As has been mentioned before on this site, a healthy society needs heroes; inspirational figures and exemplars of high ideals to inspire greatness within their people. It seems to be an ingrained part of human society, like the use of fables to teach morals to children, we rightly hold these men and women up as champions worthy of emulation.
All peoples and societies have these figures, from the countless British admirals, generals and statesmen to the many heroes of the many German states going all the way back to Arminius; the Russian people’s defenders, Suvorov, Kutuzov and Nevsky… Alexander the Great, Jan Sobieski, Paul Kruger, Leif Ericson, Napoleon Bonaparte, El Cid, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Jan van Speyk, George Washington, Charles Martel, Giuseppe Garibaldi, William Wallace, Christopher Columbus – the list seems endless.
So who are our Kiwi heroes?
We actually have many of them. For such a young country we have produced a great number of great people, in every sphere of life. Scientific heroes like Sir Ernest Rutherford, who split the atom and lead the world into a new age, and Sir Frederic Truby King, who founded the Plunket Society.
Adventurers like Sir Edmund Hillary, who conquered the world’s highest peak just in time to present it to Her Majesty as a Coronation present; or Frank Worsley, who captained the Endurance during Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
We have authors too, and artists, and sportsmen and statesmen, and so many war heroes of both the World Wars, everyone’s great grandads included. But this article isn’t about these heroes, because they are thankfully well-remembered.
This article is a memorial to some of our heroes from the New Zealand Wars - the Land Wars, the Maori Wars, Te Riri Pakeha, or whatever you want to call them. These heroes have almost been forgotten, their memory partly obscured by the years, and partly covered-up by the anti-white establishment that chooses not to honour our glorious dead from those wars.
Many of our dead from the New Zealand Wars don’t even have graves. But they were brave men without whom this country could never have been built.
This article could never manage to include all the heroes of the New Zealand Wars. There were many thousands of soldiers and settlers involved in the hundreds of battles, skirmishes, ambushes, and farm attacks. There must have been thousands of different stories from this period, some of which you may have heard passed down within your own family.
This article series will merely give brief accounts of few men, some well known, some not. Should a reader find their interest piqued, there is a wealth of material available with which you can learn more on these men, and about many of the others who deserve equal remembrance.
Gustavus von Tempsky
Gustavus von Tempsky is one of the most outwardly heroic figures of the New Zealand Wars; the brave Prussian adventurer, a war hero, a charmer, an artist and an author, a fine singer, and an enthusiastic gymnast, with a suave moustache and a dashing uniform, even his name is memorable.
He was born in Braunsberg in Ostpreußen as part of a minor noble family, and as a typical Prussian gentleman he went through military school before entering the army. The life of a Prussian officer however was not to Tempsky’s liking, and this restless spirit instead set out on his life as an adventurer.
Before coming to New Zealand, Tempsky commanded a force of natives on the Mosquito Coast Colony in what’s now Nicaragua. He had taken part in both the Californian and Victorian gold rushes, had got married and started a family in Scotland, and applied to lead the first Australian Trans-Continental Expedition.
When he arrived in New Zealand, Tempsky worked as a correspondent for local newspapers and as a gold miner. When the Waikato War broke out in 1863 he offered to raise and lead a corps of miners for the government, but ended up joining Captain William Jackson’s Forest Rangers. Captain Jackson in turn arranged for Tempsky to receive British citizenship and a commission into the unit.
He fought in a number of battles in the Waikato and Taranaki Wars, rising through the ranks to become a Major and commander of his own unit of Forest Rangers, whom he outfitted with brand new Bowie knives, carbines and revolvers. He quickly became a well-known figure; the Maori called him Manurau, meaning 'the bird that flits everywhere', because wherever the battle went, Gustavus von Tempsky was there.
His personal skill was renowned. The order 'Forest Rangers, clear the Bush!' preceded many advances, and after the Forest Rangers disbanded, Major von Tempsky was immediately invited to command a unit of the Armed Constabulary, and he enthusiastically lead them into the war against Titokowaru in 1868.
It was in the attack on Titokowaru’s main fortification, Te Ngutu o Te Manu, that Tempsky fell, covering the retreat of Thomas McDonnell’s men. According to witnesses, he was shot through the head as he went to the aid of a wounded man. His body was spared mutilation and cannibalism by the Maori, and was burned on a funeral pyre at Titokowaru’s marae.
Gustavus von Tempsky was a hero, greatly respected by both friend and enemy. His sword and revolver were taken as almost holy relics, and the sword ended up in the Maori anti-government commune at Parihaka.
Let his mastery and valour always inspire us, with this year marking the hundred and fiftieth since his sacrifice. We will remember him.