The fight at Rangiaowhia

The fight at Rangiaowhia

The fight at Rangiaohia for the recovery of McHale’s body. February 21 1864, by L.A. Wilson. This artist’s impression of the battle depicts the moment Colonel Marmaduke Nixon (top, second from left) was shot. Captain Thomas McDonnell (left) runs to help Nixon, while Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron and his staff are arriving at right.

On the morning of Sunday 21 February 1864 the inhabitants of Rangiaowhia, the economic heartland of the Kīngitanga, were surprised by the arrival of imperial and colonial soldiers. Rangiaowhia’s fighting men were still at nearby Pāterangi, which Cameron’s force had bypassed overnight. Many inhabitants took refuge in one of Rangiaowhia’s two churches, while others ran for their whare (houses).

Sergeant McHale, ‘an excited cavalryman’, was shot and killed when he fired into one of the whare. So was a soldier of the 65th Regiment. The building was surrounded and two ranks of men opened fire. Those inside returned fire, mortally wounding Colonel Nixon. Then another trooper was shot while trying to retrieve McHale’s body.

Whether by accident or design, the thatch of the building caught fire. An unarmed elderly man came out with a white blanket raised above his head. He was killed by a hail of bullets despite calls from a nearby officer to ‘spare him’. Two more Māori attempting to escape met a similar fate, and eight charred corpses (including that of McHale) were later found in the smoking ruins.

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5 comments have been posted about The fight at Rangiaowhia

What do you know?


Posted: 01 Jul 2022

But who won?


Posted: 10 Jun 2022

It was a dirty 'fight' if you could even call it a fight as such. Rangiaowhia was an undefended village that supplied food that fed the kingitanga forces Supposed to be under agreement of being a peaceful place of non combatants. Elderly, children, and women. Other eyewitness accounts point to the soldiers setting light to that 'thatched building' which was actually a house of prayer, a church. The people did not come out of the church when commanded to, due to previous accounts from other wars that lead to them being imprisoned or killed such as was with Rangiriri. Among the casualties was a ten year old boy, Arama, who tried to escape from the church was shot and killed.


Posted: 02 Nov 2021

Kīngi Pootatau was not around during Rangiaowhia invasion.

bernie Fynn

Posted: 05 Aug 2016

I suggest that this site read Bruce Moons account of the Rangiaowhia incident as he has first hand accounts of it. A woman named wikitoria, who is used as the account of the incident, in her own words, saw nothing. She was at the river, below the village and stayed there all day. Potatau also has a different version to what modern maori say. Cameron went in at night to lay waste to the crops and to minimise any casualties.


Posted: 12 May 2014

There were 200 - 300 Maori men, woman and children that were massacred by 3000 British army soldiers. The land was stolen, confiscated. Given to pakeha farmers and never to be returned to the rightful owners. This year marks 150 years since that sad sad day and was recently celebrated where a memorial was unveiled in the memory of all that had perished that day. Both Maori and pakeha.