Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial

43rd Regiment Memorial, Mission (Old Military) Cemetery, Tauranga.

Mission Cemetery – also known as Military, or Old Military, Cemetery – is the oldest European burial ground in the Bay of Plenty city of Tauranga. Located on Marsh St (near the harbour bridge) at the northern end of Te Papa peninsula, the cemetery is situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the harbour. It stands on the site once occupied by the Ngāi Te Rangi pā of Otamataha.

The cemetery is thought to contain the remains of about 100 imperial and colonial troops and Māori fighters who died in the Tauranga district during the New Zealand Wars. This memorial commemorates 26 men of the 43rd Regiment who were killed in action or died of wounds received at Pukehinahina (Gate Pā) and Te Ranga in 1864.

The government sent troops to Tauranga in early 1864 to prevent reinforcements and supplies reaching Kingite forces in Waikato through Bay of Plenty. Colonel George Carey landed at Te Papa on 22 January with about 600 men and orders not to antagonise the local Māori. Monmouth and Durham redoubts were built to protect the large military camp at Te Papa (now the Tauranga CBD).

In response, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui men fighting in Waikato returned home to Tauranga. Under Ngāi Te Rangi leader Rāwiri Puhirake, they began a campaign of provocation designed to entice the British force at Te Papa to attack them at a place of their choosing.

Puhirake’s men built two well-fortified pā. The first, at Te Waoku near the Waimapu River, was some way inland and failed to elicit a British response. The second, Pukehinahina, was only 3 km from the British camp. Situated on the boundary between mission land and Māori territory, it became known as the Gate Pā.

The British commander in New Zealand, Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, came to Tauranga with reinforcements. By 26 April there were 1700 troops at Te Papa. Two days later the British force, which included 300 men of the 43rd Regiment, surrounded Gate Pā. They faced fewer than 250 defenders – mostly Ngāi Te Rangi, supported by Ngāti Pāoa and other Hauraki and Waikato men – led by Puhirake.

British artillery began bombarding Gate Pā on the afternoon of 28 April. Twenty-four hours later, Cameron ordered a frontal assault by 300 men, half of them troops of the 43rd Regiment led by Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Booth. The attackers soon got into the pā, but standing on top of the earthworks they were vulnerable to fire from defenders hidden in underground bunkers and trenches.

Many officers were quickly killed or wounded. According to the historian James Cowan, the 43rd Regiment lost Booth, four captains and one lieutenant killed, and a lieutenant and two ensigns severely wounded. Among the dead were the brothers Captain Robert Glover and Lieutenant Frederick Glover.

Some Māori, prevented from retreating by men of the 68th Regiment positioned behind the pā, apparently rushed back inside the defences. In the confusion, and having lost much of their leadership, the attackers fled and became mixed up with reserves who had been sent forward in support. Cameron was forced to withdraw all his troops.

That night, Gate Pā’s defenders escaped through the British lines. British casualties included 35 men dead or mortally wounded, and another 75 wounded. Up to 25 Māori men had been killed. The extent of the defeat shocked New Zealand’s settler community and the military and political establishment. However, the British would soon get their revenge.

Cameron returned to Auckland, leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Greer in command of a large British garrison at Te Papa. Greer was ordered to attack immediately if Māori forces began constructing another pā in the district.

On the morning of 21 June, Greer left camp with a force of 600 men. Five kilometres inland from Gate Pā, the British discovered 500 to 600 Māori working on defensive earthworks at Te Ranga. Again led by Puhirake, they comprised Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui, supported by Ngāti Porou from the east coast and Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Rangiwewehi from Rotorua. Early that afternoon, following the arrival of reinforcements, Greer ordered men from the 68th and 43rd regiments and the 1st Waikato Militia to advance.

The battle that followed was among the bloodiest of the New Zealand Wars. In desperate hand-to-hand fighting, British troops exacted terrible vengeance for Gate Pā. The Māori garrison was unable to hold the incomplete defences and, when Puhirake was killed, those able to do so retreated.

Two British soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross for valour at Te Ranga. One was Captain Frederick Smith of the 43rd Regiment, who led the right flank advance in ‘the most gallant manner’:

‘Although wounded before he had reached the rifle-pits, he jumped down into them where he began a hand-to-hand encounter with the enemy, thereby giving his men great encouragement and setting them a fine example.’

British casualties were nine dead and 39 wounded. More than 100 defenders – including Puhirake – were buried in the trenches at Te Ranga. Another 14 Māori died in hospital at Te Papa and were buried in a mass grave in Mission Cemetery.

This one-sided battle effectively ended local resistance. Hōri Ngātai was among the Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui who surrendered their arms to the British at Te Papa on 25 July. Much of their land was subsequently confiscated.

This memorial was erected soon after the fighting. It features prominently in photographs of Mission Cemetery taken around 1865. By the 1900s the lettering was almost obliterated. New marble plaques bearing the original inscriptions were inserted in about July 1909.

Of the 26 men commemorated on the memorial, only Captain Charles Mure (also Muir or Murray), Corporal (or Private) James Wheeler (or Leeler), Corporal James Clark (or Clarke) and Private John (or James) Colfer have separate memorial ground plaques in Mission Cemetery. Twenty-five of them – the exception is Private George Robbins (or Robins) – are named in official casualty lists.

Nearby stand memorials to Puhirake, Ngātai, and the 14 Māori dead buried in the cemetery. Other memorials commemorate seamen and marines who died at Gate Pā, and men of the 1st Waikato Militia. The cemetery also contains the graves of seven British officers and memorial plaques dedicated to 37 British and colonial troops.

Additional images

Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial

Historic image: 43rd Regiment memorial at Tauranga [c. 1865]. Note the unmarked grave mounds in the foreground, and Mauao (Mt Maunganui) in the background across Tauranga Harbour.

Inscription

Southern face

In Memory / of the following Officers, / Non-Commissioned Officers, / Bugler & Privates of the / 43rd Light Infantry, who / were killed or died of wounds / received April 29th 1864, at / the attack on the Gate Pa. / Lieut-Col. Henry J.P. Booth / Capt. Robt. C. Glover / Capt. Chas. R. Mure / Capt Robt. T.F. Hamilton / Capt. Edwin Utterton / Lieut. Frdk. C.E. Glover / Ensign Chas. J. Langlands

Eastern face

Sergt Major John Vance / Bugler James Blackwall / Private James Audley / [Private] George Bradbrook / [Private] Philip Fitzgerald / [Private] Henry Goff / [Private] Jacob Holdbrook / [Private] Silvester Hornby / [Private] James Lane / [Private] Thomas Madden / [Private] Robert Phelan / [Private] George Robbins / [Private] Frederick Trann

Western face

Also of / the following Non Com Officers & / Privates who were killed or died of / wounds received June 21st 1864 at / the capture of the Maori position / at Te Ranga / Corp. James Wheeler / Corp. John W. Varlow / Private Robt. Johnstone / [Private] John McGuire / [Private] Jeremiah Maher / [Private] Henry Wilkinson

Further information

  • List of Killed and Wounded at Tauranga [Gate Pa]', Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 14 May 1864
  • Great Engagement Beyond the Gate Pa [Te Ranga]. Splendid Victory by our Troops. June 21. The Engagement at Tauranga’, Daily Southern Cross, 30 June 1864
  • ‘The New Monument’, Bay Of Plenty Times, 12 July 1909
  • James Belich, ‘The Tauranga Campaign’, in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 177–200
  • A.C. Bellamy, Tauranga: 1882–1982, Publicity Printing Ltd, Tauranga, 1982
  • James Cowan, ‘Gate Pa and Te Ranga’, 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. 421–40
  • Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, p. 19
  • Gilbert Mair, The Story of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864, Bay of Plenty Times, Tauranga, 1937
  • Nigel Prickett, ‘The Tauranga Campaign, 1864’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 87–95
  • Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Waikato Wars: Maori Triumph at Gate Pa: 29 April 1864’, New Zealand Defence Quarterly, no. 19 (Summer 1997), pp. 32–8
  • Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Waikato Wars: The Battle of Te Ranga: 21 June 1864’, New Zealand Defence Quarterly, no. 20 (Autumn 1998), pp. 32–7
  • Jinty Rorke, ‘Puhirake, Rawiri – Biography’, The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1 September 2010

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