Plan of Gate Pā

Plan of Gate Pā

Gate Pa plan

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Pukehinahina (Gate Pā). From a sketch by Lieutenant H. Robley, 68th Regiment.

The defences at Pukehinahina, designed by Pene Taka Tuaia, made extensive use of anti-artillery bunkers (rua) and concealed trenches. The British were unaware of the sophistication of the pā when they stormed it on 29 April 1864.

The construction of numerous small bunkers rather than a few large ones was designed to minimise casualties from artillery fire. No more than 15 Māori were killed by shellfire during the battle. The pā’s garrison of around 250 was split between two redoubts. The majority occupied the main redoubt, which was approximately 80 m long and 18 m wide. Its triple line of trenches had been timbered over and piled with earth for protection. A ditch and bank led to a smaller redoubt consisting of a double line of covered trenches surrounded by a light palisade (pekerangi) which concealed its real strength.

Lieutenant Horatio Gordon Robley arrived in Auckland from Burma with the 68th (Durham Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot in January 1864. During five years in Burma the artist-soldier had shown a keen interest in his surroundings and taken every opportunity to observe the local people and learn their language.

Robley continued this practice during his time in New Zealand. He purchased a number of books about Māori, including one on Māori vocabulary. The 68th were sent to Tauranga and took part in the battle at Gate Pā on 29 April. By the time his regiment was withdrawn from New Zealand in early 1866, Robley had completed numerous sketches of the Tauranga campaign and other aspects of Māori life. He developed a particular interest in tattooing and made accurately observed sketches of tattoo designs. Several of his sketches were reproduced in the Illustrated London News between 1864 and 1867.

Robley formed a relationship with Herete Mauao during his time in New Zealand. They named their son Hamiora Tu Ropere (Samuel Robley).

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