Hall of Fame: Part Four

JOHN SPENCER PERCEVAL

Lieutenant John Spencer Perceval of the 1st Waikato Regiment was the son of a member of the British Parliament, and a grandson of a British Prime Minister. He could have gone into politics, and have lived a long and successful life; instead he came to New Zealand and bled to death at Titi Hill near Mauku.

Saint Bride’s Church stockade, Mauku

Saint Bride’s Church stockade, Mauku

Lieutenant Perceval, while attempting to rendezvous with another small group of volunteers, had with him only thirteen men when his small party took the wrong track. This track lead them right into a Maori warband, a force of between four and five hundred men, according to contemporary estimates.

The fast-paced chaos of the skirmish can be seen in an excerpt from a piece on the fate of Corporal Michael Power:

'Corporal Power of the 1st Waikato Regiment, who was fighting near Lieut. Perceval, had bayoneted a Maori, and while thus situated he observed another coming upon him with a tomahawk, and instantly released his bayonet and shot the man, but had in the meantime received a ball himself, which within a few minutes afterwards resulted in his death.'

Lieutenant Perceval, reportedly 'feeling that his rashness had helped to get them into the entanglement', took a rifle from one of the dead men and boldly stood up, ignoring all danger, and killed a number of the enemies before he was shot through the throat. While he bled to death, several of his men attempted to remove him from the battlefield, but Perceval just told them to 'Leave me alone; revenge my death.'

Lieutenant John Spencer Perceval, Lieutenant Thomas Alabone Norman, Corporal Michael Power, Private William Beswick, Private George O’Beirne, Private William Williamson, Private William Worthington and Private Farquhar MacGillivray were killed that day.

Private MacGillivray, a 'tall, dark, rather dour' young highlander, had for three nights prior to the fight told his comrades that he had dreamed of lying dead on the hill a mile west of the church along with several others, their bodies stripped and mutilated. The other men didn’t take his dream seriously, but his body was one of those found in such a state on the side of Titi Hill.

These martyrs came from all walks of life; English aristocrats, Irish farmers, Welsh colliers, Scottish mystics - but all of their paths ended here.

ATTACKS ON SETTLERS

There had been three other skirmishes in the area in the month before the battle of Titi Hill. There was a fight at Hill’s Clearing that killed five Maori, another at Burtt’s Farm which left two Britons and an unknown number of Maori dead, and the noteworthy defence of Pukekohe East, where three settlers were killed and eight wounded defending the fortified church while killing at least forty Maori.

The Defence of Pukekohe East Presbyterian Church, drawn by Arthur Messenger

The Defence of Pukekohe East Presbyterian Church, drawn by Arthur Messenger

A number of settlers in the area were murdered by the Maori warband over a couple of months of chaos, and many others were attacked. A canoe was fired at by Maori attackers, who killed five men. A boy named Robert Watson was shot and killed by unknown Maori near Burtt’s property, and Color-Sergeant Johnson of the 40th Regiment was ambushed and killed at Rhodes’ Clearing.

Sylvester Calvert’s house was attacked by forty Maori warriors, and the young man was shot dead defending his family, shooting back at the Maori from his bedroom. His father, Captain Calvert, fought by his side with a sword. The Calverts' neighbour, Mr Cooper, was milking his cows at the time and was ambushed by the same natives and shot through the head, his body partially burned. Hugh Maclean was chased into the swamplands by a group of Maori, before finally being caught and killed, and his body looted.

Rumours abounded that a band of Maori had murdered four men, two women and four children at a house near the mouth of the Wairoa River. A Scotsman named William Calder was found murdered in his hut at Ahuroa, headless, stretched out on his bed. Near Pukekohe a seventy-three year old man, Mr Scott, was shot and killed by unknown Maori. Other victims of ambush included Mr Hunt, Mr Rayner, and Michael Meredith, and his young son Frederick, who were killed with tomahawks at Shepherd’s Bush.

A settler at Maketu stumbled upon a half a dozen armed Maori warriors, but made his escape, before a number of houses were taken and burned by the natives. Mr and Mrs Fahey, pensioners living at Rama Rama, were found by their neighbours shot and tomahawked after their house was ransacked, and they died soon after.

Lance Corporal Charles Livingstone was caught alone by a band of a hundred Maori at Koherohe and murdered. A 'sober, industrious' man named Jackson was shot and killed while working in the bush, and his head was nearly severed by tomahawk blows. A boy named Sutherland who was with him at the time escaped (albeit with several gunshot wounds) by playing dead until the next day.

A young man named James Droomgould was shot and tomahawked to death only a short distance from the Mauku stockade. The flagstaff was cut down at Paratutai signal station during the night, and the Manukau signal station was entirely destroyed in a single night.

That was the state of New Zealand then: near anarchy. It was only through hard work and terrible sacrifice that this land was tamed and made into a stable, civilised nation. We should always remember what our forefathers did for us, and we should hold them up as exemplars to be emulated. They should be honoured as heroes.

Ensign John Thornton Down, Captain Charles Heaphy, Lay Brother Euloge, Colour Sergeant John Lucas, Captain Henry Mercer, Lieutenant Charles Brooke, Commander John Fane Hamilton, Colonel Marmaduke Nixon, Captain James Ring, Captain Hassard, Lieutenant Mitchell, Seaman William Odgers, Colonel Austen, the Mair brothers, Captain Strange, Lieutenant Thomas Tragett, Captain Thomas Lloyd, Assistant Surgeon William Manley, Colour Sergeant Edward McKenna, Major John Carstairs McNeill, Sergeant John Murray, Lieutenant Arthur Pickard, Lance Corporal John Ryan, Captain Hugh Shaw, Captain Frederick Augustus Smith, Drummer Dudley Stagpoole, Assistant Surgeon William Temple, Sergeant Arthur Carkee, Constable Solomon Black, Trooper William Lingard, Captain Frank Mace, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas McDonnell, Sub-Inspector George Preece, Trooper Antonio Rodriques de Sardinha, Sergeant Richard Shepherd, Cornet Angus Smith, Assistant Surgeon Samuel Walker, Cornet Harry Wrigg, Inspector John Mackintosh Roberts, Colonel Messenger, Trooper John Sarten...

We have so many heroes, why don’t we remember them?