Topic: Pukehinahina (Battle of Gate Pa 29.4.1864) by William Edward Morris

Topic type:

This poem by former Tauranga City Archivist, William Edward Morris (1913-1999), appeared in his book of poetry entitled 'Treadmill of Time' which was published in 1977 (p. 45).

A brown pattern tide –

not a tidal wave of ochre colour

a huddle of tribal mahogany faces

screwed in indecision

watching Maori lands confiscated by

Government purveyors,

cut into blocks by Government surveyors –

left to grow rank for a time

creating seeds to a war-like clime.

 

Of all lands confiscated during

Maori wars

only one area Tauranga, where

50,000 acres were taken

for not a tithe of compensation –

thus spoke Maori Elder Turi Te Kani

at centenary of Gate Pa.

 

As mutterings became a distinct

threat to Government composure

Ngaiterangi in the West

moved inland to Waoku reconditioned

a Pa beyond confines of Te Papa –

and were joined by tribal warriors

from Waikato wars –

when soldier, and sailor arrived

in Tauranga harbour – they did not

advance – instead Maoris invited troops

to come if it was their wish to fight

and sent a copy of rules to be observed

as of right.

 

There was no reply

so they advanced to Pukehinahina

ridge – built a system of redoubt

and trench – covered way like a giant

maze,

with only a fragmentation of a Pa

confusing to attackers this strategy

of war –

and officers, and other ranks died on

this trench floor – something campaigns

in other lands had never showed before.

 

No English regiment at Waterloo

lost as many officers as did the 43rd

at Gate Pa –

111 officers and men were killed or

wounded –

Maori lost 25 of her ochre coloured

sons.

Opposing a force of 2000

230 Maoris won the day – no matter

what historians have to say.

 

This Maori maze of trenches

carried to English shores by Artist

Major Robley, became a standard pattern

for friend, or foe in world war one –

trench warfare was there to stay –

it had its birth half a century before

in a brief Maori war.

 

Land and its tenure

has engendered strife since man

ceased to be a nomad,

$40, plus goods

a Christian Mission Society

paid for 1,334 acres on which Tauranga

sits today, -

would a city be there if Maoris

at least some of them had not learnt

a Christian way.

“If they enemy hunger feed him –

if he thirsts give him drink”.

 

Henare Taratoa was a mission trained

student – he taught Pakeha soldiers chivalry

in battle – amid maxim and cannon rattle

at Gate Pa.

He died at Te Ranga

a magnificent gesture of defiance

teaching us that on Maori word there

was reliance.

 

A great warrior of more recent

wars said,

“There was not victory at Gate Pa

but victory of a different sort

when arms were piled at Te Ranga

two races lived together in harmony –

an honourable peace was filed.”

 

It is difficult to understand

why one of a most war-like race

in our world

would feel need of complete surrender –

unless they felt that it was best for

both sides –

and by their act

Hell of Maori wars was rent asunder

no more would cannon thunder, musketry

rattle

no more would foreign troops die

on foreign soil in futile battle,

under Antipodean skies.

 

If Gate Pa was a stepping stone

to Peace

then it has its place in history

no matter who won –

yet there can be no doubt it was

a confused victory to ochre coloured

sons.

Some historians may minimise and lie –

Gate Pa was an epic that will never

die.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion