenders responded with Tupara (double-barreled guns) and Enfield rifles but had little time to reload and were forced to fight hand-to-hand using their other arms. 123 Kingites were killed or died from their wounds Chief Rawiri Puhirake commander at Gate pa was among them. His death prompted the defenders at Te Ranga pa to flee, 28 Kingites were taken prisoner. The British losses thirteen privates of the 43rd and 68th Regiments were killed in the battle and six officers and 33 non-commissioned officers and privates wounded. 

Chevalier, Nicholas, 1828-1902. Chevalier, Nicholas, 1828-1902 :The war in New Zealand - storming the rifle pits at Te Ranga, June 21 1864. [London, 1865]. Ref: PUBL-0060. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Robley, Horatio Gordon, 1840-1930. Robley, Horatio Gordon 1840-1930 :Surrender of the Ngaiterangi at Te Papa - coming in with arms. 25th July, 1864.. Ref: A-033-010. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Te Ranga, was the last major engagement of the Tauranga campaign and largely crushed Kingite resistance in the Tauranga district. 578 Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Ranginui surrendered to the British at Te Papa on 21 and 25 July 1864, with 165 guns plus other arms - refer painting above by Lt H. G. Robley. Most of the guns surrendered were old and virtually useless. The Kingites kept their modern serviceable arms and some of the British rifles and bayonets they had captured at Gate pa. Much of the Kingites land was subsequently confiscated by the New Zealand Colonial Government.

The approximately 10,000 British troops in New Zealand were very costly for the New Zealand Colonial Government which was paying approximately £40 per annum for an infantryman and £70 per annum for a gunner with no foreseeable end to the war. In late 1864 the New Zealand Colonial Government adopted a “self reliant” policy, which was to dispense with the services of British troops and to use New Zealand forces (the Colonial Defence Force, Forest Rangers, Provincial Militia and from October1867 the NZ Armed Constabulary Force and Maori Auxiliaries) to carry on the wars, which did not end until May 1872.


Arms used by the British and NZ Colonial Forces

Examples of arms used by Maori during the Tauranga Campaign 1864


This page archvied at Perma CC in February of 2017:


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The Tauranga Campaign of 21 January 1864 to 21 June 1864 by John Osborne

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
The Tauranga Campaign of 21 January 1864 to 21 June 1864 by John Osborne by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License