The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 2 (June 1, 1928)
Gunboat and Maori Cannoneers
Gunboat and Maori Cannoneers.
Our rail line bears inland to the left, keeping Meremere on our right. We have a glimpse across a swamp of the long ridge above the page 34 Waikato where the strong entrenchments of 1863 were constructed, and where there were at one time about two thousand Maori warriors in garrison. In the Meremere fortifications the Kingites had three pieces of artillery mounted to dispute with the Queen's troops the river right-of-way. These were old ship's guns, brought from the west coast with great labour. One was a 12-pounder swivel gun, another a 6 or 8-pounder carronade. These were emplaced in well-protected embrasures in the clay entrenchments near the river-bank. Higher up there was a 24-pounder in the upper line of pits.
The Maori gunners had been instructed by a white man, an exgunner in the East India Company's service, who was in the Waikato when the war began and was detained by the Kingites until he had shown them how to work the old muzzle-loading pieces. One Maori became particularly expert in gunnery, and he made some good practice with the 24 - pounder when the armoured gunboat “Pioneer,” a stern-wheel steamer 300ft. long, built at Sydney for the New Zealand Government, came steaming up the river. There were several artillery engagements between the Maori fortress and the ‘Pioneer,” and the gunners on Whangamarino Hill took a hand too. Once the Maoris plumped a 71b. steelyard-weight into a cask of beef on the gunboat's deck. They had no shot or shell, but made shift with weights taken from traders’ stores, old iron, anything that would cram into the guns. Musketry, too: the “Pioneer” anchored within easy rifle-shot of the trenches, and men in her turrets and on the lower deck made practice at the puffs of smoke on the pitted ridge; the Maori bullets rattled harmlessly on the iron sides of the gunboat.