“I was in the firing-trench when
I heard the wounded officer lying in our lines calling for water. There
were other wounded soldiers distressed for want of water. When I heard
these cries I could not resist them. The sight of the foe with their
life-blood flowing from them seemed to elate some of our warriors, but
I felt a great pity for them, and I remembered also a rule that had
been made amongst us that if any person asked for any service to be
performed the request must not be refused; it would be an aitua to
ignore it—that is, neglect to comply would bring misfortune. So I rose
up from the trench, slung my gun, and was about to run back to the
cooking-place where we kept our water when my brother asked me where I
was going. I told him that I heard the dying men crying for water and I
could not disobey the call. He said not a word, but stood with his
gun-butt planted on the ground and his hands gripping the muzzle, and
watched me earnestly while I ran to fetch the water. I had to go about
10 yards to the rear of the trench, and as our fence was almost
demolished I was in view of the troops. I found that a small tin in
which I had some water had been capsized, but that there was still the
iron nail-can full. It was so heavy that I had to spill about half of
it before I could conveniently carry it to the soldiers. I carried it
in my arms to where the Colonel was lying. I did not know then that he
was a colonel, but I could tell by his uniform that he was a senior
officer. He was the nearest of the soldiers to me. I went down by his
side, took his head on my knees, and said ‘Here’s water’ in English. I
poured some of the water in one hand which I held close to his lips so
that he could drink. He said ‘God bless you,’ and drank again from my
hand. I went to the three other soldiers and gave them water one by one
in the same way. Then, placing the nail-can so that it would not spill,
I ran back to the trench.”
Dawn from Te Ranga
76 x 152 cm
View from Te Ranga
76 x 152 cm
Continuing my explorations of the New Zealand
Landwars, I recently visited Te Ranga (which is on the boundary of
Tauranga City) walking, contemplating and taking photos of the
landscape as the sun rose at 6AM.
This is my first landscape, absent of figures. The trees are almost
like Kaitiaki (guardians) watching over the land where many lives were
lost nearly 150 years ago in what was to be a bloody day in our history.
Read an exert below from some information on the Battle at Te Ranga
Battle of Te Ranga.
Tuesday, June 21st 1864 [The Battle of Te Ranga.]
A messenger arrived with a challenge from Rawiri to Colonel Greer “to
come and fight...him at Te Ranga in three days....Greer...was only too
glad of an opportunity to wipe out the disgrace of their recent
repulse. He answered ‘Ka pai(good); I’ll go...The messenger was
scarcely out of the barrack yard ere he issued orders for an immediate
At eight o’clock, a force of 500 men made up of 68th and 43rd light
infantry, Waikato Militia and Colonial Defence force and a six pounder
Armstrong gun. Gate Pa which is about four miles from Te Ranga was
passed about nine o’clock. When they got within two miles of Te Ranga
those with glasses could see the Maori presence at Te Ranga. Soon the
out-sentries fired their firearms to warn the others that troops were
coming. They retired to the Te Ranga, reloading while they retreated
and firing their guns again. There were other sentries too at
intermediate distances. The pakeha troops were halted about 600-700
yards from a yellow line of freshly turned over earth with a few
solitary posts placed in front. They waited while the Colonel surveyed
the area and decided on the best plan of attack.
A company of the 43rd marched in skirmishing order in front of the
rifle pits and they advanced within 200 yards. The 68th, 43rd and
Waikato Militia made up the reserves and supports; the cavalry being
drawn up on the proper right. The six pounder gun was placed on the top
of a slight eminence 400 yards from the pits; but afterwards removed to
the right and there played with excellent enfilading effect. As the
troops advanced to their positions a large number of Maori deserted the
earthworks in the direction of Penetaka’s Pa near the bush. Very few
shots were fired from the rifle pits as the skirmishers came up and so
many Maori were seen escaping, it was at first thought that only a few
of the more determined braves had remained but it was found quite a
number had remained. Brown described the Maori present at Te Ranga were
a working party and hints that several were unarmed. Brown claim is
supported by the large number of woman present helping in the
construction of the defences. It also supports that the argument that
the Maori were expecting the battle to be in three days time as the
Zachariah and about 300 men abandoned Te Ranga in the early stage of
the battle. He had not approved of the site and said he would leave if
the fight got serious.
The Colonel despatched a Mounted Defence Force man to Te Papa for
reinforcements of 200, another six pounder Armstrong and three cohorns.
But after two hours of waiting, Greer gave into the demands of the 43rd
and 68th regiments snd attacked.
It is uncertain of how many women were present at Te Ranga and what
proportion they made up of the casualties. The press recorded two being
taken prisoner. Women were involved at the construction of Gate Pa and
had been involved on June 21st at the construction of Te Ranga. Ngahuri
who was the wife of Te Teira said that the Native women were in great
force at this engagement and though many escaped some were taken
prisoner. The women took arms and fought alongside their husbands, but
when they found themselves surrounded and their Chief killed, many of
both men and women retired and escaped into the bush. Robley recorded:
It was indeed strange to see many of the then survivors climb slowly
out of the trenches, and disdaining to run, walk away under a fire that
mowed them down; some halting and firing as they retreated and others
with their heads bent down stoically and proudly receiving their
The shortest and clearest mode of explaining the position will be
imaging the capital letter ‘A’ to be the piece of land, bounded on the
apex and two sides by gullies. The road from Gate Pa lead straight to
the base, and the transverse line in the letter will represent the
rifle pits. The rifle pits were in a semi-circle 150 -170 yards long.
They were three feet deep and two feet wide and had been done
overnight. The earth had been thrown on the southern side in
preparation of the parapet.
The location of the defences were know as Te Taumata-i-a-hui (also know
at Te Ranga) which was on the road to Kahakaharoa.
After the battle the Maori dead were looted. Rawiri Puhirake’s
greenstone pendant was taken by a 68th man, who sold it to Major
Colville. Also found at this position were heirlooms, tupara, flint
guns, single and double-barreled percussion; long and short handled
tomahawks; whale bone and geenstone mere, old bayonets made into
spears, green-stone ear ornaments; long and short-handled spades,
provisions in the shape of cakes, compressed fern root, pipis, maize,
cooking utensils, mats, old clothing, blankets, kits and a host of
other miscellaneous stock. An old haversack full of bank notes is said
to have been picked up by a soldier while another found ten sovereigns.
A letter to Hakaraia from Opotiki was found. Even Colonel Greer "got
many things after Te Ranga." As Fildes described it, the spoils of war,
‘spolia optima.’ One soldier after killing a chief took his heirlooms.
The chief’s family later tried to buy it back without sucess.
Lt. Col. Morant recorded:
More loot fell into the hands of the troops thanis usual in these
affairs, as I understand some soldiers found a good deal of money upon
certain of the chiefs who were slain, as well as “maris” and greenstone
The following rules for the guidance of Maori pickets at Te Ranga were
taken from the body of Henare Taratoa:
1. If an unarmed soldier be seen coming on the land of the Maori or of
the pakeha, he will be shot.
2. If an unarmed pakeha comes who is known to me, he will be sent back.
3. The unarmed pakeha being a stranger, he will be shot.
4. If a pakeha woman(female) be seen, whether she be child or maiden,
she will be sent back.
If the English (Episcopal?) minister comes among the Maori. He will be
Amongst other papers found were the following form of prayer to be used
at Te Ranga:-For the Morning
2. O Lord who art blessed.
3. Old Testament and New.
4. Our Father
1. Psalms 35:1
2. Mathew 10:28
3. Ephesians 6: 13-17
4. James 3, part of 7th and 8th verses
5. Prayer. Prevent us O Lord
6. Prayer. The lord bless us and keep us.
While the attack was under way friendly Maori who reside at settlements
along the harbour went into the Te Papa camp for the purpose of
testifying that they had no sympathy for those Maori engaged at Te
It was reported that two or three friendlies were rejoicing at the
death of some of the rebel chiefs in order that they may put in extra
claims for land; in fact they were plotting schemes which they intend
to enact when the days of investigation took place.
Belich claims that the British victory at Te Ranga was exaggerated both
in the casualities and in the manner of victory. Belich claims there
were similarities between the Battle of Te Ranga in 1864 and the
Ango-Zulu Battle of Ulundi in 1879:
A humiliating defeat, followed by a real but exaggerated victory, which
is not only made to lay the ghost of the earlier disaster, but which
also becomes the necessary ‘last battle’ when peace is made and falsely
presented as complete submission. Once suitably roused, the
Anglo-Saxons proceed to the inevitable decisive victory.