Topic: 151 years since the Battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina (2015)

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On 29 April 2015 a service was held at the St. George's Anglican Church in Gate Pa to remember 151 years since the Battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina. Sixty-five people assembled at 4pm, the time when the British forces began their march up Pukehinahina. A silent reflection was held and at 4.30pm a bell tolled 60 times in memory of the approximately 60 people who lost their lives during the battle. Ngaitamarawaho kaumatua Peri Kohu, whose great, great grandfather and great grandfather fought at Gate Pa, urged people to pause and feel the pain of the aftermath of the battle so that they could all go forward together and put aside differences. "Always remember the events on this hill." Year 12 Aquinas College student Bryna Karl read a prayer followed by a Bible reading by Viv Whimster of the Wesley Methodist Church. The speech given by Rev. John Hebenton can be found below:

Kororia ki te Atua , te Kai-hanga, te Kai-whakamarie, me te Kai-homai i te ora.
He maungarongo ki tona iwi ki runga i te whenua
Whakanuia te ingoa o te Atua ki nga Tuarangi,
  whakapaingia, whakamoemititia mo ake tonu atu.
E nga rangatira ma
Nau mai, harere mai.
ki tenei wahi.
ki tenei whare karakia o Hori Tapu
Tena koutou katoa
kua hui mai nei
ki tenei kaihanga riri.
Kua haere mai matou ki te maumahara i te putakari i Pukahinahina.
kei te maumahara matou i nga toa maori
            i nga toa pakeha.
Kei te maumahara matou i nga tini mate o tenei putakari.
Kei te maumahara hoki matou i nga kupu a Paora Apotoro ki te hunga o Roma
“Ki te matekai tou hoariri, whangainga: ki te matewai, whakainumia.”
No reira
ka nui te hari, ka nui te tangi
ki a koutou ki te aro mai
mo to koutou kaha i tenei kaupapa.
No reira
tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

As we sit here – at this time 151 years ago where we sit was filled cries of battle as 300 British soldiers advanced up hill to be met by the 230 defenders of this pa.

When Hori Ngatai, an aged chief of Ngaiterangi, was in Wellington for the last time in 1903, he was induced to tell the story of the Gate Pa fight to a select company of Europeans.

This is Hori Ngatai's story as told in Wellington, in answer to questions put by Captain Mair, of the Native Department, and translated by him to the shorthand reporter. He spoke very modestly of his own share in the fighting, but his comrades bear witness to his energy and courage.

The Warrior Speaks

“I was a young man of about twenty five when we fought the Pakeha at the Gate Pa. I had already seen some service with my tupara (d.b. fowling piece). …. The Gate Pa was my third fight, and then came our repulse at Te Ranga, where over one hundred and fifty of our people were slain by the Imperial and Colonial soldiers, who stormed our unfinished position at the point of the bayonet. That was a black day for Ngaiterangi, but I will tell of that another time. I will speak of the Gate Pa engagement.

On arrival in our homeland we decided to fortify our pas and fight to the last against the pakeha.

The Building of the Fort

We resolved to occupy and fortify a position on the ridge known as Pukehinahina, about three miles from the town of Tauranga. This place was called the Gate Pa, by the Europeans,

In Battle Array

The warriors of the Queen, soldiers and sailors, were marshalled in array of battle, and then they advanced towards us. T'was an army that marched against our fort—a great body of infantry and a number of cannon. Anana! The hour was at hand. Te Poihipi, a cool brave man, called out to us from his post on the parapet: “Eat well, oh friends. Eat leisurely—make one more hearty meal. I will watch here and give you timely warning.”

“E Tama! When we gazed on these soldiers, how could we eat? Grandly did they march; strode they towards us as one man, with measured resounding footsteps, their bright bayonets flashing in the sun, and their great guns rumbling along—those terrible guns, which we thought would soon blow our frail defences into the air. Oh friend, when we gazed on those sons of thunder, launched forward in their might, can you wonder that the cooked potatoes seemed to have lost their sweetness and that many a one of us forgot his hunger?

The Attack

The British column came to within five or six hundred yards of our front, then most of the soldiers turned to the right on to Pukereia Hill, where they mounted their guns and pitched tents. One of the cannon (the 110lb. Armstrong) was planted in the middle of the road, right opposite our pa. Some of the soldiers came quite close to us, walking leisurely about smoking their pipes. This was on April 28th. Soon there was a flash and a roar and a shell from the big gun flew whistling like a “Kehua” (spirit) over our heads. Several other shots followed, and some rockets were fired at us without much effect. The troops in front made a sort of sham attack, while a large force (the 68th Regiment under Colonel Greer) deployed round by Ruatuna, and under the cover of darkness took up a position in our rear. So the next morning the pakehas were in front of us, on our left flank and in our rear, and then the fight began in earnest. The big guns poured shot and shell into our position and the rifle balls whistled round us.

Stormed at with Shot and Shell

The cannonade became heavier. 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. 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 with the dirt thrown up by the exploding shells, and this the rain, which had set in, soon converted into mud. To add to our suffering, the troops who had crossed an arm of the Kopurererua swamp had, by dint of laying down planks, managed to get a big gun across, which they placed on a hill to our left and it completely raked our position. The troops in our rear (the 68th) began to close in on us. The chief, Te Hawa, stood up on the ruined parapet shouting defiance at them and calling on us to meet their attack with courage.

Our position now seemed desperate. All our defenses above ground had been demolished and levelled flat, while as we took shelter in our trenches, we were all more or less covered with mud and drenched with the rain. Our leaders, Rawiri, Tuaia, Hakaraia, Mahika, Timoti and Poihipi showed valiant front, directing our affairs with cool courage. They ordered us not to utter a word or fire a shot till the proper time came for the order.

A party of our people tried to break away through the troops in the rear. They were met by the 68th and fired on heavily. The chiefs, Te Kani and Keni and a number of men were killed…all the others who could, hastily rejoined their comrades in the pa who were now resisting the storming party.

The British Repulsed

The British assault on the Pa was delivered about four o'clock in the afternoon. The storming party, soldiers and sailors of the Naval Brigade and 43rd Regiment (in all about 300 men) rushed gallantly to the attack. Then we loosed our fire on them when they got well within range—still they charged on, with bayonets fixed and swords waving, cheering as they came. Through and over the breach walls they rushed; they entered the ruins of the larger pa; most of it was in their possession. But all at once the tide of war was changed. Up leaped our men from the rifle pits as if vomitted from the bowels of the earth, and together with those who had been forced back by the 68th Regiment 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 attackers with a heavy fire. Men fell thick and fast. Tomahawk clashed on cutlass and bayonet—tupara (double and single barrel fowling pieces) met rifle and pistol. Skulls were cloven—Maoris were bayoneted—Ngaiterangi patiti (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 position of the large pa stood firm. It was terrible work, but soon over. The pakehas were driven clean out of the pa; as they ran our men falling upon them. They fell back on their main body below our works, leaving many of their dead and wounded strewn on the battle ground.

The Maoris, though victorious, had suffered severely. My parent, Rawiri, fell with seven gunshot wounds. The troops suffered most from getting into a cross fire between the two pas, but particularly from the smaller one. The soldiers and sailors were all mixed up together and were equally brave.

Maori Chivalry

We adhered strictly to the terms of the battle-covenant, and harmed not the wounded nor interfered with the bodies of the dead. The British Colonel (Booth) fell mortally wounded, just inside the gateway, and there he lay all night. In the hours of darkness his voice could be heard calling for water. One of our people went and got some and ministered to his wants. It has been said that Te Ipu gave the dying soldier water, but he was badly wounded (foot smashed) and quite incapacitated. One of the Maoris took Colonel Booth's sword. Another wounded officer left behind after his men had retreated dropped his sword a little distance away. A Maori picked it up and went to restore it to the officer. The pakeha squared himself up as well as he could to meet his deathblow, but to his surprise the Maori turned the hilt toward him (the officer) and returned his weapon.

Ah! Those were glorious days. Every fighter was a rangatira, and one was proud to meet each other in battle. Whatever the reverses were to either side no bitter feelings were engendered to form any permanent hatred. We were all friends immediately there was no fighting.

The Maori Retreat

In the night we collected arms, accoutrements and ammunition from the British dead. Then recognising that our defences no longer existed we abandoned the ruined pa under cover of darkness, retiring in good order and spirits. We crept quietly through the lines of the 68th at the rear. The soldiers kept firing on us, but none of us were killed, only a few wounded. I believe that some of the soldiers were accidentally killed by their own comrades. We retired to the Waoku pa and then dispersed to our various stations along the edge of the forest.

Our loss in the fight was about 25 men killed. Our leader, Rawiri, was killed at Te Ranga a few weeks afterwards. This is all.

I invite you to now reflect on events that occurred here 151 years ago, 

remember those who fought and died on both sides

the cost of the land confiscations after Te Ranga

what it is we hope for the future for Tauranga Moana

as we remember these events.

O God, as we gather this afternoon
we remember the terrible cost
of this and every war,
grant us peace in our time and a longing for the day when people of
every language, race, and nation will be brought into your peace, a peace built on justice.
On this day we ask that you would hold for ever those who died
those scarred by warfare,
those who waited anxiously at home,
and those who were wounded, or disillusioned;
those who mourned,
and those communities here in Tauranga Moana and in Aotearoa that were diminished and suffered loss.
Remember too those who acted with kindly compassion,
those who bravely risked their own lives for their comrades, and for those they fought
and those who in the aftermath,
worked tirelessly for a more peaceful world.
Renew in us the longing for your peace and justice
and the will to work for it
May we be your messengers of peace!
Take wing o messengers of peace
Carry the words to the multitudes
Sow it in wisdom
Sow it in truth
And may the love of God
Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of Life
Be the feathered cloak that enfolds us all
E rere e nga Karere a Te Rangimarie
Kawea te kupu ki te tini ki te mano
Ruia i runga te whakaaro nui
Ruia i runga te Whakaaro pono
Waiho ko te Aroha te Atua, Matua, Tama, Wairua Tapu
Hei Kakahukiwi mou,
Aianei a ake tonu atu. Amine

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