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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Rebels Attacked at Waerenga-a-Hika

Rebels Attacked at Waerenga-a-Hika

An ultimatum was issued on 13 November by Mr. McLean, warning the rebels that, if they remained adamant, Waerenga-a-Hika pa would be attacked at noon on the 15th. Lazarus sent word that 270 rebels would come in from his district on the 14th, but they did not do so. The period of grace was extended for 24 hours. On the morning of the 16th it was reported that some of the mission station buildings had been burned down. When the time limit had expired, McLean, acting on Captain Read's advice to “Go straight at 'em!” instructed Major Fraser to move the troops out and engage the enemy.

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On the night of the first day's march the troops camped at C. G. Goldsmith's property at Huiatoa, on the left bank of the Waipaoa River, and not a great distance, as the crow flies, from the rebels' smaller pa at Pukeamionga. During the night the whole camp was aroused by the sounds of musketry. Observing a movement on a spit in the river, a sentry had fired, and the others had followed his example. Daylight revealed that Captain Winter's horse had been shot dead whilst down at the river drinking.

As the troops neared the mission station next morning, a bullock-dray, laden with furniture, was espied coming towards them. It was in charge of Wi Haronga, who was attempting to save some of the Bishop's furniture. He and his wife were walking beside the dray and their two children lay among the furniture. Before Wi was recognised, several shots—all of which fortunately missed—were fired in his direction, causing the bullocks to stampede. Soon afterwards the mission station came into view. Some rebels who were on the roofs removing lead and zinc hastened down and scampered off to the pa, where the main body was giving a war dance and shouting defiance.

In front of the mission station there was a quickset hedge. Between the hedge and the pa lay a flat, open space about 150 yards deep. The main defence system of the pa was a double palisade, about 12 feet high, the uprights being puriri logs, between which manuka stakes were interwoven. On the outside there was a manuka apron, designed to deflect bullets into the air. Thick scrub stood to the north of the pa and there was an extensive orchard to the south. The rebels were able to get water from a lagoon at the rear of the pa. Some of the troops used the upper rooms of the Bishop's residence and those of the girls' school as vantage points from which to fire into the pa. As it had been expected that the rebels would at once surrender, no spades had been taken. Messengers were sent back for a supply and to complete arrangements for additional ammunition and regular supplies of food to be brought up. A flock of sheep and a large garden were also at the disposal of the troops, who fared well. The Military Settlers entrenched behind the hedge facing the pa; the Forest Rangers took up a position on their left, and the Hawke's Bay C.D.F. (flanked by the Ngati-Porou) on their right.

On the second day of the attack, Lieutenant Wilson, with a party of 20 Military Settlers, was sent into the scrub on the right of the pa to a point from which it could command the rebels' water supply. His party was discovered by some rebels who had crept out of the pa, and soon it also came under fire page 224 from the main body of defenders. Owing to a misunderstanding, Wilson did not receive support from the Ngati-Porou. In fighting its way out, his party lost five killed and had several wounded. The losses would have been much heavier if the Defence Corps had not at once responded to a bugle call for immediate support. Sergeant Doonan was among the slain. The rebels stripped off his tunic and sent it to Pukeamionga pa with an invitation to the rebels there to rally in a determined attack upon the besiegers.

On the following day between 150 and 200 reinforcements, under Anaru Matete, got into the pa from the rear. Instead of joining the defenders, the newcomers moved, in three waves, towards the attackers' main line. These rebels carried white flags with what appeared to be moons and stars upon them. It was, at first, thought that they were genuine white flags. When it became clear to Ropata that they were Hauhau standards, he ordered the loyal natives to open fire. As their fire was returned the pakeha troops joined in. The first wave suffered severely; the second broke, but lost some men; the third advanced only slightly.

After the siege, W. A. Graham complained that the Crown troops should have accepted the rebels' white flags as tokens of surrender. In a letter to Mr. McLean, Captain Harris said: “The natives tell me that three distinct parties were sent out to the attack under Hauhau flags, which were simply strips of white calico, with a red or black cross and, perhaps, a couple of Cs (crescents) in the corner … So much for the flags of truce! I was glad to see that rap you gave that confirmed meddler, Graham.”

On 22 November the rebels hoisted a genuine white flag. They were told that surrender must be unconditional. It was the sixth day of the siege. After a short delay, which enabled Anaru Matete and about 30 other rebels to escape from the back of the pa, the others came out and laid down their arms. According to the prisoners, those rebels who had been slain could not have been true Hauhau believers.

Colonel T. W. Porter (Gisborne Times, 21/2/1914) says that, towards the close of the siege, a six-pounder howitzer from the Sturt was brought to bear on the pa. Plenty of powder had been sent along with the gun, but no ball ammunition. The deficiency was made good by the manufacture, with the aid of salmon tins and bullets, of canister shot. No allowance for recoil was made for the first shot, and the gun reared up and toppled down the parapet, the charge flying high above the pa. The defect was remedied, and two more shots were fired, each making a breach in the pa. The defenders then raised a white flag.

The Crown forces lost seven killed and had about as many page 225 wounded. It was estimated that the rebels' losses in killed and wounded exceeded 130. Accounts vary as to the number of rebels who surrendered, the figure ranging from 600 to 800. The occupants of Pukeamionga pa fled with Anaru Matete's party towards Wairoa, where there was a rebellious element led by Te Waru, who had become a Hauhau. Kopu, Apatu, Ihaka Whaanga and Te Wainohu had remained loyal.

When Te Waru staged a hostile demonstration at Wairoa, Major Fraser assembled a force which included some Ngati-Porou under Ropata as well as friendly Wairoa and Mahia natives and drove the rebels away. On Christmas Day, 1865, he routed them at Omaruhakeke, where Captain W. A. Hussey (Taranaki Military Settlers) was killed. An even more severe drubbing was inflicted upon them on 12 January, 1866, at Te Kopane, 40 of them being slain.

During the struggle, which lasted less than eight months, seven fortified pas were destroyed, close upon 1,300 rebels surrendered or were captured, and 600 stands of arms were given up. Only 31 members of the Crown forces were, killed, whilst the number of rebels known to have been buried ran to 223. In Parliament, Premier Stafford (19/8/1868) said:

“Never before in the history of the colony has there been so memorable and so creditable a series of military operations as those which were carried out by Colonel Fraser on the East Coast in 1865. European forces, which had totalled in all rarely above 130, had, with native allies, subjected the whole of the country between Cape Runaway and Hawke's Bay in less than 12 months.”