Te Ruapekapeka soldiers' memorial

The battle of Ruapekapeka Pā was the final engagement of the Northern War of 1845/6. In December 1845 a British force of about 1300 soldiers, sailors, marines and militia, with 400 Māori allies, besieged a well-fortified pā occupied by about 500 warriors led by the chiefs Kawiti and Hōne Heke. On 10 January 1846, the British subjected the pā to a heavy bombardment. The following day they assaulted it, but found it abandoned, although shots were exchanged for several hours with warriors hidden in the nearby bush.

Twelve members of the British force died during the fighting. They were buried in a mass grave at the site of the British camp below the pā. In 1914 the site of the pā was gazetted as a scenic and historic reserve, and in 1973 as Te Ruapekapeka Pā Historic Reserve. In 1998 much of the site of the former British camp was added to the reserve. In 2012 the Te Ruapekapeka Trust, representing Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Kahukuri (Ngāti Hau), Ngāti Hine, Te Kapotai and Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Conservation over the administration of the reserve. In 2017 the burial place of the fallen soldiers was rediscovered during an archaeological dig. 

On 3 February 2021 a memorial to the soldiers jointly erected by the trust and the New Zealand Government was unveiled at the site. The ceremony honoured all those who fought on both sides at Te Ruapekapeka. Attendees included Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, Governor-General Patsy Reddy and British High Commissioner Laura Clarke. The memorial was dedicated by the Bishop of Te Tai Tokerau Te Kitohi Pikaahu. 

The memorial consists of an obelisk of polished black granite set on a concrete apron bordered by a chain-link fence. The main inscription reads:

HERE LIE TWELVE  / MEN WHO FELL AT / THE BATTLE OF  / TE RUAPEKAPEKA / 11 JANUARY 1846 

TITIRO KI TE KŌHATU I HAUA MAI AI / KOUTOU, KI TE POKA, KI TE RUA I / KERIA MAI AI KOUTOU / NŌ TE PUKAPUKA A TE POROPITI / A IHAIA 51.1 

ALTHOUGH THESE FALLEN MEN LIE NOT IN THE HEART / OF THEIR OWN LAND, THEY ARE IN HONOURED COMPANY / FOR THEIR REMEMBRANCE WILL BE AS LASTING AS / THE LAND IN WHICH THEY GAVE THEIR ALL / AND WHERE THEIR REMAINS ARE KEPT

ERECTED BY / TE RUAPEKAPEKA TRUST AND THE NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT 2021

There follow the names of the fallen: on one face, Privates James Edmondson and Thomas Lyons of the 58th Regiment and James Shaw of the 99th Regiment; on another, Able Seamen Henry Colyer, Thomas Davidson, Frederick Gladding, Edwin Hutchings, James McDonald, William McDonald and Thomas Millett, all from HMS Calliope; and finally, Royal Marines Private William Minifie from HMS Calliope, and Private Thomas Coglin from HMS North Star.

Around the base are inscribed in Irish Gaelic, Māori and English respectively: I GUIMHNE A COMNLINT / HE RUA WHAKAUTO MŌ TE RIRI / IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE CONFLICT.

From the site of the soldiers' memorial, a pou whenua (carved post) erected by Ngāti  Hau in January 2010 can be seen in the distance. This and other commemorative items can be found at the pā site further up the ridge. 

Fuller accounts of the battle of Ruapekapeka Pā can be found in a large number of sources (good starting points include 'The Northern War; Ruapekapeka' and the Te Ruapekapeka Trust website). The unveiling ceremony was reported in a number of media outlets, including 'Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's Northland visit starts at emotion-charged Ruapekapeka commemoration', NZ Herald, 3/2/2014; 'Ruapekapeka memorial in focus for Waitangi events', NZ Herald, 4/2/2021, A10 ; 'Ruapekapeka: reconciliation, understanding key to battle's 75th anniversary'Northern Advocate, 5/2/2021; 'Remembering the fallen on both sides', New Zealand Army News, no. 519, February 2021, pp. 4-7. 

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