Anniversaries

Earlier this month, Peace Action and other leftist groups commemorated the anniversary of the incident at Parihaka in 1881. They didn't commemorate that date because of any genuine interest in our history or heritage as a nation, but because it fits into their greater anti-white narrative.

We patriots should take advantage of the sudden focus on our history, and tell the true story of our people's past. Remembering the heroism and sacrifice of our ancestors - and all that went into creating this country - is the least we can do for them. Without them there is no us, and without them there is no New Zealand.

One example of their sacrifice was the Battle of Rangiriri, which took place on November 20th 1863. The battle was one of civilisation versus anarchy. The British and colonial soldiers under the command of General Sir Duncan Cameron suffered the greatest casualties of any battle in the New Zealand Wars. Almost fifty men were killed, and almost a hundred more were wounded.

  Storming Rangiriri; it’s hard to imagine that such a scene took place in New Zealand.

Storming Rangiriri; it’s hard to imagine that such a scene took place in New Zealand.

A private going by the name E. J. F., in the 1st Waikato Regiment, which was one of the many militia units of the New Zealand Wars and included hundreds of Australian volunteers (the original ANZACs), later wrote a poem about the battle.

‘What will they say in England

When the story it is told,

Of Rangiriri's bloody fight,

And the deeds of the brave and bold?

'Twas there the Rebels made a stand,

Resolved their lives to sell;

Charge after charge our fellows made,

And numbers of them fell.

First dashed the gallant 65th,

In vain they fought, though well;

Then leading the Artillery

The noble Mercer fell.

And then the Rebels had a chance

To fire upon Poor Jack;

And though they fought like lions loosed,

They, too, were driven back.

On Friday 'twas the fight commenced,

Late in the afternoon.

Soon Rangiriri's silent hills

Flung back the cannon's boom.

Right bravely fought our gallant troops,

Each did their duty well;

Before the morrow's sun could rise

To Rangiriri fell.

Two hundred men for quarter cried,

And soon laid down their arms;

For fighting in the open field

For Rebels hath no charms.

We lost some noble officers,

Likewise some comrades dear;

And thousands followed to their graves,

And dropt a pitying tear.

All honour to the brave, say I,

To those who fought and bled.

Let's join in praise of those who live,

And sorrow for the dead.

Yet while we join with one accord

To raise the song of joy,

Let's not forget the soldier's wife,

Nor the soldier's orphan boy.’

One of those who survived this battle was Midshipman Cecil George Foljambe of HMS Curacoa, later in life known as Lord Hawkesbury, and eventually the 1st Earl of Liverpool, whose son would one day be the Governor of New Zealand. Had the bullet which ended his fellow Midshipman Watkins' life struck him instead, our history as a nation would have been slightly different.

Lieutenant Charles Hotham, also of HMS Curacoa, would one day become Admiral of the Fleet, fighting in Egypt and Chile, and commanding the Royal Navy's Pacific Station and Portsmouth Command. His son was the first man to command the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy, which later became our navy.

Another man who had been present at the fight was Charles Heaphy of the Auckland Rifle Volunteers, who would become the first colonial soldier to win the Victoria Cross; they had to pass a new law to allow such a thing, as previously only men serving in British regular army or navy units could earn the award.

One of the men of the HMS Miranda, Robert Hammick, would one day rise to the rank of Vice Admiral. Arthur Pickard, one of two Victoria Cross winners in this battle, would rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and serve as Assistant Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. The other Victoria Cross winner, William Temple, would also climb the ranks and end his career a Lieutenant Colonel.

  Surgeon William Temple assists the dying Captain Mercer

Surgeon William Temple assists the dying Captain Mercer

But not everyone survived the battle.

There is a long list of men killed, died of wounds, or wounded; more than a hundred men whose lives were lost or destroyed, more than a hundred men who made the ultimate sacrifice to bring order and civility to a savage land, and create the paradise that was New Zealand.

Many of them had had distinguished careers, too; Lieutenant Colonel Charles Wilson Austen had been in the British armed forces for more than twenty years, and was (tied with Henry Booth and Marmaduke Nixon) the highest ranking casualty of the New Zealand Wars.

Who's to say that Lieutenant Murphy wouldn't have risen to such prominence as Lieutenant Hotham, had he survived. Or General Cameron's orderly, Edward Lauchlan; or Captain John Phelps; or Ensign Andrew Ducrow; or Quartermaster Woods; or Captain Mercer, or any of the many enlisted men?

Thousands of soldiers, when the wars ended and their regiments made to transfer to other theatres, took their discharge and settled in New Zealand. In January 1865, the 65th Regiment of Foot had a strength of about 800 men, but when the regiment returned to England later in the year, only 16 officers and 369 men actually left; more than half of the unit decided to stay here.

Probably tens, or even hundreds of thousands of us today are descended from them and from the many other ex-military settlers; the Fencibles in Auckland, the Taranaki Military Settlers, the discharged members of Imperial regiments, and the many individual veterans who decided to settle in New Zealand.

One of my own ancestors was an Ulsterman who had served in the British army for nearly twenty years. He was a Chelsea Pensioner, and came to New Zealand as a Fencible, ex-military men who settled on the frontiers of the colony and defended the interior from Maori attacks.

This was an ancient European strategy; the Cossacks on the Russian frontiers defended against numerous Mongol, Caucasian and European invaders; the old Austro-Hungarian Militärgrenze held off the Ottomans; the old Germanic Wehrbauern across Central and Eastern Europe; and the many Roman military coloniae, are all other examples.

But not everyone who stayed in New Zealand was a colonist; many of them settled in heroes' graves all across our country. From the victims of the Wairau Massacre, buried at Tuamarina in the South Island, all the way to Auckland's Symonds Street Cemetery, where lie many of the dead of Rangiriri.

They are our people, and we should remember them.

As far as I know this is a correct list of the men killed and wounded at the Battle of Rangiriri. The numbers of killed and wounded vary by a handful from one source to another, but this is often because the same man counted originally as wounded later died of the wounds, and was also counted as killed.

12th Regiment; killed-

Corporal T. Payne

14th Regiment; killed-

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Wilson Austen, Captain John Shaw Phelps, Lieutenant William Lewis Murphy, Lance Corporal Charles Burrell, Private Thomas Bellew, Private Robert McCrory, Private Richard Needham, Private Richard Nolan, Private Thomas Osborne, Private Henry Russell, Private Darby Shea, Private George Smith

14th Regiment; wounded-

Corporal Richard Norgrove, Corporal Henry Savage, Lance Corporal Henry Mansbridge, Private William Baxter, Private Charles Boucher, Private John Bozen, Private Paul Cain, Private James Carroll, Private John Donard, Private James Dornan, Private James Granger, Private John Hannigan, Private Charles Lewis, Private Joseph Molloy, Private James McCammon, Private Hugh McReynolds, Private Edward Mead, Private Peter Murray, Private John Sayers, Private John Shenton, Private Edward Swain, Private James Yeates

40th Regiment; killed-

Ensign Andrew Ducrow, Private Benjamin Barber, Private John Daley, Private Edwin Goldsborough, Private Edward Hone, Private John Jones, Private Edward Loughlin, Private John McNally, Private William Usher

40th Regiment; wounded-

Corporal Nicholas Holmberg, Private Francis Brotherton, Private Henry Brown, Private Edmond Doran, Private Thomas Grimes, Private James Healy, Private William Jones, Private Henry Mann, Private George Roberts, Private Joseph Scales

65th Regiment; killed-

Private George Bell, Private Thomas Blackham, Private Edward Brown, Private John Cane, Private John Cavanagh, Private Robert Clarke, Private Alexander Hepburn, Private William Johnstone, Private Patrick King, Private Peter Manley, Private Alexander McCleland, Private James McCosland, Private Mooney, Private Jonathan Neat, Private Thomas Roberts

65th Regiment; wounded-

Captain William Henry Gresson, Lieutenant George Robert Chevalier, Lieutenant Arthur Henry Lewis, Lieutenant John Shrews Talbot, Sergeant Daniel Hughes, Sergeant Mangan, Corporal Robert Howson, Drummer John Crimmins, Private William Bartlett, Private Robert Brunsley, Private John Cairns, Private John Carpenter, Private James Cernorey, Private Richard Colebrook, Private John Cottam, Private Charles Ellentree, Private John Halkin, Private Thomas Hopwood, Private Francis Horne, Private Patrick Gorman, Private Michael Griffin, Private Andrew Law, Private Thomas Lockerby, Private John McAdam, Private Samuel McBurney, Private Alexander McClean, Private Thomas McConnell, Private James Morris, Private Robert Morris, Private Anthony Mullins, Private John Murrall, Private Abraham Russell, Private Thomas Sheehan, Private Thomas Smith, Private Thomas Swift, Private Richard Walsh, Private Arthur Waring.

Royal Artillery; killed-

Captain Henry Mercer, Bombardier William Martin, Gunner Culverwell, Gunner Keven

Royal Artillery; wounded-

Sergeant Major Hamilton, Gunner J. Bold

HMS Curacoa; killed-

Quartermaster James Woods, Midshipman Thomas Watkins, A. B. William Tidy, Boy Richard Stephenson

HMS Curacoa; wounded-

Lieutenant H. M. Alexander, Lieutenant Charles Frederick Hotham, O. B. Solomon Hayes, A. B. Thomas Dooley, A. B. Walter Robinson

HMS Eclipse; wounded-

Captain Richard Charles Mayne, A. B. Henry Oldfield

HMS Harrier; killed-

Marine Richard Downer, A. B. Frederick Osborne, A. B. Charles Stevenson

HMS Miranda; wounded-

Lieutenant E. Pamer Downs, L. B. Thomas Gulling

Never forget.

As ‘Arawa’ wrote in the New Zealand Herald, 22nd May 1909:

Surely we are not so degenerate but our heart must thrill at the thought of what these men did, and if so shall we not do something to show that we do not forget that we also are of the bulldog breed, not unworthy of our forebears, but anxious to do them adequate honour?...

A thousand years of history proves that we have come of a warlike race. The mind of man runneth not to the time when the Briton refused to fight for that which he considered right and just. May that time never come. But that time will be less likely to come if those who live learn to justly venerate and honour those who, as the record proudly puts it, have died in the service of their country.”

Our people have fought for this country many times, and we will continue to do so. Remember your past, and continue the work of your fathers to make of this land everything they dreamed of.