Turuturumōkai NZ Wars memorial

Turuturumōkai NZ Wars memorial

This memorial stands on the remains of Turuturumōkai Redoubt. It is located off Turuturu Road, immediately east of Tāwhiti Stream, 2 km north-east of the south Taranaki town of Hāwera.

The Turuturumōkai memorial records the dramatic events of 12 July 1868. On a frosty morning, a small garrison fought desperately to hold off a much larger Māori force. The raid was orchestrated by Ngāti Ruanui’s military leader, Riwha Tītokowaru.

Tītokowaru’s strategy during his war of 1868–9 was one of controlled provocation. He employed ambush and raid tactics against the colonial forces in an attempt to provoke Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas McDonnell into a full-scale attack on his fortified pa, Te Ngutu o te Manu. After several minor skirmishes, Tītokowaru’s raid on Turuturumōkai Redoubt provided the breakthrough he sought.

Turuturumōkai was first established by the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment in November 1866. It then fell into disrepair and in July 1868 was being strengthened by a garrison of 22 members of the Armed Constabulary. So small was Turuturumōkai that its commanding officer, Captain Frederick Ross, slept in a raupo whare outside the walls. 

The raid was Tītokowaru’s first attack on a redoubt in this campaign. Under cover of darkness, 60 Ngāti Ruanui led by Haowhenua travelled from Te Ngutu o te Manu. Bypassing the strong colonial force in Waihī Redoubt, they struck Turuturumōkai before dawn on Sunday 12 July.

The garrison was taken completely by surprise. Ross was among those killed outside the redoubt or in the gateway. Others managed to escape towards Waihī Redoubt, 5 km away. The surviving members of the garrison retreated into the redoubt where, for two hours, they held off Haowhenua’s force.

At about 7 a.m. Major Gustavus von Tempsky arrived from Waihī Redoubt with Armed Constabulary reinforcements and Haowhenua’s men withdraw. Although three Māori were killed, the raid was a significant Ngāti Ruanui victory. Ten of the defenders were dead or dying, six were wounded, and only six were unharmed. Embarrassingly for the colonial forces, the engagement had taken place within earshot of a major stronghold. Waihī’s senior officers, Tempsky and Major William Hunter, were later criticised for the slow and disorganised relief effort.

The bodies of the 10 troops killed at Turuturumōkai were buried at Waihī Cemetery. Their names are listed on the memorial cairn that stands there today.

Tītokowaru’s strategy now came to fruition. After surveying the carnage at Turuturumōkai, McDonnell is reported to have said to one of his officers: ‘Roberts, I shall have revenge for this’. A month later he launched the first of three unsuccessful attempts to take Te Ngutu o te Manu. The third attempt on 7 September 1868 ended in a decisive victory for Tītokowaru’s forces.

The reserve around Turuturumōkai Redoubt was vested in Hāwera’s borough council by the government in 1901. At a council meeting in November 1907, the mayor acknowledged that the site was ‘a discredit’ to the council. A public meeting was held on 3 December to ‘consider the erection of some memorial on Turuturu Mokai reserve’. This memorial was eventually built and unveiled 22 years later, on 11 December 1929, thanks to a bequest from a local settler.


Images from c. 1999

Detail from memorial Detail from memorial

Images from c. 1986

Detail from memorial Detail from memorial Detail from memorial


Front face:

Turuturu-Mokai Redoubt / Built in November 1866 by the 18th Royal / Irish Regiment which supplied a garrison to / protect the surveyors led by Percy Smith. / Military settlers later took up the blocks / surveyed and the redoubt fell into disrepair. / By mid 1868 the Hauhau Maoris had been / organised by Titokowaru and began a / series of attacks which drove the Europeans / from South Taranaki by the end of 1868. / The first major attack was on this redoubt / which was being rebuilt. / On Sunday July 12th 1868, just before dawn, / a party of sixty Maoris from Te Ngutu o / te Manu attacked the garrison of twenty- / two Armed Constabulary. Ten of the / defenders were dead, six wounded, and six / unharmed when Major Von Tempsky arrived at / 7.00am with relief from the Waihi Redoubt / three miles to the west. / The bodies of those killed were buried at the Waihi Cemetery.

Rear face:

Turuturu Mokai / 12th July / 1868 / Erected in memory / of those who took part in the / engagement on this spot.

Capt. Ross.
Sergt. McFadden
Corp. J. Blake
Alleyn Beamish.
W. Gaynor.
G. Holden.
R. Ross.
P. Shields.
P. Swords.
Canteen Keeper Lennon.

J.G. Beamish.
G. Lacey
G. Tuffin
M. O’Connor.

Sergt. Coslett Johnston.
L. Milmoe.
H. McLean.
M. Gill.

C.C. Woods Bequest Memorial.
Supplemented by public sub[s]cription.

Further information

  • Lest we forget. Turuturu-Mokai’, Hawera & Normanby Star 15 October 1907.
    From the late 1880s, the Hawera & Normanby Star’s ‘Tokaora Correspondent’, John Finlay, wrote a series of articles about New Zealand Wars sites in south Taranaki under the byline, ‘Lest We Forget’. Here he advocates a memorial at Turuturumōkai to ensure that the events of 12 July 1868 would not be forgotten with the passing of the last New Zealand Wars veterans.
  • Turuturu Mokai Redoubt’, Hawera & Normanby Star, 7 November 1907.
    Motivated in part by the previous article, the Hawera  Borough Council began to reconsider its maintenance of Tututurumōkai Redoubt.
  • Extra edition’, Hawera & Normanby Star, 30 November 1907
  • Extract from ‘Local and General’, Hawera & Normanby Star, 3 December 1907
  • 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 Cowan, ‘The Defence of Turuturu-mokai’, 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, pp. 187–201
  • Kete New Plymouth, Turuturumokai Redoubt Memorial
  • Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, pp. 38, 39
  • Nigel Prickett, ‘Titokowaru’s War, 1868–69’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 115–24
  • Nigel Prickett and Rick McGovern-Wilson (eds.), Occasional publications in archaeology No. 1: planning a future for New Zealand War sites and landscapes, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, 6 July 2009

Community contributions

3 comments have been posted about Turuturumōkai NZ Wars memorial

What do you know?

Milt Whareaitu

Posted: 12 Sep 2012

Yes I went down there and found a disgusting overgrown mess so Ive started the clean up. Gorse etc has taken over and the stream is choked with Willows. This has raised the stream level up to the height of the bridge and saturated areas of land. A result from years of talk but no action in keeping up the maintenance. Yet to understand why the Taranaki Regional Council staff let the waterway get into this state.

Henry Hollis

Posted: 08 Sep 2010

I recently took a year 13 class to the Taranaki and visited this site near Hawera. Initially we were disappointed as the original Pa sites are very poorly maintained. Signage is damaged or missing. Large parts are overgrown. However the students were impressed with the overall site once they had done some exploring. I realise the Pa are not part of the Memorial but they do contribute to the whole and help to set the Redoubt into a time and place.