Topic: Colonel Greer’s notes from the Te Ranga battlefield

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In January 2015 Mike Dottridge, a descendant of Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886), donated Greer's original notes to his wife Agnes to Tauranga City Libraries. The notes were written in 1864 from the Te Ranga battlefield. Transcribed by Stephanie Smith (2015).

Before the battle at Te Ranga on 21 June 1864, Colonel Henry Harpur Greer took the time to scrawl a quick note to his wife Agnes. On a ‘cash account’ page torn out of a small diary, he wrote – hastily and in pencil – ‘Dear Agnes we have / got a lot of Maoris / out here in pah & Im [sic] / hammering away / at them, I hope we / shall get them out / before night, I have / sent in for[?] more / guns. don’t be the / least alarmed. / yrs HHGreer / God bless us.’

Dear Agnes, we have got a lot of Maoris out here

And when the battle was over and he had survived, he wrote her another note, on another page from the diary. ‘Dear Agnes we / have taken the / pah & killed heaps of / Maoris, our men / are in hot pursuit / not many of our / people hit / yrs HHG / Thank God’.

Dear Agnes, we have taken the pah

For the rest of her life Agnes Greer treasured these notes in a tiny envelope, which she marked ‘My own beloved Henrys / notes, during the engagement / of Te Ranga he wrote them / 21st. of June 1864.’ They were retained in the family. In January 2015 Mike Dottridge, Greer’s descendant, generously donated the original notes and the envelope to Tauranga City Libraries, where they are now kept in the fireproof archives room. 

My own beloved Henry 

This is not the first time that Mike Dottridge has kindly donated items to Tauranga City Libraries as reported in City Views - News from the Tauranga District Council on 3 April 2003 (Issue 5):

Colonel Harpur Greer, Commander of the British troops based in Tauranga in 1864
A little bit of Greerton’s past came home recently. The great, great grandson of Colonel Henry Harpur Greer made the journey here from England to return some historic items to their “proper” place and to research his family. While it may be more common for New Zealanders to head to Britain for family research, Mike Dottridge and wife Jane combined a fact finding trip with a visit to their son in Wellington. The couple visited Tauranga Library’s New Zealand Room to discover more about his great, great-grandfather after whom Greerton was named. Colonel Greer came to New Zealand in 1864 as commander of the 68th Durham Light Infantry. He led the division in the Battle of Gate Pa in which the British were resoundingly defeated. A few months later Colonel Greer was again in charge at the bloody battle at Te Ranga, a few kilometres inland from Gate Pa. This time the Maori resistance led by Rawiri was crushed. Colonel Greer went back to Britain a Lieutenant-General. He died in 1886. Mr Dottridge has worked for many years with human rights agencies in Britain. His work focused on the rights of indigenous peoples so, he said, it was quite a shock to find out his great-grandfather played an important role in the colonisation of this area. When Mr Dottridge’s father died four years ago, he discovered various items that had been stored in family memento boxes for many years. Among the treasures were newspaper clippings and photographs. Also in the family were artworks Colonel Greer had brought back from New Zealand. Mr Dottridge believed the items should be returned to this country. He has given Tauranga Library the first photograph of Colonel Greer seen by staff and says it is a good way of making sure the records are in good hands. Mr Dottridge has now returned to England (Source: Early New Zealand Photographers and their successors).


Mike Dottridge (January 2015)


Mike Dottridge (January 2015)


Mike Dottridge (January 2015)


Mike Dottridge (January 2015)

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Colonel Greer’s notes from the Te Ranga battlefield