The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864
1. General Cameron's Despatch to His Excellency the Governor, Sir George Grey
1. General Cameron's Despatch to His Excellency the Governor, Sir George Grey.
Sir,—It having been decided by Your Excellency and myself in consequence of information received from Colonel Greer, Commanding at Tauranga, that reinforcements should be sent to that station, detachments were embarked without delay in H.M. ships “Esk” and “Falcon” placed at my disposal by Commodore Sir William Wiseman and by the 26th April were all landed at the Mission Station of Tauranga, to which place I had transferred my headquarters on the 21st April. On the 27th April I moved the 68th Regiment, under Colonel Greer, and a mixed detachment of 170 men, under Major Ryan, 70th Regiment, towards the rebel entrenchments of which I made a close reconnaissance. It was constructed on a neck of land about 500 yards wide, the slopes of which fell off into a swamp on either side. On the highest point of this neck they had constructed an oblong redoubt, well palisaded and surrounded by a post and rail fence, a formidable obstacle to an assaulting column and difficult to destroy with artillery. The intervals between the side faces of the redoubt and the swamp were defended by an entrenched line of rifle pits. I encamped the 68th Regiment and Major Ryan's detachment about 1,200 yards from the enemy's position on the 27th, and on that and the following day the guns and mortars intended to breach the position were brought up to the camp which was joined by a large force of seamen and marines, landed at my request from the ships of the squadron by Commodore Sir William Wiseman. The strength and composition of the force assembled in front of the enemy's position on the evening of the 28th are shown in the footnote.
The Memorial Church (Church of England) which stands on the site of the Gate Pa.
Photograph by R. J. Smith A.R.P.S.
Practically nothing remains to-day to mark the site of the engagement at Te Ranga. In an open field on the farm
of Mr W. Merrick the trenches lie covered. This view was taken from where the trenches evidently lie, on the edge
of a steep bank looking out in the direction in which the native survivors fled.
Photography by R. J. Smith. A.R.P.S.
The entrance gates and old Mission bell still preserved at “The Elms” (the old Mission Station) at Tauranga.
An interesting story of this bell is to be found in “Recollections and Reflections of an Old New Zealander,” by
the late Mr E. Maxwell. Photograph by R. J. Smith. A.R.P.S.
Surrender of Arms by the Natives to Colonel Greer after the engagement at Te Ranga on June 21st, 1861. From
a sketch by Major-General Robley.
I enclose Colonel Greer's report of his proceedings.
During the same night the guns and mortars were placed in position and opened fire soon after daybreak on the morning of the 29th. I gave directions that their fire should be directed principally against the left angle of the centre work, which, from the nature of the ground, I considered the most favourable part to attack. Their practice was excellent, particularly that of the howitzers, and reflects great credit on the officers in command of batteries.
About 12 o'clock, a swamp on the enemy's left having been reported by Colonel Greaves, Deputy-Assistant Quarter-Master General, practicable for the passage of a gun, a six-pounder Armstrong gun was taken across to the high ground on the opposite side from which its fire completely enfiladed the left of the enemy's position, which he was thus compelled to abandon. The fire of the guns, howitzers and mortars was continued with short intermissions until 4 p.m., when a large portion of the fence and pallisading having been destroyed, and a practicable breach made in the parapet, I ordered the assault. One hundred and fifty seamen and marines under Commander Hay, H.M.S. “Harrier,” and an equal number of the 43rd Regiment, under Lieut-Colonel Booth, formed the assaulting party. Major Ryan's detachment was extended as close to the work as possible to keep down the fire from the rifle pits with orders to follow the assaulting column into the work. The remainder of the seamen and marines, and of the 43rd Regiment, amounting altogether to 300 men, followed as a reserve.
The assaulting column, protected by the nature of the ground, gained the breach with little loss, and effected an entrance into the main body of the work, when a fierce conflict ensued, in which the natives fought with the greatest desperation.
Lieut-Colonel Booth and Commander Hay, who led into the work, both fell mortally wounded. Captain Hamilton was shot dead on the top of the parapet while in the act of encouraging his men to advance, and in a few minutes almost every officer of the column was either killed or wounded. Up to this moment, the men, so nobly led by their officers, fought gallantly and appeared to have carried the position, when they suddenly gave way, and fell back from the work to the nearest cover.
This repulse I am at a loss to explain otherwise than by attributing it to the confusion created among the men by the intricate nature of the interior defences, and the sudden fall of so many of their officers.page 34
On my arrival at the spot I considered it inadvisable to renew the assault, and directed a line of entrenchment to be thrown up within one hundred yards of the work so as to be able to maintain our advance position, intending to resume operations the following morning.
The natives, availing themselves of the extreme darkness of the night, abandoned the work, leaving some of their killed and wounded behind.
On taking possession of the work in the morning, Lieut-Colonel Booth and some men were found still living, and, to the credit of the natives, had not been maltreated, nor had any of the bodies of the dead been mutilated. I enclose a list of our casualties.
I deeply regret the loss of the many brave and valuable officers who fell in the noble discharge of their duty on this occasion.
The 43rd Regiment, and the service, have sustained a serious loss in the death of Lieut-Colonel Booth, which took place on the night after the attack. I have already mentioned the brilliant exmple shown by this officer in the assault, and when I met him on the following morning as he was being carried out of the work, his first words were an expression of regret that he had found it impossible to carry out my orders.
The heroism and devotion of Captain Hamilton and Commander Hay, reflect the highest honour on the naval service.
The loss of the enemy must have been very heavy although not more than twenty bodies and those wounded were found in and about their position. It is admitted by the prisoners that they carried off a large number of killed and wounded during the night, and they also suffered in attempting to make their escape as described in Colonel Greer's report.
In my reports to His Royal Highness the Field-Marshal, Commanding-in-Chief, and the Right Hon. the Secretary of State for War, I have brought to their favourable notice the names of the officers who particularly distinguished themselves on this occasion.
Commodore Sir William Wiseman on this, as on every other occasion, co-operated with me in the most cordial manner, and I am much indebted to him, as well as to the whole of the officers and men of the Royal Navy and Marines who took part in these operations, for their valuable assistance. I have, etc.,
D. A. CAMERON,