Ōhaeawai NZ Wars memorial

Memorial for William Stewart and Matthew Hodgkins, who were killed at Ōhaeawai.

British commander Henry Despard’s decision to assault the modern pā of Ōhaeawai on 1 July 1845 was roundly criticised in terms ranging from ‘stupidity’ to ‘lunacy’. Major Cyprian Bridge recorded that after the assault he and his men were ‘tired and dispirited and disgusted beyond expression at having been defeated by a mob of savages and with such fearful cost’. Bridge criticised Despard for not attacking the pā at its most vulnerable point, but to be fair to the colonel the level of concealment achieved by the outer fence made it difficult to identify this weak point.

Despard was nearly 60, had not seen active service for almost 30 years, and was perhaps not up to running a campaign. Despite the criticisms of some of those who survived the assault, he continued to enjoy the support of his Australian-based superior, General O’Connell, and New Zealand’s Governor Robert FitzRoy.

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