Skip to main content

Waihī NZ Wars memorial cairn

This memorial cairn stands in Waihī Cemetery, near the remains of Waihī Redoubt. It is located on Pikituroa Road, near Normanby, 10 km north-west of the south Taranaki town of Hāwera. The Waihī cairn records the names of 27 colonial servicemen who died during Tītokowaru’s War of 1868–9 and were thought to be buried in the cemetery at the time the memorial was erected.

Waihī Redoubt was established on the hill south-west of Waihī Cemetery in September 1866. It was used as the advanced quarters of the colonial force in their south Taranaki campaigns. The post was temporarily abandoned after the decisive defeat at Te Ngutu o te Manu on 7 September 1868. It was rebuilt in 1869 and sheltered various forces, including the Armed Constabulary, until the 1880s. The Waihī cairn commemorates incidents that occurred during the garrisoning of the first redoubt.

Ngāti Ruanui military leader Riwha Tītokowaru employed ambush and raid tactics against the colonial forces. Sawyers David Cahill, William Clarke (Clark) and Thomas Squires were killed near the Waingongoro River at the beginning of Tītokowaru’s campaign on 9 June 1868. Three days later Trooper Smith was ambushed within sight of Waihī Redoubt while searching for his horse. Captain Frederick James Ross and nine other men were killed during a raid on Turuturumōkai Redoubt on 12 July 1868. All of these men are buried in Waihī Cemetery and their names are recorded on the cairn.

Such tactics were part of Tītokowaru’s strategy of controlled provocation. This strategy came to fruition in mid-1868 when the colonial forces embarked on a full-scale attack on Tītokowaru’s pā, Te Ngutu o te Manu, near Kaponga. After an initial attempt in early August was abandoned, five soldiers were killed in Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell’s second attack on the pa on 21 August 1868. These men are buried in Waihī Cemetery and their names are recorded on the cairn.

Major Gustavus von Tempsky was one of more than 20 colonial soldiers killed in the ill-fated third and final attack on Te Ngutu o te Manu on 7 September. Tempsky’s body, along with those of other soldiers killed at Te Ngutu o te Manu that day, were burned on a funeral pyre by the Māori defenders.

The Waihī cairn contains several inaccuracies. Constables Fennessy and Elkin and Private Wells died at Te Ngutu o te Manu on 7 September, not 21 August. Private Economedus (Economedes) died at Tirotiromoana on 3 November 1866.

The Waihī cairn was commissioned by ‘numerous friends’ and subsidised by a government grant. Its designer or architect is unknown, but it was built by Jones & Sons of Hāwera. Like the memorial located in Normanby Domain about 2 km away, the cairn was unveiled on 29 May 1912 by the Prime Minister and MP for Egmont, Hon. Thomas Mackenzie.

Almost all the men commemorated on the Waihī cairn are also commemorated on the Normanby memorial. While the cairn records the names of men buried in the Waihī cemetery, the Normanby memorial records the names of 52 colonial servicemen who died in south Taranaki during the late 1860s. The exception is Private George Wells of the Taranaki Volunteers; the reason for his omission from the Normanby memorial is unclear.

There are two marked individual graves within the Waihī Cemetery enclosure. One is the grave of Captain Frederick James Ross, the garrison commander at Turuturumokai during the desperate defence on the morning of 12 July 1868. The second grave is that of Henry Hattie, aged seven months, who died on 11 January 1880, when the Waihī Redoubt was still garrisoned by the Constabulary Field Force.

Additional images



Face [A]:
Lest we forget
Here rest the mortal remains of a / number of soldiers who lost their / lives, heroically fighting for their / Queen and country. / Killed at Turu-turu-mokai July 12th 1868,
Captain Ross, Frederick, Armed Constabulary
Sergeant McFadden, John, [Armed Constabulary]
Corporal Blake, John, [Armed Constabulary]
Private Beamish, Allen, [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Gaynor, William, [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Ross, Ralph, [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Holden, George, [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Shields, Patrick, [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Swords, Peter, [Armed Constabulary]
Lemon, Richard, Civilian, Storekeeper

By numerous friends subsidised by a / grant from the government. / Jones Hawera

Face [B]:
Lest we forget
Killed at Te Huha
June 9th 1868
Sergeant Cahill
Private Squires
[Private] Clarke
[June] 12th [1868]
Trooper T. Smith
Capture of Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu / killed on / August 21st 1868
Private Wallace, A.C. [Armed Constabulary]
[Private] Kerr, A.C.
[Private] McKoy, [A.C]
[Private] Carey, [A.C]
[Private] Fennessy, [A.C]
[Private] Elkin, [A.C]
[Private] Wells, T.V. [Taranaki Volunteers]
[Private] Hagarty.
[Private] Handley.
[Private] Economedus.
[Private] McGinesky, W.R. [Wellington Rifles]
[Private] McKay, A.C.
[Private] Dwyer, [A.C]

Ross grave inscription:
Sacred / to the memory of / Frederick James Ross / of the New Zealand Armed Constabulary / who was killed on July 12 1868 / while defending / the Turu Turu Mokai Redoubt. / In the Patea District. / Against the rebel natives. / Aged 33 years

Further information

  • 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
  • Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials, GP Books, Wellington, 1990, p. 30
  • 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, 2009
  • ‘Soldiers’ memorial’, Poverty Bay Herald, 30 May 1912. (Note: Waipi Cemetery is actually Waihī Cemetery; Normanby Domain was previously known as Victoria Park.)

Images: Margaret Marks, 2009

How to cite this page

Waihī NZ Wars memorial cairn, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated