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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)



The Armed Constabulary Field Force remained in existence until 1885, and that year saw also the end of the occupation of redoubts on the frontier. Officered by a splendid set of frontier soldiers the Force had been the mainstay of the colony's defences during the dark years of the last war. Its semi-civil foundation did not prevent it carrying through regular campaigns with success in wild, almost impregnable country.

The North-west Mounted Police of Canada is perhaps the frontier body which in organization most nearly resembles our Field Force of 1868–85, but the New Zealand Armed Constabulary had infinitely more fighting. For a long time after the close of our wars the Constabulary were engaged in patrol and garrison duty on the borders of the pakeha-settled country. This generation perhaps scarcely realizes the conditions in many farming districts in the North Island up to the beginning of the “eighties.” Hauhau incursions were still threatened, and a chain of redoubts and block-houses, each manned by a detachment of blue-uniformed Armed Constabulary, guarded the pale between settlers and Kingites in the Upper Waikato. These little forts were meant for business, and, though they were never attacked, they frequently sheltered the wives and children of settlers at night up to the year 1873. The blockhouses were modelled on those built by the backwoods settlers in America for defence against the Indians; they were of two storeys, the upper storey projecting about 3 feet over the lower one all round. The redoubts were substantial works, with deep trench and tall earth parapets enclosing the barrack-rooms. Far in the back country the traveller or the land-seeker of those days would see a tall flagstaff flying the British ensign in front of page 495
Drawing by Mr. G. Sherriff, 1881] The Armed Constabulary Redoubt at Opunake, Taranaki

Drawing by Mr. G. Sherriff, 1881]
The Armed Constabulary Redoubt at Opunake, Taranaki

Photo at Opunake Redoubt] Armed Constabulary Under Major Goring and Captain Morrison

Photo at Opunake Redoubt]
Armed Constabulary Under Major Goring and Captain Morrison

No. 3 Division, Armed Constabulary, 1881

No. 3 Division, Armed Constabulary, 1881

page 496 some little manuka-palisaded blockhouse or ditched and ramparted redoubt, the sign that the pakeha law kept an armed watch on the still glowering natives. The farthest south blockhouse on the Waikato frontier was that at Orakau, overlooking the farmsteads of one or two pioneer settlers. One of the most important strategic posts of those times, up to the early “eighties,” was Taupo, on the shore of the great central lake, and there were stockades and redoubts on the Taupo-Napier Road and on either side of the Urewera Country, garrisoned by men who were none the less smart soldiers because they spent much of their time in cutting roads for the settlers and bridging rivers and helping to lay telegraph-lines.

The palmy days of the Armed Constabulary perhaps were those of the later field operations in Taranaki. The Waimate Plains were alive with war preparations in 1879–81, and many a New Zealander then obtained his first experience of military life under campaigning conditions. A little later came the settled conditions that led to the general disbandment of a force which served New Zealand very well in its time and generation for well-nigh a score of years. Some of the Armed Constabulary were drafted to Auckland, Wellington, and Lyttelton, to help in building the forts for harbour defence under the scheme initiated by Sir William Jervois, and many went into the civilian Police Force.