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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

Gate Pa Defences Erected

Gate Pa Defences Erected.

During the interval from their first occupation of the Gate Pa, the rebels, energetically assisted by their women folk in the heaviest work, and being entirely unmolested, had converted a harmless looking grassy knoll into a work that was to test the calibre of British troops to the utmost. Probably there never was an instance in modern warfare where more deliberate and carefully conceived plans had been devised for securing a crushing defeat of the enemy. From the extended length of their front along the edge of the forest from Te Puna (over sixteen miles), the Gate Pa garrison never exceeded 230 men—General Robley is very emphatic on this point.

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The old missionary ditch running across the ridge from swamp to swamp had been enlarged and strengthened. On the western slope, just on the crest of the ridge, a small oblong redoubt about 25 paces by 18 had been built and garrisoned by the chief Heta and twenty-six men of the Pirirakau, Ranginui and Ohoheriki tribes, then a clear space of about 30 paces intervened, consisting of the aforesaid ditch only. This gap had been left as the point of honour in expectation of six hundred Ngatihaua and Waikato natives—who, however, never came—occupying it. Here was constructed the citadel, or main work, extending eastward 40 or 50 paces, decreasing in strength and width toward the eastern extremity, to where the ditch connected with the swamp and water supply. The whole of the main works were enclosed by a single light fence lashed to two rails with flax, the interior being a network of traverses, covered ways and shelters, cleverly covered over with a scanty supply of timber, and blinded with flax and titree and earth, hardly any proper timber being available, except some house building material and a dismantled stockyard.