Pāterangi NZ Wars memorial

This memorial obelisk is located on farmland on Bird Road, halfway between Pāterangi and Pirongia, west of Te Awamutu. The memorial marks the graves of six privates of the 40th and 50th regiments who were killed in action at Waiari on 11 February 1864.

Lieutenant-General Duncan Alexander Cameron established British headquarters at nearby Te Rore in early February 1864. By 20 February, some 3000 troops from the 12th, 40th, 50th, 65th, and 70th regiments were camped there. In front of them was the third Waikato defensive line, the Pāterangi line.

The Pāterangi line has been called the greatest defensive line thrown up by either side in the New Zealand Wars. Waikato and Ngāti Maniapoto Māori began work on the entrenchments soon after the fall of Rangiriri on 21 November 1863. Completed in late January 1864, the Pāterangi line was intended to halt the British advance south and protect vital Kingite agricultural interests at Te Awamutu and Rangiaowhia.

The defensive line was named for its main fortification, Pāterangi pā. Four or five such pā occupied a series of low ridges over a distance of about 10 km between Te Awamutu and the Waipā River. Like Pāterangi, Pikopiko (or Puketoke), Rangiātea, and Mangua-pukatea were, in themselves, complex entrenchments.

Cameron’s forces camped at Te Rore for several weeks. The strength of the Pāterangi line was obvious and it soon became clear that a frontal assault like that undertaken at Rangiriri would be costly. Encounters between the two sides during this period were largely confined to long-range sniping and the occasional round fired by British artillery.

British troops were killed during this period. William Connor, for example, died of wounds received during an exchange of fire on 8 February. His burial place, along with that of two named troops and unknown others, is located beside State Highway 39 near Te Rore. This site, known as the Te Rore New Zealand Wars graves, is marked with a memorial obelisk identical to that at Pāterangi.

The most significant engagement of this period took place at Waiari on 11 February. On a hot summer afternoon, a large party from Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Waddy’s force bathed in the Mangapiko Stream, protected by a small covering detachment. In this vulnerable position, they were fired upon by Māori who lay concealed in fern on the opposite bank.

British reinforcements soon arrived. They included about 200 men of the 40th and 50th regiments from the nearby advanced camp, under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Havelock. With them came Captain Charles Heaphy of the Auckland Rifle Volunteers.

Fierce fighting ensued. During the engagement, Heaphy went to the aid of a wounded soldier whilst under intense fire. Some years later, after petitioning the authorities, he became the first member of an irregular unit in the British Empire to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Six British troops were killed at Waiari: privates John McDoole, Michael Cahill, Henry Blake and George Cooper of the 40th Regiment, and James Cussen and William Bane of the 50th Regiment. Heaphy was among the eight men wounded. European reports of Māori casualties vary considerably; between 20 and 40 are said to have been killed. Two wounded Māori were taken prisoner.

Nine days after Waiari, Cameron outflanked Pāterangi. On 20 February, under the cover of darkness and in silence, 1230 troops marched within 1.5 km of Pāterangi pā along a rough bush track. They reached Te Awamutu at dawn the next day and pushed on to Rangiaowhia. The Pāterangi line’s defenders were forced to abandon their positions and fall back.

The New Zealand Wars graves at Pāterangi and Te Rore seem to have come to the attention of the government in mid-1914. In a letter dated 26 August to Edith Statham, Inspector of Old Soldiers’ Graves for the Department of Internal Affairs, Reverend D. McKenzie reported that while the six names on the wooden headboard at Pāterangi were still legible, those at Te Rore were not.

Statham visited Pāterangi and Te Rore the following year and reported her findings to the department on 6 May 1915. Around the same time, a local residents’ committee was formed to maintain the two grave sites. With McKenzie as Secretary, the committee emphasised the need to ‘keep green in the memory of the people those things that remind us of the traditions of our race and have made the British Empire great and respected among the civilised nations of the earth’.

On 9 June 1915, Statham suggested that the wooden headboard – probably that at Pāterangi – eventually be placed in a local church for preservation. In the meantime, she recommended that it be restored until funds could be found for new memorials. Five days later, McKenzie confirmed that the residents’ committee had decided to relocate the wooden headboard to the church immediately. He requested that the government proceed with replacement memorials.

A departmental report of 8 September 1915 stated that the residents’ committee was considering designs for small memorials to replace the decayed wooden headboards. By 3 November the Waipa County Council had approved headstone designs. However on 22 December James Hislop, the Under-Secretary for Internal Affairs, directed that the process must stop. With the First World War into its second year, it is likely that funding was an issue.

The proposal was revived in 1918. The local committee now wanted simple headstones at Pāterangi and Te Rore, as well as a central monument at the Pāterangi battle site. However Statham and Hislop argued that funds were available only for grave sites, not for historic sites.

On 21 October, a Mr Pricket submitted obelisk designs. He proposed using Coromandel granite as the cost of Italian marble was currently ‘outrageous’. Pricket’s obelisk would stand almost 6 feet high and cost £24. At the same time, the local committee ‘respectfully accepted’ that an obelisk would be placed at each of the grave sites, but not at the Pāterangi battle site. The committee had collected £40 locally, and was hopeful that the government would match this sum.

McKenzie had fallen ill by 14 June 1919, when Hislop decided to proceed with the project. It was not until 22 January 1920 that McKenzie was able to confirm that two obelisks had been ordered at a total cost of £80. The government subsidy was approved on 16 February and the work was completed on 12 November. The obelisks were erected at Pāterangi and Te Rore in February 1921.

Additional images

Memorial detail sign


In memory / of Privates / John McDoole, / Michael Cahill, / Henry Blake, / George Cooper. / 40th 2nd Somerset Regt / and / James Cussen, / William Bane. / [50th] Queen's Own Regt / Killed in action at Waiari / 11th Feb. 1864.

Further information

  • The War in Auckland. Camp in Front of Rebel Position at Paterangi (From a Correspondent), Daily Southern Cross, 13 February 1864
  • The War in Auckland’, Taranaki Herald, 20 February 1864
  • James Edward Alexander, Bush fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London, 1873, pp. 112–48
  • James Belich, ‘Paterangi and Orakau’, in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 158–76
  • James Cowan, ‘Paterangi and Waiari’, in The old frontier: Te Awamutu, the story of the Waipa Valley: the missionary, the soldier, the pioneer farmer, early colonization, the war in Waikato, life on the Maori border and later-day settlement, Waipa Post Printing and Publishing Company, Te Awamutu, 1922, pp. 36–9
  • James Cowan, ‘The advance on the Waipa’ and ‘The invasion of Rangiaowhia’, in The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period: volume I: 1845–1864, R.E. Owen, Wellington, 1955, pp. 336–64
  • Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, p. 16–17, 19
  • Nigel Prickett, ‘The Waikato War, 1863–64’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 69–86
  • Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Waikato Wars: Bypassing the Maori Maginot Line at Paterangi’, New Zealand Defence Quarterly, no. 16 (Autumn 1997), pp. 32–6

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