Prisoners of war taken at Rangiriri

Prisoners of war taken at Rangiriri

Prisoners of war taken at Rangiriri, New Zealand, December 1863.

The photograph shows 24 Māori men aboard the hulk Marion in Auckland Harbour in December 1863. They are dressed in a mixture of Māori and European clothes.

Following their capture at Rangiriri on 21 November 1863, these men were initially held in the prison hulk Marion on Auckland Harbour before being transferred to Kawau Island (in the Hauraki Gulf north of Auckland), where they were held without charge or trial. On 11 September 1864 they seized all the boats on the island and used improvised paddles to cross the channel to the Northland coast. They built a pā north of Warkworth.

Amid rumours that the escaped prisoners planned to attack Auckland, colonial and Briotish forces were readied for battle. Local Ngāpuhi promised to protect the escapees, whom they gave food and guns. Fearing the involvement of Ngāpuhi in an expanded war, the authorities decided not to pursue the fugitives, who made their way home to Waikato unmolested.

Ironically, Kawau Island had been purchased in 1862 by Sir George Grey, who was to spend a fortune developing it as his home.

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