This memorial stands in Te Ngutu o te Manu Battlesite and Historic Reserve on Ahipaipa Road, about halfway between Kapuni and Mātapu in south Taranaki. The reserve marks the site of Ngāti Ruanui’s major settlement Te Ngutu o te Manu, ‘the Beak of the Bird’.
Te Ngutu is now a 50-acre (20-ha) reserve, much of it still under heavy bush. On 7 September 1868, the fortified pā was the scene of a brilliant victory for Ngāti Ruanui leader Riwha Tītokowaru.
Tītokowaru’s strategy of controlled provocation came to fruition in mid-1868, when he provoked Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas McDonnell’s colonial forces into a full-scale attack on Te Ngutu. After an initial attempt in early August was abandoned, four soldiers were killed in McDonnell’s second attempt on the pā on 21 August 1868.
McDonnell’s third and final attempt on Te Ngutu took place on 7 September. Outnumbered six to one, about 60 Ngāti Ruanui defenders occupied carefully concealed positions around the edge of the clearing in front of the pā, and within the pā itself.
Some 20 colonial soldiers were killed or died of wounds received in the devastating crossfire. They included Major Gustavus von Tempsky, who was shot in the head as he led one of three detachments in an assault on the stronghold. All attempts to recover Tempsky’s body failed. It was later burned on a funeral pyre, along with the bodies of other soldiers, by the Māori defenders.
As the assault disintegrated, the colonial force fragmented into several retreating groups. Soldiers were actively harried by Tītokowaru’s men as they attempted to return to Camp Waihī, about 8 km to the south-east. In all 50 Europeans, one-fifth of the assault party, were killed or wounded as a result of the assault on Te Ngutu o te Manu. The number of casualties among the kūpapa (Māori fighting alongside the government forces) is unknown.
The Te Ngutu memorial stands near the spot where Tempsky is believed to have died. Little is known about the memorial’s architect, who may have been W.J. Helyer of Wellington, and its date of construction is also unknown. The memorial played a prominent role in a service that took place at the reserve on 7 September 1908, the 40th anniversary of the assault on Te Ngutu o te Manu.
See also an historical image of this memorial (Alexander Turnbull Library)
This cross is erected in memory / of the officers & men who fell / or died from wounds received / near this spot in engagements / with the Maori Tribes on the night / of August 20th and the morning of / August 21st 1868 and on Sep 7th 1868.
On August 20
Private Geary, Wellington Rangers.
[Private] R. Wallace [Wellington Rangers]
[Private] Kerr [Wellington Rangers]
Constable McCoy, No. 5 Company, A.C. [Armed Constabulary]
[Constable] McKay, [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
[Constable] Dwyer [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
On September 7
Major Von Tempsky, [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
Constable Gilligan, [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
[Constable] Davis, [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
[Constable] Farren, [No. 5 Company, A.C.]
Corporal Russell, No. 3 Company, A.C.
[Corporal] Fennessey, [No. 3 Company, A.C.]
Constable Elkin, [No. 3 Company, A.C.]
[Constable] Hart, [No. 3 Company, A.C.]
[Constable] O'Connor, No. 2 Company, A.C.
Captain Buck, Wellington Rifles.
Lance-Corporal Lumsden, [Wellington Rifles]
Private Grant, [Wellington Rifles]
Lieutenant Hunter, Wellington Rangers.
[Lieutenant] Hastings, [Wellington Rangers]
Private Hughes [Wellington Rangers]
[Private] Dicks, Taranaki Volunteers.
Captain Palmer, Patea Rifles.
Private Dartington, [Patea Rifles]
[Private] Downes, [Patea Rifles]
- ‘Another attack upon Te Ngutu-o-te Manu’, Evening Post, 9 September 1868
- ‘Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu’, Hawera & Normanby Star, 7 September 1908
- James Belich, ‘Titokowaru and the brink of victory’, in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 235–57
- James Belich, ‘McDonnell, Thomas (1831–1833?–1899)’, in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007
- James Cowan, ‘Taranaki redoubts, 1879–81’, in The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period: volume II: the Hauhau wars, 1864–72, R.E. Owen, Wellington, 1956, pp. 515–17
- Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, p. 26