Major General Sir George Whitmore

George Whitmore, photographed by William Henry Whitmore Davis, probably in the 1860s.

Whitmore was appointed commandant of the Armed Constabulary in early 1868. He organised the initial pursuit of Te Kooti inland from Poverty Bay and after Tītokowaru’s victory at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu led the campaign on the west coast.

Fighting on two fronts proved difficult. Whitmore was present when Te Kooti’s position at Ngatapa fell on 5 January 1869 and condoned Ngāti Porou’s subsequent execution of prisoners. Te Kooti had escaped, but Whitmore further undermined his position by invading Te Urewera in May 1869.

In the pursuit of Tītokowaru he suffered a major reversal at Moturoa in November 1868 before ‘capturing’ the abandoned pā of Taurangaika in February 1869. This proved to be a false dawn, with Whitmore readily conceding to his superiors that ‘after a bush campaign such as there not yet been in this country for distance traversed and fatigue undergone, … Titokowaru has slipped through my fingers under my nose’.

Whitmore was eased out of his post in July 1869 by the new defence minister, Donald McLean, with whom he had previously clashed. He was made a CMG for his services in December 1869 and knighted in 1882.

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