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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

Drawn from a sketch by an officer of H.M.S. “Curaçoa”] — The Gunboat “Pioneer” at Meremere

Drawn from a sketch by an officer of H.M.S. “Curaçoa”] The Gunboat “Pioneer” at Meremere

Drawn from a sketch by an officer of H.M.S. “Curaçoa”]
The Gunboat “Pioneer” at Meremere

On the 29th October, 1863, the “Pioneer,” with Lieut.-General Cameron and staff on board, reconnoitred the Kingite entrenchments on the Meremere ridge. The gunboat anchored in the Waikato 300 yards from the shore, and remained there for more than two hours under fire. A correspondent in the “Pioneer,” describing the reconnaissance, wrote:—

“A cloud of white smoke burst from the bank at the landing. The Maoris had fired their lower guns. … Another puff of smoke sprang up, this time from a kind of embrasure in the upper line of rifle-pits. This shot fell short, endangering the Maoris more than the people in the steamer. Again the same gun fired, and with similar effect, the langridge splashing up the water, but nearer to the rifle-pits than to the steamer. The gun at the landing belched out again, and a jet of water spouted up alongside the gunboat; she was hit at last. A broken rocket-tube fell on board, but without any injury resulting. The natives had evidently dug up this projectile and used it as a charge of langridge. The side of the steamer was in a moment enveloped in white smoke, and the fragments of a shell tore up the ground about the rifle-pits at the landing. Another followed, and another, while not a movement was made in the native position. Now a sharp crack was heard in another direction, followed by a sustained hissing sound—the 40-pounder Armstrong gun had sent its shell from Whangamarino, and this burst over the long line of rifle-pits on the hilltop. The steamer again fired, and alternately the 40-pounder fired, the missiles bursting over every part of the position. The time-fuse appeared rather short for the 40-pounder range, and the shells burst in the air, but the percussion fuse exploded the other shells as they struck the ground, and each sent a shower of earth into the air. The natives made no reply for a time, but at length, from a point near the water, where a palisade had been erected to arrest the march of any troops that might attack the place from the Whangamarino side, a sharp volley of musketry rattled out, succeeded by another, and then came a dropping fire from the whole extent of rifle-pits. The balls pinged on the steamer and pattered on the iron plating, occasionally going through an opening or glancing sharply off the cupolas. No one was struck, save perhaps some man in his coat-skirt or the brim of his hat. For half an hour now the steamer lay without firing a shot. General Cameron and his staff had now made themselves acquainted with the nature of the position; at each loophole a sketch was being made, while the natives expended their ammunition in vain.”

The “Pioneer” again reconnoitred the Meremere entrenchments on the 30th October and was fired on heavily.