THE STORY OF AUSTRALIA'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE NEW ZEALAND WARS
Little has been written on the Australian involvement during the New Zealand Wars, apart from brief chapters in short histories about the Australian Military Forces, and an article in the Australian
Encyclopedia. This story has been largely forgotten in both Australia and New Zealand.
The first permanent naval unit in Australia, the tiny Victorian Naval Service, was the only unit of Australian origin to fight in the Taranaki campaigns of 1860-62. Victoria's Naval Service, which may lay claim to being the origins of the Royal Australian Navy, was thus Australia's first fighting unit to go to war overseas.
The 2400 men enlisted in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria in 1863-64 were recruited into the New Zealand Militia, the forerunner of New Zealand's Regular Army. Only one distinctively Australian unit retained both its title, and its Australian enlistees. For over a year, the "Melbourne Contingent" was recognised as an Australian unit, receiving commendation from General Duncan Cameron for their part in the Kaitake engagement.
During the several years Australian colonists were involved in the New Zealand Wars at least seventeen lost their lives as a result of action and are buried in lonely military cemeteries. At least 20 died as a result of sickness, accident or drowning; the real number is much higher possibly over 100 and will probably never accurately be calculated. Several hundred, (an estimated 500 men and their families), remained in New Zealand on land grants given to them for their three years service.
If acknowledgement is given to that small group of Australian-born soldiers who fought with the British Army as regulars in the Crimean War,
the New Zealand War was distinctly the one in which Australia was first involved to any significant extent,
It is hoped that the story will increase the understanding of events which surrounded Australians enlisting for service in New Zealand, and record the earliest battles Australians as a group fought against the Maoris. This neglected area of Australia's military history ought to remind present day generations of the dependence both countries still have upon each other.
Heavy seas rolled in off the Tasman as the sloop, "Victoria" lumbered her way through them towards the
Manukau harbour entrance. It was March 1862 and the ship and her crew were nearing the end of almost a year on active service in New Zealand waters. Aboard was the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, a famous Maori Chief, Tamati Waka Nene, and some senior officers of the Imperial Army Headquarters staff from Melbourne bound for New Plymouth in the Taranaki Province. As the ship ploughed through the heaving waters near the harbour entrance darkness was almost complete. The pilot ashore, though aware of the stormy conditions, failed to signal the ship that seas were worse outside the bar.
The bow rose high in the sea as a giant wave ran beneath the hull, higher and higher the ship rose, and then topping the wave, began to plunge deeply into the wall of swirling water between giant waves. The
wind tore at her rigging, and the dull thump, thump, thump of her steam engines could scarcely be heard above the noise of the storm.
"Victoria's" Captain, Commander Norman was heard to shout above the noise of the storm, "Hold on everybody!" seconds before tons of water flooded aft, washing members of the crew under the forward guns and sweeping
Mr. Baker the Government interpreter over the ship's side. He clutched wildly
at the gangway, his fingers clinging tenaciously to the frame as he hung on, and saved himself. The vessel began to right herself, and as Her Majesty's Colonial Ship "Victoria" proceeded into the open seas she eased herself into the storm.
Had the water breached the decks and flooded below, there is little doubt she would have founded and sunk, then the young Colony of Victoria would have suffered the loss of her only permanent naval unit on active service in the
Colony's first war.
Four Years after the creation of Victoria as a separate Colony in 1851, this fiercely patriotic community of less than
500,000 people launched their first fighting ship, establishing the first Colonial Naval Service of a permanent nature within the British Empire.
The year the sloop "Victoria" was launched the Crimean War had made the Victorians aware of a potential threat from Imperial Russia. This produced the incentive for a practical expression of their own defence. The
discovery of gold in Victoria, had by the mid-1850's distributed an abundant
prosperity throughout colonial society. In 1855, the year "Victoria" was launched, an immigration explosion barely
equaled by the influx after World War 2, produced the ingredients for growth and change. News from the Crimea told of battles such as Inkerman, Balaclava, and of course the Charge of the Light Brigade. Victorians also had their own battle of Eureka Stockade. In the events of those days, a Royal Navy Officer, forged the beginnings of what became the great grandchild of the Victorian Naval Service, the Royal Australian
Navy. To Commander N. Norman RN much of the credit must be given for
the development, planning, and eventual leadership in war of the H.M.C.S.
The University of Melbourne was founded the same year as the "Victoria" was launched, and, when Constance Talbot christened the vessel on 30th June
1855, no one predicted that within six years the vessel and her crew would go to war. As the mahogany hull, housing her specially designed steam engines, slid down the slip at Limehouse, in London, her builders Messrs Young, Son and Magney had every reason to accept the congratulations of the experts. Displacing 580 tons, she was 166 feet long, and built on the mahogany diagonal principle.
Throughout the construction period Norman was in attendance and responsible to the Chief Secretary of Victoria. The vessel was fitted with two 120 HP steam engines driving a single screw, designed by Rennie Engineering. She was barque rigged to royals and capable under steam of 12 knots. Armament was supplied from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, consisting of one long 32 pounder swivel gun (56cwt.) and as broadside guns, six medium 32 pounder Armstrongs (25cwt.).
Eventually the main swivel 32 pounder was exchanged for an Armstrong 12 pounder in the later stages of "Victoria" serving in the New Zealand Wars. She was fitted for a crew of eight officers and 50 ratings.
Commander Norman left England on 8 March 1856 and, after an uneventful voyage, the Colony's first warship entered Port Phillip Bay on the 31st May. At first
"Victoria" was employed in the role of a water police vessel. Later Commander Norman was to supervise survey work around the Victorian coast, and
(after the New Zealand operations) to search for survivors of the wrecked 'General Grant" in the Auckland Islands.
In March 1860 hostilities broke out between Maoris and elements of the 65th Imperial Regiment and a small Colonial Force in the Taranaki Province of New Zealand. Imperial Army Headquarters were located in Melbourne, and when news of the outbreak reached Melbourne the citizens of Victoria were made
aware, through their press, that a war was close at hand.
For a decade or more, Maoris had become aware that European migration to New Zealand was shifting the balance of population and the ownership of land. Land to the Maori had a spiritual value in addition to its practical worth. The possession of land contributed to a deep sense of belonging and
Security for the collective owners, and the fact that large tracts were not being used in cultivation, or European-type settlement, meant little to the Maori. Newly arrived settlers, anxious for land, were aggravated by the Maori's apparent indolence and growing hostility to selling land. A
number of Maori chiefs had in 1840 ceded their authority to Queen Victoria, but only under the assurance that the representatives of the Queen would guarantee Maori's their own land, forests and fishing areas. Some chiefs realized the increasing European immigration would affect the entire structure and culture of the Maori life.
The Colonial administration had become the sole purchaser of lands the Maoris wished to sell, motivated by the ideal of seeing they were neither exploited nor dispossessed by exploiters. By 1860 land purchase had become a slow and cumbersome business with protracted discussion and frequent argument among the Maoris as to who actually owned various plots. Impatience and prejudice on the part of European settlers coupled with a pathetic ignorance about Maori customs and traditions, placed Maoris who opposed land sales in the vulnerable position of being called rebels.
The Governor of New Zealand, Colonel Thomas Gore Browne, agreed to a purchase by the Crown of 600 acres of land close to New Plymouth in the Taranaki Province. Governor Gore Browne, in accepting an individual Maori's right to sale of land was adopting a
new policy, since up till that time tribal consent had been obtained. In this instance tribal consent was not given, and when the Maoris refused to leave the site Gore Browne ordered in the Army and Militia. This disputed sale and its subsequent events led to what has been called the First Taranaki War.
European settlers wanted land, while Maoris saw this as the final event infringing on their survival as a race. The First Taranaki War was but one incident in the 'small
wars' which plagued New Zealand for the next 12 years, tearing at the roots of what integration had been established, and wrecking economic and political life for two decades. Some Maoris revived barbaric customs, while the European settlers mainly in the North Island, cried for the decimation of the Maori as a race. Few high principles, on either side remained intact by the time it was over.
Among the military forces assembled to cope with the situation in New Zealand, the Victorian Colonial Naval Service was in 1860 the only permanent force belonging to the
Australasian Colonies. Fortune was to determine that Victorians with their tiny one-ship-navy were to be the first Australians engaged in warlike activities overseas.
Within days of dispatches being received from the Governor of New Zealand, the Chief Secretary of Victoria placed H.M.C.S. "Victoria" and members of the Naval Service at the disposal of the Imperial authorities. Acting under a Colonial statute, the "Armed Vessels Regulations Act", Commander Norman \~as authorized to enlist additional crew and on the 24th April 1860 left Melbourne with 63 ratings and eight officers. The "Victoria" also took aboard 134 officers and men of the 40th Regiment (South Lancashire) then based in Melbourne. "Victoria" arrived in Nelson on
1st May, where the Troops disembarked, and Norman enlisted an additional 12 ratings into the Naval Service. These recruits were the first New Zealanders enlisted into a Colonial Navy and they predated further enlistments into the Royal Navy by New Zealanders for service aboard the H.M.S. "Niger". The ease with which New Zealand settlers were enlisted into the Victorian Naval Service underlines the equality of citizenship enjoyed in those colonial times.
During June and July 1860, "Victoria" was used in a logistics role, transporting troops, equipment, and despatches between the "war zone" and Imperial Headquarters in Melbourne. Commander Norman was also requested to act as host to about 30 important Maori Chiefs, and transported them in the "Victoria" to Auckland where proposals for a settlement of the Waitara War
were discussed. The Maoris wanted the problem settled by a Court of Law, while the
Governor indicated he was the authority and would make the decision on behalf of
the Crown. No protest was made.
After some three months of a rumor was circulated that the Maoris of Taranaki were
determined to destroy all vestiges of European settlement. Some of the fighting in
this was described by veterans of the Crimean War as more violent than Redan or Inkerman. Bush fighting in New Zealand had a profound
effect upon the British soldier, instilling respect for the Maori as a fighter. It
also created fear and dread among newly arrived colonists.
In Taranaki by the end of July 1860 the British Light infantry Regiments, Royal Artillery, Royal Marines, and an ad hoc
Naval Brigade, totaled some 1000 men. Local Taranaki Volunteers gave support
but the main force protecting the Taranaki settlement was British. Commander
Norman was made aware by the Imperial authorities that more rifles were required, and asked if he
could spare men to carry them. He delegated Lt. G. Woods, Midshipman Horne and 30 ratings to form a shore
party which was sent ashore and attached to the Naval Brigade. Some of the
men garrisoned a redoubt on a small hill known as Mount Elliott close to the landing place on the beach.
Norman, leaving his shore party under Lt. Wood, returned to Melbourne, where there was great anxiety and concern
by Victorians for their fellow colonists in Taranaki. Some settlers from Taranaki had
traveled by ship to Melbourne as virtual refugees, and a committee had been formed to raise funds for the support of war-stricken families in Taranaki. The Melbourne community was incensed that the Maori people, to whom all the assets of civilization had been offered, should rebel against colonization, and should have the audacity to challenge British arms.
Distance clouded the real issues of the war, strengthening Victorian sympathy, and giving rise to feelings of righteous indignation. These sentiments inspired 1000 young Victorians to offer their services to fight in New Zealand, but there was no means at that time of using these men. High sounding statements by Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of Victoria, supported the policy of the war at that point, laying seeds which came to fruit three years later, when actual recruiting for military service in New Zealand began in Melbourne.
The "Victoria" returned to New Zealand with Major-General Sir Thomas Pratt and his staff from the Military Headquarters in Melbourne with a further 50 men of the 40th Regiment crammed on board. The removal of Imperial troops from garrison towns in Australia created problems for the families of these men. Melbourne socialites, including wives of army officers, rose to the challenge and devised ways and means of sustaining these families' needs in the absence of their
men folk. The aid was mainly financial.
With the withdrawal of Imperial troops from almost all of the Australian Colonies to fight in New Zealand, the question of the continent's defence became a public issue. The Naval supremacy of the Empire had to some degree guaranteed Australian defence, and, since 1788, Imperial forces had been based in Australia. As the Colonies became self-governing, they were faced with paving for the Imperial garrisons. Now that they were being withdrawn to fight in New Zealand, some voices were being raised in Australia suggesting the various Colonies should establish their own Permanent Forces. Victorians were conscious that their defences were at the whim of Imperial interests wherever they happened to be at the time. The war in New Zealand had the effect of stirring interest in the creation of the Volunteer system of militia, paving the way for the much later Permanent Forces of the various Colonies.
When Commander Norman returned to New Plymouth with the General Staff from Melbourne, he found himself involved in a serious refugee problem. The town was under threat. The authorities ordered the evacuation of the entire population not involved in defence. Ships of the Royal Navy, along with "Victoria", shared in the transportation of families either to Nelson or Auckland.
The only record of the action fought by the shore party was made by the "Victoria's" paymaster, George Elliot. "Our men garrisoned a blockhouse erected on the beach to prevent a flank attack by the Maoris in that direction. I
may also mention that it was the men of the "Victoria" who headed the storming party at the capture of Matarikoriko Pa."
While undertaking these garrison duties the Victorians were much envied by the Naval Brigade, as
they were armed with Enfield, breech loading rifles. During the Victorians spell ashore, their higher rate of pay compared with men of Royal Navy was also a point rated high in their favour.
By November 1860 unrest had spread from Taranaki to the Waikato, the forested lands to the south of Auckland. Some Waikato Maoris had supported the Taranaki tribes in their fight, and there was fear of a Waikato attack on Auckland. All was ferment and rumour. Some Maori tribes had established what they termed a Maori King to whom they gave the mana over their land and who
symbolized the defence of the traditional Maori way of life. The fine details of this sort of argument was lost to the average soldier, and the "Victoria" found herself conveying Imperial troops from New Plymouth to strengthen the garrison in Auckland, where the supporters of the Maori King were viewed as "rebels".
Back in Taranaki by the end of December 1860, General Pratt considered he had sufficient forces at his disposal to take the offensive. The action at Matarikoriko Pa on 29-31 December 1860 was one of a series of attacks designed to throw Maoris back into the inland from their fortified positions close to New Plymouth.
The largest military force ever concentrated by the British in New Zealand at that time, consisting of 1000 men of the 12th, 40th, and 65th Regiments and the Naval Brigade, moved out towards the disputed Waitara block. With the Naval Brigade were the 32 Victorians.
On the 30th December 1860 70,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, 120 rounds of shot and shell
were poured into the Maori Pa at Matarikoriko. It was difficult to see how
anybody could have survived such a barrage, but the Maoris were past masters at entrenchments. On the morning of 31st December, a section of the Naval
Brigade, including the men of the Victorian Naval Service, advanced in
skirmishing order towards the Pa. The tension was explosive as rifle fire from the Maori position was expected any second. As ground was gained, Imperial troops
advancing to the flank of the Naval Brigade broke into a trot, and with a cheer
charged the battered pa. The Navals also ran and as they struggled over
the broken wooden defences the army raised a flag indicating capture. The
Maoris had abandoned the position during the night. The chief it is said had dreamt of his impending capture and deportation. The Victorian Naval
Service were the first of the Naval Brigade into the Pa.
For several months into 1861, "Victoria- continued to act as logistic support to Imperial forces, as well as provisioning the New Zealand Militia. On her eventual departure from New Zealand waters the local populace were deeply appreciative of her assistance. As the "Wellington Independent" declared: "The Colonial steam ship "Victoria" after close upon a year of arduous, honourable, and unremitting service in the cause of New Zealand, takes her departure from Waitara for Melbourne today, having first embarked Major-General Pratt and a portion of his staff.
Whether the "Victoria" may ever return to these shores is problematical, but whether she does or
not we cannot permit her to depart without expressing our heartfelt thanks to Captain Norman and his Officers for the able and energetic way in which
they have handled their magnificent ship in every emergency and under every difficulty. Ships officers and men, have on all occasions proved themselves worthy co-adjutors and confederates of the gallant "Niger", (who we are also soon to lose),
by, whom they were deservedly esteemed and appreciated. Like the
"Niger" -the Victoria was ever on the alert, ever ready and efficient for duty from the hour of her arrival to that of her departure.
Her career in these waters will be long remembered and gratefully acknowledged by the colonists
(in New Zealand, for while they have been of the last consequence to us, they
have happily, been such as to reflect lustre upon the Government and the
Colony of Victoria, who with so much fore-thought and liberality placed so fine a ship at our disposal. A ship whether for sailing or steaming qualities, or for cleanliness inboard out outboard, correctness of efficiency or discipline
claims the highest characteristics of a British Man-of-War.
It would be superfluous to rehearse the "Victoria's" numerous services but we may
well be pardoned for adverting to the promptitude with which she conveyed the Southern Chiefs to the Kohimarama Conference; to the chivalrous spirit
with which she reinforced the Naval Brigade, placing Lieutenant Woods, Mr.
Midshipman Horne, and 30 of her picked AB's under Commodore Loring's command: and last not least, the
marvelous celerity with which in July last she conveyed to Sydney the Governor's supplemental despatches consequent upon the reverse at
Puketakauere, and the equal rapidity with which she returned with fresh succors
from Melbourne. There, are services not likely to be forgotten or disregarded. In the name of New Zealand we wish her, and her gallant bond all honour, happiness and prosperity."
In Melbourne a shakedown and general refit was undertaken, and there was time to take stock of personal equipment. Lt. Woods complained bitterly about the disappearance of naval issue equipment in his care while serving ashore with the Naval Brigade. The sum of $34.60 had been stopped from his salary
as a consequence. Investigation showed the equipment had been stolen from Woods' tent, and no doubt found its way into some enterprising soldier's or
naval man's kit. Woods managed to work the oracle through a well written report, and was refunded his loss of pay after extensive delay by the New Zealand Government. He established a point not valid today, that theft of personal equipment in war is equal to fair wear and tear!
Commander Norman was faced with a difficult matter during the refit. Three
of the Officers, Surgeon Samuel A. Patterson, Lt. Charles Cecil, and Lt. J. Cayne
wrote a formal letter of apology to their Commander for a serious breach
of discipline on their part, while serving in New Zealand waters. This letter
of apology, and the matter relating to discipline never became public knowledge
apart from the Commander and the Chief Colonial Secretary.
Had there been no apology by the Officers concerned there may well have
been a public scandal. Surgeon Patterson remained with the crew for at least
another year after the incident indicating to some degree that personal
relations between Commander Norman and the Doctor must have been restored.
During the latter period of service in New Zealand some complaints had been lodged about the quality of meals served aboard ship to the crew members. Commander Norman investigated the matter in Melbourne and found the complaint to be without foundation. The crew members who lodged the complaint were dismissed from the Service !
Some embarrassment arose in the Ward Room, when an account for liquor was sent to the Chief Secretary in Melbourne for drink purchased from William Morrin, Merchant of Queen Street, Auckland, amounting to $107.50. "Victoria" was at sea almost continually, and with brief stopovers in port, business was done on a credit account. It was not uncommon for the ship to arrive in New Plymouth early in the morning, and be at sea again with despatches or passengers for Auckland within a few hours. The Ward Room became the centre of hospitality for her passengers undertaking urgent trips to the Colonial capital. Norman on more than one occasion made his own cabin available to such passengers.
The Chief Secretary asked Norman for an explanation of the account. "I regret that
Mr. Morrin in his Account Current should have mixed up the Officers Mess account which is strictly a private account, and the public accounts of the Service," wrote Norman
assuring the Chief Secretary that at least $50 of the presented account had
already been paid by the Ward Room while serving in New Zealand.
After actual operational experience the fledgling Service began to feel the need of more formal
recognition by the Imperial authorities. The use of a Colonial warship raised for the first time the question whether such a vessel could be termed ''British". The British Crown Law Officers expressed their doubt that the "Victoria" had
any right to claim prize money. These matters prompted the Chief Secretary to further draft regulations concerning the status of the Service titled, "Her Majesty's Local Navy of the Colony of Victoria". The regulations dealt with the good order and conduct of officers and crew, written for the most part with Royal Naval regulations in mind.
By November 1861 "Victoria" returned to duty on the Victorian coast. In keeping with his duties as Commander of the Service, Norman was
requested to forward to the Chief Secretary his annual estimates for the year ending June 1863. His first figures in the
vicinity of fifteen thousand
pounds sterling was rejected. He followed with a second estimate and in keeping with other budget pruning, all the
officer's salaries except Norman's showed a decrease of one hundred pounds per
year. In this second estimate there was no allowance for arms and ammunition. Obviously Norman was
not anticipating a return to operations.
At the end of the 1862 financial year the Government of Victoria had spent considerable sums
by placing her Naval Service at the disposal of the Imperial authorities. Sir Henry
Barkly reported to the British Government that sixteen thousand pounds had
been spent maintaining the "Victoria" on operations in New Zealand. This
money was never refunded either by the New Zealand or British Governments. C. H. Darling, who succeeded Sir Henry as Governor of Victoria in 1864, attempted to persuade the British Government to acknowledge the financial efforts of Victoria, by pressing the British authorities to sell cheaply another warship to the Colony. He offered the
British ten thousand pounds for a 800 ton vessel, larger and older than the "Victoria". The
amount was not inconsiderable, considering what Victoria had already spent
on operations. However the Colony had no defence vote at that time with which to manage Naval extensions.
Commander Norman received recognition by being mentioned in despatches for his part as Commander of the Naval Service, and his leadership during the
New Zealand operations. The crew and officers were also mentioned
frequently in Governor Grey's despatches. Those who served ashore with the
Naval Brigade were entitled to the New Zealand War Medal, and almost all
were able to claim it during their life time. Boy 2nd Class Samuel Smith
was never traced and his medal was sent to the Department of Defence in
Melbourne in 1905. Lt. G. Woods was also mentioned in despatches, while
Midshipman Horne, although serving ashore is not listed among the names
entitled to the medal.
Norman died suddenly in 1867, so did not live to see the expansion of the Victorian Naval Service.
When fighting resumed in New Zealand in the Waikato in 1863 attitudes were different in Victoria, and although it was mooted that the
"Victoria" return to New Zealand, the Victorian Government had other irons
in the fire. Victoria's first war had been costly financially. New Zealand
according to some of the Melbourne newspapers, should accept more
responsibility and if the war could not be contained then the British Government
ought to have more of a hand in New Zealand affairs.
Following the departure of the "Victoria", events in New Zealand, were anything but
smooth. The settlers appeared to want nothing better than to buy or
confiscate Maori land. The General Assembly reflected these opinions
throughout debates over the land sale questions. Few politicians or settlers
were high-minded enough to understand the reasons behind the Maori attempts to cope with the European impact on their life. Nor was there sufficient trust
between both races, to establish a basis of understanding.
Years later, in 1888, a leading Maori Chief, Hitiri Te Paerata, who had
helped oppose the imperial and Colonial troops at Orakau, recalled the events which led to the war. Maori people had been getting more and more
dissatisfied in the manner in which their ancestral lands; their one great
possession had been passing away. Partly on account of the Government
purchases for fish-hooks, tobacco and hatchets. The Chiefs were angry their mana was not sufficiently recognised, some of the Chiefs
sold the land that belonged to their people. The Maoris on the advice of
Tamihana Tarapipipi determined to set up a head whose mana would overshadow the
land and protect it. Te Wherowhero Potatau was accordingly made King,
and many tribes gave the keeping of their bodies and their lands into his
hands. As you all know, this led to the fighting, first in Taranaki, and then
the East Coast and other places."
Public sympathy among the settlers for the King movement was small, the Government of 1863 concluding that the King opposed the authority of
Queen Victoria. This, the Government reasoned, was a violation of the Treaty of Waitangi which made New Zealand part of the British Empire. The British undertook to guarantee the rights of the Maoris to their lands, fishing, and forests, while the Maoris ceded the
"Kawa Datanga" to the Queen and her laws. Perhaps both partners in this Treaty expected different things, not
readily understood at the time.
Maoris knew that the increasing growth of the population was tipping the balance in the favour of the settlers. With a threat to survival a conflict of ideals was inevitable.
In April 1861 the "Sydney Morning Herald" suggested that the best way of colonizing
New Zealand was to settle the country with military settlers. The Maoris would be confronted with British armed might, and defeated; the settlers could then coerce Maoris into submission. Colonization on the settlers terms would begin, and civilization was naturally the British way of doing things.
Centuries before the Romans had tried such settlements, and Sir George Grey, on his second governorship in New Zealand supported such an idea. He had experienced first hand such a scheme in British Kaffraria while he had been Governor of the Cape of Good Hope a year or so earlier. In New Zealand
during the 1840's the Corps of Fencibles, enlisted from retired Imperial
soldiers, settled south of Auckland. The actual measure of defence for the citizens of Auckland gained in this experiment, was more imagined than real.
From 1861 until mid-1863 those in authority planned to take the war, if necessary, into the heart of the Waikato. A pre-emptive attack would divert the 'Waikato tribes from supporting the war in Taranaki. If war went into the Waikato it was hoped the Taranaki Maoris would make a peace. Work began on a military road through the dense forest
country south of Auckland pointed towards Ngaruawahia deep in the Waikato. The construction of this road fostered suspicion among Maoris, many of whom knew that a sustained war between themselves, and the Imperial troops and settlers could not be won by Maoris.
Greed for land and fear of Maori retaliation accentuated the settlers feelings of insecurity. The General Assembly continued to call for more Imperial
troops to deal with the rising number of skirmishes. The local Militia constructed stockades and redoubts in anticipation of a Maori invasion of Auckland.
In 1863 the population of New Zealand was not large enough to sustain a fighting force of any
significance. There was a Colonial Defence Force of about 500 cavalrymen and several thousand part-time militiamen. The Colony was dependent for its internal security on Imperial troops in the first instance from Australia. There were 5,000 Regulars, plus
some sailors of the Royal Navy, already in New Zealand by early 1863.
In July 1863, Governor Grey and Premier Alfred Dornett put forward the idea of
enlisting thousands of "military settlers", from Australia and England. As many
as 20,000 men were envisaged in one statement. The concept was simple
enough and would strengthen New Zealand's participation in its own
military affairs. The plan envisaged the immediate enlistment of 2,000 men from
Australia and transfer to Auckland, where they would be formed into
regiments. Military Settlers were to serve for a period of three years, after
which they were eligible to receive a plot of land according to their rank.
Private soldiers were to receive 50 acres, and Majors and above 400 acres.
Rates of pay began at two shillings and six pence per day for a Private
soldier with eleven shillings and seven pence per day for a Captain. An age limit of 40
years was placed on enlistees, married or single. Pay was identical for
both single and married men. The originators of the scheme hoped that some Military Settlers would eventually be recruited in England. Each
regiment would consist of ten companies, each company having 112 men under the command of a Captain and two junior officers. Captains were
appointed before the regiments were formed. Some recruited their own men, either in Australia or the gold fields of New Zealand. Each regiment was
to settle south of Auckland in the Waikato on confiscated Maori land. The settlements would be surveyed into at least 100 farms and 100 town allotments. Grants were to be made for the erection of public buildings and schools, and the settlers received some basic assistance to build their
home. Free passage was offered to New Zealand, and eventually the same offer was open to wives and families. Some provision was made for the families of men who might be killed or wounded, although there was no pension to sustain a widow.
The "Sydney Morning Herald" had for two years been curtly arguing in it's columns that a military settler scheme was the only way the "benefits
civilization" would be granted to New Zealand. Settlements would be a buffer between Auckland and any Maori threat. The benefit to the Colony was in opening up the land and creating agricultural industry. Generally, it was hoped such industry would sponsor a move to greater prosperity. The "Sydney Morning Herald" enthusiastically anticipated that the scheme would have a civilizing effect upon the Maoris, even though the settlers might have to defeat them in battle. If the Maoris did not want to associate with the settlers, then they could go deeper inland, live by their own laws, and await civilization which would ultimately catch up with them.
The full text of the Military Settlers Scheme appeared in the "New Zealand Gazette" after the Executive Council approved it on 3rd August 1863.
Two days before, Francis Bell, Minister for Native Affairs, Lt. Colonel George Dean Pitt. and Lieutenant Steele had sailed for Australia to
The originators of the scheme made certain the critics would have little argument
with which to challenge the idea. The cost of this Military venture would be met through the sale of land confiscated from the " rebel" Maoris. This land had
yet to be fought for, by the candidates for its settlement.
The scheme was no doubt hurried along by the invasion of the Waikato in July 1863
by Imperial Forces under the command of General Duncan Cameron. The invasion
went forward under the real or imagined pretence of protecting the 10,000 people in Auckland and the 2,000 settlers living in the scattered rural
areas to the South. In reality it was a military operation designed to subjugate
Maoris who were opposed to the European encroachment on their land and culture. The purported invasion of Auckland lent weight to the excuse
for such an operation.
Undoubtedly, the Waikato Maoris were a threat to
the Auckland settlers, but only in response to a much more militant one posed
by the settlers. The invasion of the Waikato was, among other things an
extension of public opinion in the military form. The Imperial forces may have
viewed the Maoris as "rebels" and under this name it was convenient for more ruthless settlers to see opportunities to get their hands on Maori land. The
settlers in the long run gained materially less than they hoped, and more problems than they had bargained for.
Warnings had been issued in June 1863 instructing Maoris to lay down their arms, and
signify their loyalty to the Queen. For those Maoris who refused, and opposed the advance of the Army, confiscation of their lands and imprisonment
would result. In effect much more land was confiscated than originally
planned because it included land owned by Maoris, or groups of Maoris, who did not oppose the Invasion.
The forces with which the Colony was prepared to conquer the Maoris were, until
formation of the Military Settler Regiments, almost entirely Imperial. As the British moved into the Waikato in July 1863 it became more
important than ever that a scheme involving settlers had to be created quickly.
The Australian Colonies already had strong links with New Zealand. The Empire
was wide open to Englishmen of adventure and enterprise. There was a common bond between Colonists who had left the "old country"
to carve out a future for themselves. For almost two years several Australian newspapers had canvassed the military settler idea as an answer to New Zealand's problems. What better place to secure recruits than from among sympathetic
fellow colonists. Hence New Zealand turned for her first 2,000 soldiers to Australia.
The Australians who enlisted would be required not only to fight as soldiers, but to build towns, establish military stockades, erect their own homes and schools, and
generally establish the bones of community life ahead of the commercial speculator. Their farms would be close to a town, and a quarter acre, or even an acre town section (depending on rank), assured them of a place in the new community. The appeal to men of
adventure, and those of limited means was considerable. Those among them who experienced the harshness of the Australian outback, and its scorching droughts, might be tempted by a better climate. Others
from prisons and farms, or laboring positions, might be tempted at the prospect of owning
what they never could in Australia-their own farms.
New Zealand needed her own army if she justify using Imperial troops to put down what was regarded in
1863 as rebellion against the Queen's authority.
"Officers and men of the Victorian Contingent, I wish to thank you Victorian volunteers on behalf of the New
Zealand Government for the prompt manner in which you have come forward to
the aid of a colony which is in difficulties. New Zealand at this time
requires strong hands and all the strong arms she can get." These words of
gratitude were made by Francis Bell, New Zealand Minister of Native Affairs, as he
addressed the first 200volunteers outside Melbourne's Spencer Street Station,
hours before their departure for the war.
A gay and dashing uniform was issued. Officers were entitled to 'a jacket of fine scarlet cloth, tastefully trimmed with silver, over which is worn a handsome silver shoulder belt. The trousers are tight
steel-gray, with a stripe of silver lace on the side an inch and a half wide. The cap is
gray, with a silver band edged with scarlet. It is worn without a peak, but with an Indian puggery.'
That, however, was formal wear. In the bush they wore much the same as other militiamen -forage caps, blue serge shirts, dark trousers tucked into blucher boots, and short leggings. In their haversacks they carried a tin plate,
pannikin, knife, fork and spoon. Each day they were entitled to a gill of rum, a pound of meat, one and a quarter pounds of bread, one-sixth of an ounce of tea, one-sixth of an ounce of coffee, a quarter ounce of sugar and a grain of pepper and salt.
Over the weeks of enlistment, until Bell
address to the first contingent, the Melbourne newspapers had speculated a
great deal about Victoria's contribution to the New Zealand War. Francis Bell, the political leader of the
New Zealand delegation to the Australian Colonies, was accompanied
by Lt Colonel George Dean Pitt, formerly a resident of Melbourne, when he
served as a major in the 80th Regiment. Pitt was now under contract to the
New Zealand Government as a Lt. Colonel of the New Zealand Militia to
enlist recruits from Australia. Bell's function as head of the delegation
was to obtain the support of the various Colonial Governments.
Pitt had been officer-in-charge of volunteering in the Colony of Victoria before he accepted the offer of the New
Zealand Government to recruit the military settlers. Pitt was an early supporter
of volunteering and in many ways his work laid the foundations for the
traditions of Australia's citizen army. In enlisting Pitt as its recruiting officer
in Australia the New Zealand Government was shrewd enough to realize his position as head of
the Volunteers ideally placed him for selecting possible men. For his part Colonel Pitt was not backward in
gaining personal credit out of his situation. The first Contingent were
known as "Pitt's 400", or more commonly "Pitt's Militia".
Back in Auckland every male between the age of 16 and 40 years had been conscripted into military service. With a
population of some 10,000 Europeans, Auckland faced acute problems in
maintaining essential public services. The urgency with which the Colonial Government sought to take the war into the Waikato was only
equaled by the fear that the Maoris were in a mood to attack Auckland.
Three times Grey had written to Sir Henry Barkly requesting units of Imperial Forces to be sent to New Zealand, and on each occasion the Victorian Governor had responded, expressing the opinion that the British Government ought to provide more troops, but not at the expense of leaving Victoria almost defenceless.
Enlistment was talked about at the Stock Exchange in Melbourne, while the remaining officers of the Imperial regiments champed at the bit to get into the war. Some
of the Victorian Volunteers were also eager to enlist. There was a war close
by and they wanted to be in it. All Melbourne knew the war situation in
New Zealand was critical.
Publication of the conditions of enlistment in Regiments of Military Settlers
appeared in the "Argus" and other Melbourne papers on 17th August 1863. Enlistment began a
few days later, and reaction from the press was not long in coming.
It was clear Victoria could ill afford an exodus of hundreds of fit young males at a time
when the Colony was itself trying to attract young immigrants. "New
Zealand has . . asked us on a common ground of kindred to give her what no commercial treaty could have guaranteed, she has appealed to
us for what no mere fiscal unification could have entitled her to." There was
widespread criticism of Sir George Grey's lack of positive action.
Newspapers charged him with, "being willing to wound, but being afraid to strike".
Now in the striking Victoria was asked to supply what she could ill afford
-her young men with a sense of adventure. Speculation followed as to what sort of
volunteers and what type of war they would face. The bravery of the potential military settlers was not questioned, but unruly colonials attitude
to discipline was seen as a major stumbling block in the way of making them
responsible fighting troops. The war was described as "guerilla", a term gaining
acceptance in describing a limited war with irregular troops and marauding
bands of Volunteers were depicted as a necessary expedient from Victoria,
not replacing the Imperial soldiers who was expected to throw his body into
battle to save an Empire. To a degree, the Volunteer was very much a second
class soldier, a situation which changed within a year or so when the New
Zealand Militia waged alone the later South Taranaki wars after 1866.
No one in Victoria doubted the end result of the Waikato War;
"As to the ultimate relations which Maori and settlers are destined to bear
on each other it is not easy to form an opinion, Equality of citizenship,
after the war, will be impossible, and to be hewers of wood, and drawers of water to the
conquerors is more than can be expected or demanded of a conquered race . There is a hint in this statement that the Maori had more
than pride and perhaps Maoris had some rights also ?
While Pitt and his staff were receiving publicity and establishing the recruiting depot in Melbourne, the Victorian politicians were busy debating the problem of defence. The withdrawal of the Imperial garrisons made them conscious of the Colony's vulnerability. The main point of the Volunteers Bill
centered about cost, and how much the Colony should pay to the Imperial Government. At that time the Victoria Government paid seventy
pounds per head for each Imperial soldier the British Government considered necessary for Victoria's defence. The Legislative
Assembly debated its reduction to forty pounds, and Mr. George Verdon, (later Sir George), the most outspoken member on defence issues indicated extra artillery would
be far better than troops of the line. This would unfortunately, Verdon said,
be more expensive; the only possible alternative was to enlist a Regiment of
Regular Infantry from among Victorians. He made comparison with the large numbers of men flocking to enlist for service in New Zealand; obviously
there was interest in a Permanent Colonial Army.
This proposal came to nothing, while the Legislative Assembly reminded the
public of Victoria that the Imperial Government still owed them thousands
of pounds for the services of the H.M.C.S. "Victoria" from the Taranaki war of 1860-61. The
debate however, achieved a public consciousness about Victorian defence, and to the large number of men enlisting
for service in New Zealand.
The day before recruiting opened in Melbourne the ''Argus", suggested there was likely to be a flood of applicants
for enlistment "It is not unlikely that Colonel Pitt will suffer from an embarrassment
of riches, and that he will be perplexed with the number of applications
for the shilling." a comment no doubt recalling the times when
enlistment into the Imperial Forces earned a free shilling. The expected rush
recruits was stimulated by the reports of barbaric atrocities inflicted
the Maoris on innocent settlers, rather reminiscent of Cawnpore and
the Massacre of Delhi, incidents still fresh in the minds of many people.
Plainly that on arrival in New Zealand they would be sent direct to
the fighting in the Waikato, to enable volunteers of the New Zealand
Militia to return to operate the public services in Auckland. "The Waikato is
no battlefield for carpet knights, and if much is promised them, (the recruits)
very much is also expected of them."
The "Argus" commented that the like
origin of the rumour circulating in Melbourne that the New Zealand Government
could not meet its promises on the Military Settler Scheme came Zealand settlers. These
settlers were angered that Australians were being recruited under special conditions and opportunities not then
open to them. The paper had interviewed Pitt in his office and reported that no Government, not even
the New Zealand Government, would make promises it could not keep, and in the long run it was New Zealand that
would suffer if the promises were not kept. Military Settlers would be
welcome and promises kept.
Had the period of enlistment been shorter and the rewards less, another class of Victorian may have enlisted
suggested the "Argus". This type of' individual was daunted by leaving
his family responsibility for three years, with no clear method of
sustaining his financial responsibility to them. Col. Pitt remedied this criticism within some of arrival in Australia, through
arrangements for money transfers for soldier settlers with the Oriental Bank.
At this early stage the core of real opposition by the Victorians generally began to expose itself. "The present occasion is not the first on which New Zealand has disturbed the balance of our population," a reference to the
Otago gold rush. "It is time the Maori Wars should cease to be a matter of contemporary history."
On Tuesday, 25 August 1863 enlistment of military settlers began in Melbourne and within the
week Col. Pitt's junior staff were manning depots at Ballarat and Castlemaine. Within 24 hours, the matter concerning land
grants was public raised again. An Auckland correspondent under the title of "H.C.", was
republished in the "Argus" outlining nothing more or less than the facts at the time. Briefly, he argued, to offer land as an inducement
for service was presently unconstitutional. The confiscation policy had been
approved by the Executive Council only and not by the General Assembly. Not
every Maori was in opposition to the Government and not every Maori was taking up
arms. Where did their land claims stand if others of their race shared in
the same land ? He pointed out that such a policy as yet un-adopted by the
Legislature would find strong opponents. Where then would the military be ? The writer raised no doubts about the honour of
the New Zealand officers in Victoria, but plainly stated any agreement with
potential settlers was simply, "good men's word to other good men".
Grumbling from New Zealand was heard as enlistment began. Why should preferential
treatment be given to Australians for Maori land when New Zealand settlers
were fighting and dying to hold, and even survive on, present limited land
? The Victorian Legislative Assembly resolved that New Zealand be given more
military strength to cope with the war.
Mr. Harvey read a letter in the session of
25th August from Governor Sir George Grey asking for all Imperial troops
and artillery to be sent immediately to New Zealand. Mr. Verdon indicated
to the Assembly that there were now only six Imperial servicemen left in
Victoria and that they were drill instructors to the Colonial Volunteers.
The Assembly learned that although the H.M.C.S. "Victoria was ready for sea, no
direct request had been made for her to proceed to New Zealand. The Chief
Secretary indicated that the battery of six guns, (Armstrong 12 pounders)
at present in the Colonial Military Store in Melbourne were ready
for use if required. The status of this battery became the source of much
debate over that week.
New Zealand had asked the Victorians for a "half
battery of Armstrong 12 pounders to establish their own artillery within the
Militia. Up till the time of this request the Royal Artillery provided the
necessary guns, though these were insufficient in number. To order guns from England would involve a long and
protracted sea journey; to request guns from Victoria was obvious. The Victorians had originally purchased the
weapons from England, which were used as a mobile coastal defence battery.
If these guns went to New Zealand, argued the Assembly, there was
virtually no coastal defence in Victoria. There would be nothing to cope with even a
mildly armed privateer attacking Melbourne, and one could never count on
how either the Confederate or United States Navies would behave!
After much debate, the Assembly decided half a battery was neither use nor ornament, and
by the same token about as useful as throwing stones to the New Zealand Government. A decision was made to send the entire
battery of six guns. In their argument the Victorians made a virtue out of a pressing
New Zealand necessity.
The weapons were dispatched to New Zealand on H.M.S.S. "Himalaya", after the terms of sale were agreed to by the New
Zealand Government. The Imperial General Staff were amazed to find that the guns which were stored in the Colonial Military Stores were in fact the property of Victoria. The Colonial Military Storekeeper crated
nearly 24 tons of guns and parts. Complete with ammunition the cost to New Zealand amounted to $7,184.33, which was paid a year later in London through the Crown Agent for the Colonies and credited to the Victorian "Arms
and Ammunition Account".
From an enlistment office situated at the Port Phillip Club Hotel in Melbourne, Col. Pitt reported on the 27th
August that 241 men had been enlisted. The numbers offering had been, as predicted. almost overwhelming.
Not everyone was acceptable, and the usual dodges of adding years to age,
or taking years off as the case may be were tried before. Other men anxious
to escape domestic responsibilities or so it was rumored, made up a not inconsiderable number of the
applicants. In the main the accepted Volunteers in Melbourne were of the
adventurous mold with a smattering motivated by ideals of maintaining the
Empire, while some felt keenly the suffering of fellow colonists apparently at the mercy of Maori axes. A
recruiting office opened in Geelong and gave opportunity to a previously publicly announced intention by four members of the Geelong Troop of the
Prince of Wales Victorian Volunteer Light Horse to enlist. The four young volunteers appealed to those of like mind to followed their example.
The majority of the enlistees were from laboring and semi-skilled trades, with some isolated cases of professional men. Some former Imperial Officers were later appointed to the regiments. As the recruiting continued, the matter of land for service and the justice of importing Victorians to do the fighting in New Zealand had wide publicity in the Melbourne press. The Colonial Treasurer of Victoria was quite vocal, making it clear to Col. Pitt that the enlisting was not appreciated in all quarters. If there were not enough troops to do the fighting in New Zealand, then the responsibility lay with the British Government, not the Victorians. The
''Argus" made no secret that there were still doubts concerning the
validity of the "land for service" offer to enlistees. Col. Pitt interpreted the rumour as damaging to his cause and called the first 250 volunteers to the precincts of the Club Hotel in Melbourne and addressed them on the subject.
"Gentlemen, In entering on the duty assigned to me of raising a force of Victorians, I imagined that I had merely to acquaint
you with the terms offered by the New Zealand Government on the one hand, and if you liked them, to accept your services on the other. I have entered on these duties with pleasure from the fact that I am personally acquainted with many who will join the force. It has been intimated to me that I am to have the honour to command the men raised in Victoria, and I feel happy in the prospect of continuing my
connection with the Colony. However, certain remarks as to the power of the New Zealand Government to
carry out their part of the contract has been raised, founded on a mischievous letter written by an Auckland gentleman. of
whom I must say, judging from his style, I have a very poor opinion. He
writes ill of his own colony, and of the Government of that Colony, and the
question arises, what is his object ? It may be that he is prompted by feeling of great affection for you, and is over-anxious to spare you the risks of campaigning in New Zealand.
On the other hand he might be a man who
has other interests at stake in the matter. I'm inclined to think he is
much of a large land owner, who does not like giving away so much good
land, fearing it may depreciate the land value of his own. However this
may be. I desire to tell you what I think about these objections; and I consider it due to
you to do so, for I should be sorry to know that you had doubt, in your minds on this subject.
The "Government Gazette" is just as much to be depended upon as an
Order in Council signed by Her Majesty. That is my belief, and I am as much in the matter as any of you. If you are done out of your
land, I am done out of mine! But is it likely that any British Government would
perpetrate such a wholesale swindle as the Auckland man suggests ? You
will understand from the conditions that this land on which you are has yet to be conquered from the Waikato's; but no one
would doubt the result of the campaigning now entered on. The character of the
General who conducts the war is a guarantee that it will result in success that we may have our share of the glory of that success.
I can quite understand that the people here do not like to lose men of your
stamp: at the same time the Government and the press, in their sympathy for
New Zealand have acted most fairly, by abstaining from raising objections
which self interest would dictate.
The first ship for Auckland will sail on Monday, and all the men enrolled
up till Saturday will proceed in her.' Pitt concluded his address with instructions for men of the first
contingent to report at 9am on Monday 31st August, opposite the Spencer Street
Railway Station where they would be marched to the train, thence to the
Williamstown Dock and embarkation on the "Star of India".
Col. Pitt had more than his own promise of land at stake. He was under contract
to the New Zealand Government to raise at least 400 men himself, for which he
received a bounty. The advantages of knowing the Volunteer system and younger officers, showed itself in the force known as
"Pitt's Militia". Somewhat tongue in cheek, Pitt had mentioned the limited
criticism from the press respecting the enlistment. A touch of the mercenary
element was at least hinted by the press reporting Pitt's address; "In fighting
side by side their new comrades they will be fighting for their own land. They have
every motive to spur them on. Chivalry and greed have in them met
Early on Monday morning 31st August, 200 men gathered opposite the Spencer Street Station. Several men had been given temporary commissions by Pitt, and these
newly appointed officers were taking the opportunity to meet their men. Captain H. G. Smith was a former officer in the Victorian
Volunteer Engineers, and three junior officers, Lieutenants H. P. Lomax, W. A. Smith and W. Nunnington, appear to have some previous experience.
Several hundred people had gathered to see the contingent leave, including the Juvenile Volunteer Drum and Fife Band, which played some stirring numbers while the crowd gathered. Women, with children in arms, and wives of many of the men, were described as making an anxious goodbye to their husbands. Francis Bell, had arrived from
Sydney to address the men prior to their departure.
"I am glad to see that so fine a body of men has volunteered already from this place. There is one point at which I
would like to say a few words.
Letters have appeared in the Melbourne papers, the writers of which state that the Government of New Zealand
will be unable to fulfill the contract it has made with you. I assure you the
Government has not made up its mind to make the offer it has to you,
without anxious and careful consideration.
And a full conviction of its ability to fulfill it's part of the bargain to the full.
One thing is true, the Government has
not at this moment in its possession the land which is offered you. The
land in the hands of rebel natives and we trust to you and your military
comrades to hold by the force of your arms that territory which will hereafter
be allotted to you by our Government.
This is land which we have long
tried to obtain by peaceable means. We have endeavored to colonize the
country and introduce the arts of civilization among the natives without
violence and with every advantage to them. We should never have thought of
taking this land by force if they had not made war upon us, and did not
constantly threaten the lives of the women and children of our peaceful
settlers. It is not only the colonists and the Colonial Government who are
engaged in the present plan of military settlements; the Governor of New
Zealand is party to that plan to which we have given our cordial assent.
It is his, and our opinion, that nothing can now secure the peace of New Zealand but the
establishment of strong military settlements in the interior of the country. It is to form such that
you have been invited.
Your Commander in this war will be Colonel Pitt, whom you all know and appreciate, and you will serve under a General whose name is illustrious
among the band of Crimean heroes. I have no doubt that you will perform your duty . . . . and I in the name of
the New Zealand Colonists promise
you we will not fail in ours. Remember, that as soon as you land in New Zealand you are soldiers, as amenable
to Military Law as we who are already in arms there, and that strict discipline and obedience will be required from
Bell wished them safe voyage, and called for three cheers for the Queen and again three cheers for
Colonel Pitt. The contingent then boarded a specially chartered train, and departed for Williamstown Dock where embarkation began. The ship departed for Auckland on the
following tide. Pitt remained behind and, encouraged by the recruiting response, instructed Capt.
Richards, his assistant, to proceed to Ballarat and open a depot there. Richards left
Melbourne early in the month of September and began recruiting from
Craig's Royal Hotel in Ballarat.
Bell's speech sparked off comment from the "Argus". Hints were given of economic
problems which would follow in Victoria if too many men volunteered and
left for the war. Questions were raised about provision for those families left
behind. The Colony had done more than its duty thus far, and the virtue
the press made of this duty had the faint odour of disapproval. Nobody it
is suspected would come out in the open at this stage and shout "No
more" because the needs in New Zealand was a call of the Empire, but to the
politician behind the closed doors it was a different matter.
Sir Henry Barkly the retiring Governor of Victoria, in his final despatch to the
Secretary of State (the Duke of Newcastle), outlined his reasons for not
sending the last elements of the 40th Regiment to New Zealand. This
problem, he wrote would have to be faced by his successor. Concluding the despatch
Sir Henry wrote frankly: "Aid of another kind will be afforded Lt. General
Cameron by volunteers who are being raised in this Colony on condition of
receiving grants of land confiscated from the Maoris at the end of the war.
This scheme is not, as Your Grace will perceive, by my reply to Sir George
Grey's letters introducing the agents, (Francis Dillin Bell and Lt. Col. G. D.
Pitt) very favourably regarded by this Colony. But under the tacit
permission I believe between six and seven hundred men have already
been obtained. The matter remained tacit for a further four months when
the Victorian Government, aided by public opinion, made its opposition clear to the New Zealand authorities.
Some 600 men had been enlisted by the third week. Meanwhile a second
Contingent sailed in the "Caduceus", while Pitt found time to attend a dinner
of his old Regiment, the 80th, where he was presented with a sword of
honour. Complimentary speeches were given by his former regimental
associates. Pitt appears generally to have been highly esteemed by Victorian
Letters in the press called for more Royal Artillery to be sent from Melbourne
to New Zealand, one writer pointing out that all the Imperials remaining in
Melbourne of the category halt, lame, or near blind !
"Victoria will send near two hundred Imperials to help in the war, and yet they are not
able to put half of them in the battle field when they land, yet they keep a
whole battery of artillery in inaction in Melbourne.' As events proved, the
Royal Artillery eventually sailed for New Zealand plus the men referred to
who were the last sections of the 40th Regiment.
A letter from a Volunteer in the first contingent was printed the day after his departure for New Zealand. The officer, writing on behalf of the
contingent thanked the "Argus' for the full and exhaustive account of
volunteering information and for the accounts debating the land question. He
laid the fear, of some, on the matter of leaving families behind. "Victoria
need not be afraid of being overwhelmed with what you call a legacy of poverty, as there is not a married man among us who will not take the
advantage of the arrangement with the Oriental Bank. Such financial arrangements for the transfer of pay to families as previously mentioned had been negotiated by Pitt when criticism was
leveled at the recruiters that no provision appeared to have been made.
An account of the second contingent's journey to New Zealand received sympathetic attention in the "Argus", and no doubt laid the fears expressed earlier in the month.
Aboard ship the contingent had been divided into squads of twenty men, and rations of food and blankets allocated.
As the men went aboard they were issued with eating utensils, and found their
sleeping quarters satisfactory. During the voyage there was a shortage of salt, but this appears to have been good naturedly accepted. For entertainment the men chalked out draught boards and used buttons for counters.
Of all the press opinions expressed, a writer calling himself "Victorian Colonist" contributed what has proved to be a
substantially accurate estimate of how matters stood in New Zealand at that
time. After 115 years his interpretation shows a singular objectivity rare in
it's wisdom. Certainly, an unpopular view at that time, but accurate.
"Victorian Colonist" outlined the Maori basis of land ownership, suggesting that for the Maoris of New Zealand
to comprehend the meaning of the "Queens sovereignty" was to impute to
the Maori a greater understanding of the term than a natural born Englishman.
He questioned the spirit of the
Treaty of Waitangi. "Was the purchase of land for the lowest farthing by the Government, for resale to the
colonists and the money obtained by that resale, to be used for the colonists
own benefit a loyal observance of the Treaty? Surely this was acting as an agent
for the European, resulting in a cheapening of the brown mans land for
Such a scheme failed to see that a fair price was being paid
for Maori land. Maoris were simply doing what any red-blooded race would
do when faced with the same circumstances. "The fact that this
experience has roused into life the nationality of the Maoris against the
interest of the white aggressor, should only tell with impartial men in their
favour. What is it but patriotism to their country and race, even if it be
rebellion a foreign sovereignty ? (as I contend it is not) the quarrel appearing
fair on both sides, but forced upon the Maori by the Colonists."
Few individuals at that time, even among
the missionaries, understood the Maori beliefs about their land. This writer
summed up in a few words the key strength of the Maori position. "The value
of the land to the people possessing it is not the value for each person for
use, for on its possession depends, as we clearly see, the continuance and
progression - or by its loss the degradation and extinction of its people. For
what price would the British sell their lands? For none !"
His comments revealed plainly that
in spite of the obvious danger to the settler from Maori
atrocities, the settler was intent upon obtaining Maori land by almost any
means. "To plead savage acts by a savage, as a ground for killing and confiscation is to judge by a law people not
yet brought under the law. Practically this is to say we have no patience, that
we cannot afford to give these savages time."
Victorians were told that it was only "disloyal" Maoris who refused to sell land for colonization who constituted the threat to Europeans located mainly in South Auckland and Taranaki. The military defeat, and the confiscation of the land owned by these Maoris would assure the European of a future unmolested by a savage race who opposed colonization. In this atmosphere over 800 men enlisted for service in New Zealand from Victoria. Yet,
"Victorian Colonist's" letter shows clearly there was some local opinion not
in agreement with the accepted New Zealand policy for the war.
Before Col. Pitt left Victoria to take up his command, he gave an after dinner address to officers of the 80th Regiment including some members of Melbourne society. "I am aware that my taking of some 1,000 men from Victoria
is looked upon by no favourable eyes, and yet I believe that Victoria will
ultimately feel proud that out of her strength, she was able to send such
substantial aid to her sister Colony. Victorians will ever take an interest in the
doings of the men she has sent forth, and there will be a strong bond of
sympathy created between the two Colonies."
The "Argus" felt compelled, through public interest and the number of
enlistments to commission their first war correspondent. Howard Willoughby was sent
to New Zealand about the time Pitt and his staff returned. For Willoughby, this was his chance for adventure and fame, and he is remembered as a concise, and extremely accurate recorder of Australia's first overseas war.
"To declare the wide and fertile lands of the natives the property of the
State, and to invite an army of determined men, to pay them in the soil they should conquer, and to reduce the surviving natives to the occupation of no more than they could use, would be a cheap and effectual way of pacifying
the country. It could be opened to the influences of colonization and good
government, the end might even be achieved without much cruelty or bloodshed though from the character of the natives and their country it is more than probable that the loss of lives would be great on both sides.
New Zealand is not too large for such an experiment, and there are plenty of men in Europe and elsewhere who would be glad enough to serve in the New Zealand army on such terms." Crosbie Ward, MP made this
biased statement in the British Parliament of early 1863, which received some publicity
in the Sydney Morning Herald. Later, in August 1863 when the terms of enlistment for
Military Settlement in New Zealand appeared in the Sydney papers it gave little surprise to New South Wales.
The Colony had been host to Regiments in transit to New Zealand. The Royal
Navy was no stranger to Sydney. The announcement that recruits would be enlisted
locally was strengthened by news from Auckland indicating a threatened Maori invasion, and graphic, if not lurid, accounts of atrocities
being committed by Maoris upon unsuspecting innocent victims.
Some months earlier, "The Sydney Morning Herald", indirectly aided the appeal for recruits in the New Zealand cause. New Zealand had established its own Colonial Defence Force, a mounted unit of five divisions of 100 men in each. This force had supported Imperial Troops and the Militia by patrolling and ambushing. Australians who contemplated a bit of action in New Zealand's own Colonial Army and who wanted some adventure, had but to pay their own way over the Tasman and report between 10 am. and 4 pm. at the units Orderly Room in Otahuhu. Horse,
saddle and rifle were issued to those who passed the medical, and their three
years of service began. This small Colonial Force had drawn a not
insignificant number of Australian recruits prior to the more general call now
announced to the Colony.
Unlike Victoria the Colony of New South Wales identified clearly with
the cause of their fellow colonists in New Zealand. "The Sydney Morning Herald" made no shallow virtue of the exodus
of young New South Welshmen. "The Native Minister of New Zealand, Mr.
Francis Dillon Bell, has visited this Colony to prevail upon our Government
to permit the removal of our Troops, the remaining Imperials and further to raise if possible, an
'Australian Corps', to assist in this great crisis. Attention was drawn to a
statement by Bishop Selwyn that there was no alternative to fighting. There
seemed little objection in electing to carry to carry the war into Maori territory, and
large numbers of New South Welshmen were to conclude this war.
Conscription in New Zealand had produced
some 5,000 militia, but even with 5,000 Imperials there were still insufficient
troops for the task. Maoris, the New South Welshmen were told, had brought
retaliation upon themselves, "the war produced by their insurrection is
imposing an enormous charge upon the British Government and the Colony
itself". Commenting on the "land for soldiering" policy, the Herald
continued the land will furnish recompense for the military colonist, by whom it
was conquered, and among whom it will be distributed". Defeat of this in such a cause for
colonization was unthinkable, the young men of Australia would not be
wanting in a sense of adventure. Neither would New South Welshmen fail in their responsibility at relieving the suffering
of fellow colonists across the Tasman Sea. The very excitement of the
military life would be recompense for its dangers.
All these, and various other opinions expressed at the time of calling for recruits, gave positive support to the New Zealand
policy. Yet Sydney was not isolated from the rumblings of opposition in New Zealand. "H.C.", presumably the same correspondent who had
raised doubts over the integrity of the New Zealand Government's intentions
among the Victorians, did so again in the New South Wales Press. He pointed out that the land to be fought for and given to settlers, was about the
worst land in New Zealand. He reminded readers that the policy had yet to
find the support of the General Assembly, and pointed out the legal problems
of confiscating land held in communal tenure. Not a few Australians would have reason to recall "H.C.'s"
first point, as they in later years struggled to coax a living from swampy, and in many cases utterly useless patches of land in the Waikato. In the heat of war, no man who weighs opinion on matters of conscience or
legalities is ever given credence by people. So it was to prove with
Manpower was not all that New Zealand required. Cavalry horses had
been bred in Australia for the Indian Army for a number of years. New Zealand needed animals for her mounted Colonial Defence Force, and for the
Transport Corps of the Militia. The New Zealand authorities contracted Mr.
Edward Mayne, who for many years was a grazier and land owner in partnership with another pioneer pastoralist J. A. McCartney. Mayne's task
was to purchase horses broken to saddle, up to weight, with good action,
sound in wind, aged between 4 and 6 years.
Prospective sellers and breeders were asked to present their animals for purchase at
Martyn's Horse Bazaar, 246 Pitt Street every Monday, Wednesday and Friday over August 1863 until
the quota had been filled. Breeders were given a special encouragement and
asked to inform Mayne how many they could supply. Later in 1863 a veterinary surgeon,
Mr. Anderson was sent by the New Zealand Government to supervise the export of military horses. Near the end of 1863 a contract
was let to a Sydney saddlery firm for the manufacture of saddles and other
materials required by mounted troops.
The "Sydney Morning Herald" reported that Colonel Pitt had made some efforts to enlist men from Adelaide,
and although the volunteering spirit may have been stirring other Colonies
in Australia, little interest was aroused in South Australia. However one Adelaide volunteer who enlisted as an officer distinguished himself, and his
story is told later.
In the third week of August 1863 some 60 men had been accepted in Sydney. Pitt arranged for the vessel "Kate" to transport the contingent, making careful arrangements aboard the vessel to remove the criticism
leveled at the New Zealand authorities respecting the short rations, niggardly accommodation, and general dissatisfaction experienced by an earlier
continent. Wary of these complaints, and no doubt aware of their Victorian origin, Pitt was anxious to create the right impression and lay to rest the simmering opposition he knew was growing in Victoria. The "Kate" was
accordingly made open for inspection for all who cared to see. Pitt declined an offer by a Volunteer Rifle Band to provide martial music for the volunteers as they marched to the clocks for embarkation. This again, no doubt reflected his desire not to 2ive any offence to those who might voice their opposition to recruiting. Horses and
equipment for the war, purchased by Francis Dillon Bell, were to travel with the contingent.
Enthusiasm for enlisting grew steadily. A squad of 12 men from the
Sydney Volunteer Rifles enlisted as a unit, one of them later being commissioned as an Ensign. A significant proportion of all the first contingents,
regardless of Colony of origin had a large number of serving volunteers. Pitt
with his experience, drew extensively on these men as Officers and
N.C.O.s. The importance of good character, as a condition of volunteering,
was supported by reports that large bodies of men in Sydney had been turned
away because they were unable to produce a character reference from a clergyman or
Magistrate ! It was suggested that these men would be unable to sustain the rigours of the war in New Zealand.
The day before the first 80 men sailed from Sydney, the clearest support was given the volunteers. The Maoris, declared the "Sydney Morning Herald", had provoked the war, and as a result it would be a hard standup fight. Auckland was under dire threat, while the line of defence south of Auckland must be adjusted to the military necessity of the day. "We are glad to learn that the Colonial Governments have all recognised their common obligation, and that our own has complied with every request from the sister colony to the extent of its power. This same spirit will animate the people, unless of course, it should be chilled by any failure on the part of the Government of New Zealand."
Reports were reaching Sydney of poor food and bad accommodation for volunteers on their arrival in Auckland. The rumours disturbed local opinion and reminded the recruiters that an army marches on its stomach. The authorities in New Zealand, suggested the press, would do well to look to the welfare of the men, especially if the cause was as worthy as Australians were led to believe.
At the time of departure for New Zealand of the first New South Wales Contingent, the "Sydney Morning Herald" had a great deal to say about what it considered the justice of the New Zealand
settlers cause. But clearly, at least to this stage, the recruiting drive had its support. "The guarantee of the Treaty of Waitangi has been forfeited,
(by the Maoris' and the discretion of the Crown in the disposal of the land is preferred,'' and, commenting on the land promised to the volunteers, "it is of
course not a question of conveyencing, but a political measure, and defensible on political grounds. The fee simple of all unsold lands in New Zealand is in the hands of the Crown." Military settlers had the right, by
virtue of their cause and the strength of arms, to the lands of the Maori.
Such statements as these were commonplace in New Zealand where public feelings viewed the Waikato Maoris as
virtually cannibal hordes ready to hack their wav through the homes of settlers bent on decapitating men, women and children. One futuristic comment
by the "Sydney Morning Herald" observed that this was the first time in their
history of the Australasian Colonies that New Zealand had sought help from her neighbours and hoped that it might be a long wav in the future before New South Wales, or the Australian continent sought the help of the New Zealand colonists.
The New South Wales contingent was assembled under the command of Ensign Robert James Coulter, formerly a volunteer in the Sydney Rifles. Pitt gave him a temporary commission to enable him to command the first 80 men of the contingent, Coulter's appointment being confirmed in the New Zealand Gazette of early September. The "Kate",
(Captain Sherlock), slipped ropes at 10.30 am. on the morning of 28th August 1863 to the brassy sounds of half the Sydney Volunteer Rifles Band. A crowd of over 500 people had assembled at the Patent Slip Wharf to cheer the vessel off, and apart from one man falling into the sea from the ship, who had to be rescued, the departure went without incident. As the "Kate" drifted from the wharf, the band played, "Speed the Plough", cheers were raised, and tears were not without notice among the ladies. "Kate" remained moored off Fort Denison until the early afternoon, when she weighed anchor and headed out towards the Tasman.
As in Victoria, the New South Wales politicians debated the implications of enlistment in their Colony. Captain
Moriarty, a supporter of the New Zealand position, moved in the September sitting of the Legislative Council, "That in the opinion
of this House, it is the duty of the Government of this Colony to afford with the least possible delay every available assistance to the
Government of New Zealand". Moriarty told the Council in stern terms that the
New South Wales Premier had not sent the maximum number of Imperial troops to meet the needs of the New Zealand request. Because of the lack of troops General Cameron was unable to bring the war to its conclusion.
He mentioned the contempt the Maoris had for the Imperial officers, calling them "old women".
Mr. Garrett interrupted Moriarty with the comment that matters were far less serious than Moriarty suggested. There being less than 2,000 Maoris under arms, he asked what 8,000 Imperial and 5,000 Colonial Troops were doing ? Moriarty called Garrett's interjection, "vulgar impertinence", amid laughter from the rest of the House. The Speaker ruled Moriarty out of order. The debate continued spiced with interjection and laughter.
Mr. Wilson suggested that Colonel Pitt's enlistment
programme would take, ''the best bone and sinew of the Colony". In the light of money spent by the New South Wales Government on immigration to the Colony, Wilson objected to recruiting for the New Zealand wars. He suggested that the war was work for regular Imperial troops and reinforcements ought to be sent by the Home
Mr. Sutherland said very little. He expressed the view that there was no requirement for Imperial troops in Australia, and that barracks would make excellent schools. "Why do we have two generals in Australia to command a handful of remaining troops?" questioned
Mr. Gangar. Mr. Harpur mumbled that the Council had very little say about the stationing of Imperial
troops. In opposing the Moriarty motion he complained, "nor can we spare the troops". In his reply before the vote, Moriarty eased off his implication of censure, requesting that every Imperial soldier in New South Wales be sent to New Zealand. The motion was put, and passed without division.
Reports arriving in Sydney indicated the satisfaction of the New Zealand public at the extent of recruitment. It was feared that rampaging Maoris would at anytime invade and destroy Auckland's population of 10,000. "We understand great satisfaction has been felt and expressed by the people of New Zealand at the cheerful and ungrudging spirit with which the Colonies of Australia have responded to their wants. The prompt despatch of soldiers from most of them, and the encouragement given to volunteers, has shown that there has been no indifference in that quarter to the peril of our fellow subjects. They will need all our aid." A steady market brought recovery to the Auckland Stock Exchange, lending some credence to the hope of the Colony's capitalists, that although the economy of the Government might be shaken, there was improvement in business. Some Australians were critical of New Zealand businessmen for the manner in which money was
channeled into many pockets as a result of the war.
Some volunteers from Brisbane in the ship "Clarence'' reached Sydney Harbour and were re-embarked onto the "Charlotte
Andrews". As soon as all were aboard the vessel pulled anchor and departed for Auckland. This appears to have been the only contingent enlisted from Queensland.
Like the "Melbourne Argus" the "Sydney Morning Herald" decided to send a war correspondent to New Zealand. He naturally concentrated on the military exploits of the N.S.W. contingent, which by the end of September 1863 numbered over 500 men, with another 150 still to go. This correspondent's articles began to appear in issues of the "Herald" after the 12th September, and like Willoughby of the "Argus", he appears to have visited the battle zone and regimental camps. His account of the first engagement of Australians (to be related in a later chapter) remains the only first-hand account available, apart from the official despatch published in the New Zealand Gazette. His writing is less gripping
than Willoughby's. Indeed his first sight of New Zealand left him virtually bereft of words ! "The best idea I can give you by words would fail to
convey so vivid a conception of this part of the country . . . " When he stood on the borders of the country promised to the military settlers he understood for himself that "the great difficulty which stands in General Cameron's wav is, in a word, the want of men . . . . ..
In planning the Waikato invasion, General Cameron turned the chief natural feature of the area to his tactical advantage, namely the Waikato River. The river was used as a waterway into the Maori heartland, giving entry into the centre of the King Country. Such tactics demanded ships, and the first of several gunboats was contracted for, and built by the Australian Steamship Navigation Company of Sydney.
Gunboat No. 3, as the first vessel was originally known, was designed by Mr.
E. 0. Moriarty, Colonial engineer for Rivers and Harbours. From design to launching took seventeen weeks, compared
with eighteen months for a similar vessel to be designed, built, and sent from England. The ship was specifically designed as a river gunboat, 140 ft. long, and clad with three-eights of an inch iron plate, No. 3 having a 20 foot beam. Fully laden with 300 men, 20 tons of coal, arms and supplies her draught was a remarkable three feet. The keel was adjustable and her forty HP engines drove a stern paddle wheel. Surrounding the vessel was a perforated steam pipe which could spray either steam or boiling water should an aggressor attempt to board her. Two iron turrets twelve feet high, and with slits for rifles, and 12 pounder Armstrong guns covered the extremities of the ship. If boarded, those surviving scalding, would certainly be killed in the crossfire from the turrets. No. 3 had three masts, schooner rigged and with her flat bottom could turn in her own length and was in short a vessel suited for
The New Zealand Defence Minister, Thomas Russell, issued instruction to Captain Mayne R.N., then commanding the H.M.S. "Eclipse", to proceed to Sydney and supervise the completion, arming and crewing of the vessel. Mayne left before the end of August 1863 to engage a crew, "as many as you may deem necessary," and to purchase the small arms required. Under his supervision, Captain Breton was appointed to Command and Lieutenant W. G. O'Callaghan chosen as first Officer. In the carrying out of these instructions Mayne selected a crew from the
Sydney area, many of whom had Royal Navy experience. There seems little doubt that New Zealand's river gun-boats were not only built by Australians but also had at least one crewed by them.
Final trials of the vessel were held in Sydney Harbour on the 14th September 1863. To mark the occasion 60 VIP's were taken along. Those on board included the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, the Secretary for Public Works, Hon. Capt. Ward, Hon. J. B. Watt, Hon. C. Kemp,
Mr. Dalgleish MLA, Mr. Richard Jones and Hon Francis Bell, the N.Z. Government agent and Minister for Native Affairs. The
gunboat made 9 knots down the harbour between Shark Point and around Cockatoo Island. Such a speed aroused considerable excitement, while in the Ward Room toasts were drunk to the success of British arms, Watt proposing the toast, and Bell responding. Congratulations were accorded to the designer of the vessel, while there was much talk among the ship building fraternity who could justly claim pride of workmanship in Gunboat No. 3 later named "Pioneer".
As the invasion of the Waikato continued, a protraction of the war was obvious. It was also certain that more gunboats would be needed on the river. Transport vessel were just as essential as gunboats. Thomas Russell sent an Auckland Civil Engineer,
Mr. Stewart, to Sydney to call tenders for two further gunboats. These were to be 80 feet long, and 20 foot in beam. The hulls were to be iron clad to a thickness of one quarter of an inch. Stewart was given a days notice to pack his bags and sail for Sydney. Departing on the "Claude Hamilton", Stewart arrived in Sydney about the time the "Pioneer" was undergoing final sea trials.
Stewart's instructions were: "to be ever mindful that it is of the utmost importance that these vessels should be constructed with the utmost despatch". The requirements for
further gunboats was so urgent that Stewart was told to have one boat built in sections, and then charter a ship and bring them to Port Waikato where the Government had established naval stores depot. For this purpose a vessel on charter to New Zealand required a draught of only 12 inches, and Stewart was reminded to take care in the selection of such a ship. Stewart advertised in Sydney papers calling tenders for the boats and the contracts were awarded to the Australian Steamship Navigation Company of Sydney. Ships were not all that was required of Sydney. Robert Gilfillan, Music Merchant, was presented with an order from the New Zealand Militia for 40 bugles and 20 cavalry trumpets with the proviso that they be
dispatched as quickly as possible.
By the end of October 1863 Sydney was certainly beginning to feel the effects of the war in New Zealand. Not only had 650 recruits sailed for the war, but contractors from leather merchants to ship builders were making money providing materials for an army of New Zealand Colonials of over 5,000 men. With the arrival of each ship in
Sydney or Melbourne, the "electric telegraph" would pass on reports to the press of the war, and a community of involved colonists waited anxiously the outcome of a battle which all believed must come. Meanwhile the trickle of recruits continued to enlist in Sydney making their may by chartered vessel to Auckland.
The New Zealand wars came to the attention of the Tasmanian Government when the Colonial Secretary received a request from the New Zealand Government for 500 Enfield rifles, then held in storage in Hobart. With the invasion of the Waikato in June 1863, and the buildup for the
military settler regiments, rifles and equipment had to be found. The weapons had been held in the Colonial Military Store pending issue to Tasmanian Volunteers. With the Imperial Barracks in Hobart the defence of Tasmania was largely the responsibility of the British, so the rifles had little possibility of use. The Commanding Officer, Hobart, passed the request to
Military Headquarters in Melbourne, underlining the New Zealand request, "as the want of arms in New Zealand is very pressing".
Melbourne Headquarters in turn asked the Hobart Commander if it was the wish of the Tasmanian Government to have the rifles replaced should they be shipped out to New Zealand. The delay this request caused produced an irate but firm "No" from the Colonial Secretary. Get the rifles off to New Zealand! Eventually 500 rifles and some revolvers were acknowledged by the
New Zealand Government as having arrived safely on 31st August, 1863.
Ships from Sydney, artillery from Victoria, rifles from Tasmania and a total of over 1,500 recruits by the end of November-1863 certainly drew the Australian Colonies into the New Zealand war.
By the time recruiting began in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria had already embarked over 1,400 men. However, Col. Pitt received ready
assistance from Lt. Colonel F. R. Chesney, Commander of the Hobart Barracks. All of the administrative support, most of the advertising, and a significant amount of goodwill and enthusiasm came from the Imperial officers and troops still in Hobart.
Recruits were invited to make applications to become military settlers at the barracks commencing on the 28th September, 1863. Tasmanians were specifically requested for written character references from either a clergyman or a magistrate and, if married, to make arrangements prior to embarkation for
pay allotments to be paid through the Oriental Bank. Proof that enlistees were in no way under an obligation to the Tasmanian Government as an assisted immigrant, or as members of the Tasmanian Volunteer Militia, were to be produced on enrolment. Special prohibitions respecting members of the Tasmanian Militia being forbidden by law to enlist as Military Settlers were published under Colonel Chesney's authority. Publicity was given to the responsibility of the New Zealand Government towards widows and the wounded, should this affect families in the future. It was made clear to all that a pension and lifetime responsibility rested with the New Zealand Government. In this recruiting effort there seemed less
emphasis upon the granting of land to prospective military settlers, although it was obviously part of the whole scheme. After his experience in other Colonies Pitt approached the Tasmanian recruiting with more care. He was sensitive now, to the charge that New Zealand was taking the best of Australia's young manhood. He sent two N.Z. Militia Officers to do the enlisting in Hobart. By the end of September 1863 Lieutenants Rickards and W. Percival had enrolled 33 men, eight of whom were married. Early in October Rickards moved on to enlist in Launceston.
In Hobart. a large placard had been prepared which was paraded around the town
publicizing the benefits of enlistment. This novel form of advertising New Zealand needs amused Hobart's citizens. As numbers of recruits grew, arrangements were made to charter the "Derwent Hunter" on the basis of ten pounds per head, with departure from Hobart arranged for the 7th October.
The day before departure a morning parade was called at the military barracks overlooking the town. The rather ragtag appearance of the men amused the
remaining Imperial troops, but the parade was taken seriously by the recruits. A group of 83 men, including 20 who arrived late the
previous night from Launceston by stage coach, formed the main body. "The Mercury" reported.
"not withstanding the exciting nature of the occasion there were not more than half a dozen of them under the influence of liquor". Lieut. Rickards was the parade commander, Percival the adjutant.
Lieutenant Ashton was given a temporary commission, so despite the prohibition
that serving members of Tasmania's Volunteers not be eligible to join. some obviously did. Some special provisions must have been made for Ashton, as he already held a commission in the Volunteer Rifles.
A surgeon, Dr Keen, was enlisted as medical officer and he traveled with the contingent to Auckland. Of the 83 men who paraded nine were married,
and 30 were from laboring jobs. One member had been a soldier and he appears to have been promoted corporal on the spot.
Lieut. Rickards called the roll at 2 p.m. and, forming marching order, the 83 men and four officers began their march to the Franklin Wharf to embark on the "Derwent Hunter". The column proceeded past the Custom House, where they were joined by a
detachment of 1st Hobart Volunteer Rifles under Lieutenant Solly, who formed an Honour Guard as the contingent boarded their vessel. The thunderous applause and cheering of thousands of well wishers gathered to see this small contingent off to war, was certainly the most spectacular farewell given any Australian Contingent.
As soon as the contingent was aboard the cables were slipped and the ship drifted into the current letting anchor down at Sandy Point. The thousands watching heard the reply of "three cheers" from the men aboard as they made their farewell to Tasmania. Once aboard the men were organised into Messes and equipment was issued. The "Derwent Hunter" lay off Sandy Point until the next day, when, at the request of the Hobart Magistrate, two men were arrested and taken off the ship. Another two failed to comply with a military order and were discharged on the spot. Visitors were allowed on board, and among them were the
Reverend Dr Wall, Vicar General, and Lt. Col. Chesney, the Imperial Barracks Commander. About mid-afternoon on the 7th October 1863 the "Derwent Hunter" raised anchor and sailed quietly for Auckland, her passengers eagerly awaiting a chance of glory and its rewards.
History had repeated itself with the departure of the contingent from Tasmania. Since the founding of the town, Imperial troops had played an important part in the development of Tasmania, primarily in their involvement with convicts. In 1845 the 99th Regiment was part of the garrison at Hobart Town, when Hone Heke chopped down the
flag pole on the Russell township hill. A section of the 99th Regiment was then sent from Hobart to North Auckland, where, after some difficult fighting, the
Maoris proved they were very much a match for the apparently invincible British Soldier.
When the Regiment returned to duties in Hobart in 1846 a large memorial to the fallen was erected within the Military Barracks. The memorial is well kept and maintained today by the Australian Regular Army, and is the only one in Australia relating to the wars in New Zealand. For
many years after the return of the 99th Regiment, discharged members who remained in Tasmania periodically gathered to remember their comrades who fell in North Auckland. As far as can be established this custom was carried on in Hobart until about 1910 when the survivors were well into their eighties.
During the recruiting in 1863 the citizens of Hobart had been arranging bazaars, and fetes of various kinds to raise funds for the wives and children of Imperial servicemen sent to New Zealand. Soldiers in Imperial Regiments were apparently forbidden to marry local girls, but this regulation seems to have been honoured more in the breach than its observance. The deployment of so many Imperials in New Zealand, and difficulties in getting pay back to families caused hardship among married men's families. Wives and children of Imperial troops stationed in Australia were not transported to New Zealand, as were some families of Regiments sent from India. Foremost among the
organizers of financial relief were the wives of Imperial officers serving in New Zealand. Overall, the Tasmanians raised some seven hundred and fifty pounds.
Within a week or so of the departure of the first contingent, a Tasmanian enlistee who sailed earlier with the Melbourne contingent wrote to his family in Hobart.
"I have just returned from the scene of action, which we designate 'the front', and hasten to give you an account of volunteer life while engaged on active
service. We marched on Wednesday to a place called Otahuhu, about ten miles from Auckland, and after remaining there for three days, proceeded 13 miles further up the road to a bivouac at Papakura. While stationed there news arrived to the effect that two men had been attacked and barbarously murdered by the Maoris. One was in the act of taking his breakfast and while having the cup to his lips, a volley was discharged through the windows, and the poor fellow died pierced with seven bullets.
The next was a much respected settler who while milking his cows was surrounded by these savages, and after they had submitted him to an excruciating death by burning, they tomahawked him. We passed the spot half an hour afterwards and brought his lifeless body into camp. Such a sight I never wish to see again, his wounds seemed to bid us avenge his death, and his sorrowing wife and orphaned children presented a picture which immediately aroused our indignation. After walking 20 miles we started on our quest of the foe. We scoured around for four hours, and after fruitless searching returned to our camp chagrined and
disappointed. Imagine yourself in the thickest bush at the Huon, and you will have a faint conception of the hardships we have endured. The woods here are studded with supplejack, a thing that resembles a rope, and with also prickly acacia, and
you run the risk of being strangled.
We were next to march to Wairoa where we erected a redoubt. About 180 strong, we were surrounded by upwards of some 3,000 Maoris. Every morning we have to be un by 4 o'clock and remain in either snow or rain under arms until 7 o'clock'! We are not allowed to walk about or speak, but keep our place with bayonets fixed and rifles ready, loaded( cocked and capped. We mount guard every night in the same style, and over the last month, out of every 24 hours we have had only three hours rest. Hard times indeed for five weeks. We slept with our clothes on, wet or dry. To give an indication of our
hardships out of all our number nearly all fell sick, and we were reduced to 40 men, the poorly being sent back with their rifles to the town to recover.
On a Sunday it is amusing to see the settlers escorting their families to church,
everyone with a rifle on his shoulder, capped, cocked, and there, in the House of God
you will find as many warlike arms as there were auditors,
We went out three times but could never come across the beggars though we could hear their
yells distinctly. We are now just back in town, but take the battlefield again in a week. I hope when I write again to inform you that Tasmania's Sons have not been behind in quelling an unprincipled insurrection, and bringing into subjection a rebellious race. Every man here is in arms.
Night patrols all around the town, the men performing the regular work of soldiers by living in barracks, and it is truly cheerful to see the alacrity with which they execute orders."
In mid-October 1863, Lieutenant Gregson of the Hobart City Guards was appointed to a temporary commission in the New Zealand Militia and instructed to undertake a supplementary recruiting programme in Hobart. Another officer, Lieutenant Smith, apparently volunteered to travel about Tasmania enlisting wherever men could be found.
From this point onward recruiting lost the support of "The Mercury with the blunt objection: "Hold-enough". "The Mercury" objected to the apparent windfall the war had given to New Zealand in encouraging immigrants to enlist as Military Settlers. Although the paper made it clear it supported the first contingent, it was opposed to any further recruiting. The paper described the war as a "population trap", the editor sailing close to insinuating that New Zealand Ministers were liars, respecting the promise of "land for service".
"The Mercury" suggested the peace moves which were being spoken of in New Zealand might come to fruition, and the war cease. What then was to become of both the promises, and the hundreds of men enlisted to fight in a war that might end? How would the New Zealand Government keep its promise to these men if a peaceful solution was found? "We ought not be a party to their scheme of military
colonization to our own detriment-further than is absolutely necessary for New Zealand's protection. We have called attention to this more than once." Basically, the opposition growing in Tasmania was based on the same argument as had appeared in Victoria. The migration of large numbers of fit young men, some with families, who were needed in the development of their own Colonies. "The Mercury" had little reason to fear peace. The war had already seen the investment of large sums of the Colonial taxpayers money, and it was widely believed that a military solution to the Maori problem was probably the only really satisfactory one.
Amid this public debate Lieuts. Smith and Gregson continued recruiting in Hobart, New Norfolk, and Glenorchy, embarking some 50 men aboard the
"Reliance" before the end of October 1863.
Some difficulty was experienced in New Zealand, in printing maps of the war areas. Under the direction of the Tasmanian Government Survey Office,
Mr. Piguient drafted a suitable map, and local engravers Messrs Walch & Son undertook publication. A few of these outstanding productions remain in museums, including a fine copy in the Tasmanian Government Archives in Hobart.
A third contingent was called for early in November, the reason, said the agents, was because of "vacancies caused by men having lost their passage. The 'Reliance' would sail again from Hobart on the 14th December 1863, intending recruits to contact T. De Burgh Miller, Enrolling Officer". The Hobart Barracks and the Franklin Hotel were the recruiting depots for this contingent.
By early December 1863 "The Mercury" was expressing the view that New Zealand was not entitled to further generosity. The New Zealand Government had the services of thousands of Imperial Troops, but the funding of the military settler scheme by the confiscation of Maori land was subject to serious misgivings. Public opinion in Tasmania was further hardened against the New Zealand cause because of the non-arrival of the pay allotted to the married families. It was one matter to go off to war for a cause, but it was another to leave wife and family on the charity of a community which had earlier been charged with the raising of troops.
Mrs. M. Evans of Campbelltown complained on Christmas Eve of 1863 that she could not raise the ten pounds required for her to pay
her fare to join her husband in New Zealand. "The mere pittance of a married volunteer allowed to his family, ten or fifteen shillings a week," made the saving of passage money well nigh impossible. This position was shared by almost
every married woman who had allowed her spouse to volunteer, drawn by the hope of land and opportunity. Destitute children, bereft of essentials needed to sustain life during a fathers absence, had been furthest from anyone's mind during recruitment. It appeared in Tasmania that the motive of the New Zealand Government was to get as many soldiers as quickly and cheaply as possible. The failure of the allotments in the first instance only gave credence to those who suspected the scheme was based on slender foundations.
One hundred and fifty-eight volunteers sailed from Tasmania by the 19th December 1863 and, "The Mercury" sincerely hoped, "this would be the last we shall hear of this movement in Tasmania". Emotions played against further enlistment, the population of Tasmania finding little sympathy for the wars. Just before Christmas Eve of 1863 an elderly lady was found wandering the dark streets of Hobart Town. When questioned she said that her son had gone off to the wars in New Zealand. She had been totally dependent upon him until the day of his departure and was now unable to sustain herself. This incident, perhaps more than any other, appealed to the prejudices of the Tasmanians, and when linked with a growing repugnance towards the war, the Hobart community successfully blocked off further support.
At the end of 1863 large numbers of Australians still continued to arrive in New Zealand to form the five regiments of military settlers. Some had already been in New Zealand and had enlisted in the Otago and Thames goldfields. Several hundred New Zealand colonists had enlisted under the same conditions. News had already come back to Australia that her volunteers had been in action. A Company of the
1st Waikato Regiment Military Settlers, mainly Victorians, had been defeated in their first action at Mauku and four of them were dead.
The newspapers portrayed the action with the usual dash of the military reporting of that age. There were not letters to the Editor, or any public grief or
outcry, on their deaths. The type of volunteer, including the few educated officers among them, did not seem to be of the real core of Australian society. For the most part they were opportunists and men seeking adventure, many of them of dubious character. Exceptions there were, and it was some of these who remained in New Zealand at the conclusion of their service who were the real loss to Australia.
The last recruits sailed for Auckland in mid-December, making little difference to the debate going on. A decision had already been made by the New Zealand Government some weeks before to cease enlistment in Tasmania. On receiving a request from Lt. Col. Chesney, the Hobart Commander, that his funds for recruiting be replenished, his request was declined. Perhaps it was the five hundred pounds needed to continue recruiting, or it may have been awareness of growing public opinion against the military settler policy.
The original draft of the letter written by F. D. Fenton, who was then Acting Clerk of the Executive Council, to Lt. Col. Chesney gives him approval to proceed with recruiting, and to draw additional funds. Written in the margin and dated 18th November 1863 is a correction, "that it is not now the intention of the New Zealand Government to continue recruiting in Tasmania".
Between the original decision to go ahead, and to stop recruiting in Tasmania lies an area of speculation. Putting the best light on it, the reasons may have been financial. The Hobart "Mercury" was
certainly happy with the decision.
"We are drilled three times a day. People from all over Auckland say we are the best in the country, the Tasmanian Contingent . . . . There are upwards of 2,000 soldiers and volunteers here." Private Edward Sykes, of the 3rd Waikato Regiment, son of a Hobart Publican proudly penned those words to his father from the regimental Camp at Otahuhu. Drill, smartness of dress, use of his rifle and discipline were the basic virtues required of the soldier settler. Training in minor tactics, so essential to today's infantry soldier, remained the complete responsibility of officers in the 1860's. "Captain Rickards", continued Sykes, "is
very anxious to get us on in our drill as quickly as possible, he wants to take us to the front, to be in the heart of it, in order that we might show him what we can do."
For most of the 2,400 men, who arrived at Auckland from Australia on the 23 chartered vessels between September 1863 and March 1864, the ten mile march to camp at Otahuhu was a difficult introduction to New Zealand. No sooner had ships berthed, than the various contingents were marched directly to the Waikato Military Settlers Headquarters and Training Camp. For most men, it would be their first appearance in uniform, and the march would break-in their boots. The basic equipment had been issued when they boarded en route for Auckland, and few men were encumbered by personal possessions that could not be carried in a single bag.
The Headquarters Camp had been established in late July 1863, with a staff of Militia, to cope with early recruits from the Otago and Thames goldfields. Among these were other Australians, plus a sprinkling of adventurers from many nations. A group of Germans were enticed by the opportunities of fighting for land. Locally recruited settlers helped establish the camp, while the Officer Commanding the New Zealand Colonial Forces, Major-General T. J. Galloway, fossicked about New Zealand seeking officers to command the new regiments. Galloway had lived in New Zealand since he gave up command of the 70th Regiment, (Glasgow Grey's), and had offered his services gratis to the New Zealand Government.
Glad to have the assistance of an experienced officer, he was appointed Local Forces Commander. He has not been given the credit, nor the place in history, that the first General Officer of the New Zealand Armed Forces deserves. Thomas Russell, the Defence Minister, accepted
Galloway's recommendations, and began writing to the various candidates, many
of them in civilian appointments, or retired from the Imperial Army.
The new regimental commanders then sought their own junior officers. Among them were a fair percentage of officers enlisted in the Australian Contingents, who were already experienced as trained
infantry Volunteers. For the most part the junior officers were a mixed bag, from the grossly inefficient, to the innovative and experienced. The former lacked the ability to control men and frequently failed to supply their needs, even when equipment was available.
Otahuhu Camp was really a transit camp for the hundreds of military settlers passing through Auckland in early 1864. Eight large corrugated iron huts were erected. Each had a narrow corridor down the centre and off to the sides were individual rooms intended to serve as temporary accommodation. It was fortunate that by the winter of 1864 nearly all of the troops had moved through the camp and were settling in the areas occupied by their regiments. A military hospital was also established, separate from that of the Imperial Army.
The New Zealand Local Forces (as the existing Militia was sometimes called), were now faced with the addition of what was, in effect, a regular army unit of modern brigade dimensions, plus supporting transport and commissariat units. By the end of 1864 there were five regiments, (the equivalent of
present-day infantry battalions) requiring rations, equipment and horses. Horses had to be
found, drays and carts built or commandeered, and redoubts erected. Communications by land and water were maintained including the building of a telegraph line from Drury to Auckland. The military authorities made this telegraph service available to civilians at certain hours.
When not training or fighting the troops were constantly on the move. Maori prisoners had to be guarded in Auckland, transport drays escorted, roads maintained, and bridges built on the Main South Road into the Waikato. The river gun-boats required experienced crews, and the number of boats stretched the availability of Naval Volunteer units to the limit, and necessitated the establishment of a Boat Service unit.
An urgent request for military equipment required by 5,000 men was sent to England with a letter from Sir George Grey pleading with the Duke of Newcastle, (Secretary of State for the Colonies), to give the order urgent and favourable consideration. Tents for 5,000 men, along with the same quantity of forage caps, great coats, leggings, boots, serge shirts, black field trousers, white ammunition haversacks, and 10,000 grey blankets were requested. (By the time the equipment arrived in New Zealand, the major engagements in which the Australians fought were over!) Much of the clothing initially issued to the Australians was to remain with them until time and wear reduced trousers and shirts to tatters.
Some of the requirements were contracted out to a Sydney tailoring firm, Chas K. Moore, of 125 York Street: "The sample great coat you sent is found to be much too small round the waist to allow room for the cartridge box and pouch. The Government hopes, as the coats are much needed; that if they are made up, they are of the same size and pattern as the military great coat. Otherwise, they are not according to the contract and useless for the purposes for which they are required." Obviously there would only be one size of greatcoat in this instance-large ones The authorities knew only too well that winter
would be upon them within a few months, and in the spring of 1863, the
possibility of bringing the war to a conclusion by winter seemed remote.
Complaints about niggardly rations and accommodation continued to filter through to Headquarters. Some men arriving in the "Kate" from the
Otago goldfields remonstrated bitterly against this treatment. "You will be
more careful," began the stiff letter from the Military Secretary to the
Dunedin agent, "both to the kind of vessel the men are sent in, and that proper provision is made for their comfort on the voyage." It is supposed
the "Kate" had already established a reputation among Australians as an unsatisfactory vessel for she had been chartered more than once between
Australia and Auckland.
Some of the men complained over the rum ration. Not every soldier
liked rum so a free weekly issue of tobacco was given as a substitute. Private
Sykes from Hobart wrote telling his father that he preferred the tobacco because he could sell it for two shillings and six pence, thereby supplementing
As the Regiments assembled the camp grew, and the facilities of a Forces
Canteen were organised on the same lines as in the Imperial Army, but on two shillings and six pence per day a private soldier with dependants in
Australia had little to spend on luxuries.
Since June 1863 the Local Volunteer units from Auckland and the
surrounding settlements had been serving virtually on a war footing. As the
summer drew to its peak it became obvious if gardens were not planted and harvests taken in, there would be little to sustain the population over the
following winter. James Mackay of Papatoetoe wrote to the Defence Minister
asking for some assistance from the Otahuhu camp to help bring in his hay.
He was informed that the Commanding Officers of both the 2nd and 3rd
Waikato Regiments had been given instructions to allow men to assist local
farmers to bring in the season's hay.
Amid the bustle of training, rural duties, supply and escort work, these untrained and untried troops were required
from time to time for garrison duties in Auckland. One of these functions was guarding Maori prisoners-of-war, and a detachment commenced their ten mile march late one afternoon
arriving exhausted the following morning, too late for duty. Enquiry revealed
the men had not been taken off normal daily training- General Galloway ordered that in future, a copy of the order requiring the men to report to
Auckland should be sent ahead of a verbal request. Army records at this
time reveal significant problems in orders failing to reach their destination
and it requires little imagination to visualize the chaos. Some officers apparently failed to comply with, "established customs and traditions of the
service", and the records Indicate senior officers not infrequently censuring
junior officers for their laxity in discipline. Drunkenness and brawls, not to
mention theft, under the guise of "spoils of war", were not uncommon acts and one officer who turned a blind eye to thefts by his men was nearly Court
Some of the Australians were very anxious to come to grips with the Maoris. The Imperial Forces and local Volunteers had up till now done most of the fighting and some of the new arrivals were concerned they would not see action and wanted transfers to other units more likely to get into battle.
Seventy men made application to join the Defence Force Cavalry, but failed to get approval. The Defence Force Cavalry were enlisted under different terms and not entitled to land grants. Only applicants, who signed an undertaking surrendering any right to military settler lands, were able to join. A large number found their way into the Transport Corps, and the Forest Rangers where the conditions of service appeared to be unaltered for Australians. Forest Rangers specialised in fighting within Maori held territory. The fighting was demanding, exciting and risky. The number of Australians who actually fought in the Rangers is not clear as they drew their Australian recruits by transfer, after men had been appointed to the Waikato Regiments.
By mid-October 1863 one Company of the 1st Regiment Waikato Military Settlers were in action patrolling the western boundary of the makeshift defence line between Auckland and the Waikato. Other companies, more ad-hoc than organised, were moving south taking over from frustrated Volunteers anxious to get back to their occupations and business. Military Settlers began fortifying the local churches, halls, and in some cases farm buildings.
A key engagement at Rangiriri on the Waikato, took place between the Maori's and the Imperial Forces, supported by the Colonial gunboats on 20th November 1863. The only Australians to take part in this engagement were professional soldiers of Australian origin, mainly officers, who were serving in the Imperial Army. These are mentioned in a later chapter. The Rangiriri battle produced an extent of casualties not yet experienced by Imperials; 47 officers and men killed, and 85 wounded. General Duncan Cameron was of the opinion the capture of Rangiriri had effectively broken the fighting spirit of the Waikato tribes. Privately, he hoped the Government would take the opportunity to parley. This was not the case, and the war continued with skirmishes, ambushes, burnings and opportunity killings of settlers by some Maoris.
The military and political situation in New Zealand after Rangiriri is better understood from the Australian viewpoint through reports, written by Australia's first war correspondent. Howard Willoughby was 24 years old when he came to New Zealand to report on the war. He had migrated to Victoria from England when he was 18 years old, completing his education in Melbourne. He joined the "Argus" in
1862, and according to one authority his coverage of the war was reported "brilliantly". He returned to Melbourne in late 1864 and wrote a series of articles opposing the transportation of convicts to Western Australia. From 1866 till 1869 he worked on the Victorian Assembly's Hansard staff, and then became editor of the "Daily Telegraph". He was a strong advocate of Federation and wrote extensively supporting the
movement. He was much loved by his fellow journalists in his older years, and was seldom seen without a book under his arm. He died in 1908.
Willoughby faced an initial difficulty in physically locating his fellow Victorians. The country was sparsely roaded, camps difficult to locate, and civilians not altogether welcome.
His words have descriptive vitality and an economy of language, which reads better than many war correspondents of a century later. Writing from the most advanced point at Ngaruawahia, where General Cameron had established his Headquarters in early December 1863, Willoughby writes a descriptive word picture of Imperials and Australians serving in the redoubts, stockades, camps and gunboats.
"Heavy convoys proceed to the front every morning giving an abundance of employment to the Commissariat and the Transport Departments. On the average between 30 and 40 drays, besides numerous pack-horses are escorted from Drury to Queens Redoubt each day, showing the immense amount of supplies needed for the sustenance of so many thousands of men. This morning, the Rangers, under Captains Jackson and Von Tempskey, and part of the Flying Column, started off on an expedition into the ranges. This is the proper course to pursue, to give the rebels no rest. I believe the men are taking three days rations with them. It is to be hoped the expedition will prove eminently successful, and we shall be anxious to hear the result". In this despatch, Willoughby recorded one of the earliest operations of the Rangers, at that time considered something of an experiment in bush fighting.
"There is a probability that Lt. Col. Pitt will visit Victoria
again for the purposes of obtaining more recruits. . . . the New Zealand authorities were well pleased with the Victorians as soldiers," continued Willoughby.
His reports reveal he was aware of a great deal of General Staff gossip, learning of important day to day decisions made in the course of the campaign. A despatch written a few
days before Christmas from Ngaruawahia reveals his closeness to events as they occurred.
"General Duncan Cameron returned to Ngaruawahia with his staff on the 17th (December 1863). To the surprise of all he was not accompanied by the Governor, Sir George Grey. It was planned on the Governor's arrival to hold a runanga, or discussion with the Maoris. Illness is the ostensible cause of the Governor's non-arrival, but the true reason is understood to be a difference between the Governor and his responsible
advisors;- as to how the Maoris, now suing for peace, should be treated. The Premier and the Colonial Secretary, Messrs Whitaker and Fox, two gentlemen who advocate
strong and popular views of treating the hostile natives as rebels were to have
accompanied the Governor, but declined their attendance.
The upshot of the matter was that at the eleventh hour when the Governor's baggage had been forwarded to the front, the visit was abandoned. Both the Governor and General Cameron seem to favour less harsh terms with the Waikato's who have acknowledged submission. The ministers however, desire that no
treaty should be made, that would be recognizing the rebels as belligerents,
but that they should be required to come in and surrender their arms and land unconditionally. At present the ministers appear to have carried the day, and rumour now has it that, instead of a peace, the war will be carried on until the insurrection is put down. If this is the case, then there is no doubt the Maoris have been treated most
unfairly, in fact, in a manner which savours of the discreditable."
Willoughby went on to write about the New Zealand settler opinion, which he personally found difficult to support. "With the public, the 'no terms', policy is in great favour, but with the troops, the feeling is that an effort should be made to conclude the peace. The troops (Imperial) know and respect the bravery of their opponents, and they bear them no ill will. Indeed it is common to hear the assertions from the cold campaigners that the Maoris are a better set than the Auckland people, to
whom avaricious greed for land is attributed. The truth as usual lies between both extremes." To some extent the last sentence disguises Willoughby's true feelings, for his polite but firm criticism of war policy as pursued by the New Zealand Government seems to grow from this despatch. Information about Col. Pitt's impending departure for Victoria may well have prepared the way for the blunt discussions between the representatives of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria and the New Zealand Government agents. These resulted in the immediate cancellation of further recruiting.
"The (New Zealand) Government, are quite earnest in their family
colonization plans, and are said to have authorised the expenditure on Colonel Pitt's part of
sixty thousand pounds. He is to leave on the mail steamer on the 1st January." (1864).
Willoughby's most bitter despatch to the "Argus" was written on Christmas
Day 1863. He describes the hardships of Imperial and Militia soldiers, particularly the hardships of the wounded from Rangiriri. He sensed the frustrations of some of his own countrymen at not being in the thick of battle. No doubt at the back of his mind were his own hardening attitudes towards the direction the war was taking. He saw that peace was
possible. This was not in the minds of the settlers. Knowing the private
opinions of Imperial Officers, he understood their bitterness as they considered themselves cannon fodder for settler land-grabbing. His feelings and opinions show
control and he is careful never to suggest failure on any important principle by Imperial Officers.
"Christmas day passed over very quietly in camp. Divine Service was celebrated morning and evening by Archdeacon Maunsell, and the men were relieved from all fatigue duties. Many of them had made provision for some raisins and currants weeks beforehand, and as flour could be obtained in lieu of biscuits, plum duff was not uncommon in camp. The Commissariat too, were fortunate enough to recover the cattle purchased from the natives, so that fresh meat could be issued. Had the army been within a hundred miles of Melbourne, (Ngaruawahia is slightly less than a hundred miles from Auckland), had it been fighting bravely and suffering hardships innumerable in the defence, and for the future enrichment of the Melbourne people, and were it known that for six weeks they had been living on salt provisions, I venture to say that the men would have had something beyond their ration allowance to keep the high holiday. That Christmas gifts would not have been unknown in the camp! "
All of Willoughby's despatches from this date express sympathy for the Imperial soldiers, in their hardships and shortages. The weather was frustrating, and the bugs, the grubs, and creeping things infuriating. The living conditions of the Australians in the Waikato where it was fifteen men to a tent, were likened, by Willoughby, to the proverbial sardines in a tin. The incessant summer rains maintained a perpetual dampness resulting in many cases of
rheumatics. Gambling filled the idle hours, with sums of money between thirty shillings and two pounds being wagered by private soldiers. Of the food, - "about the coffee, the less said the better, the tea is disgusting, and the meat sometimes good - that is for salt meat, - but it is sometimes uneatable. The biscuit in point of hardness can only be likened to cast iron! Breakfast consists of coffee, sugar and biscuit, dinner of boiled meat and biscuit, while the evening meal is composed of tea with another gnashing of teeth over rocky fragments playfully denominated bread. Young potatoes are had occasionally, but beyond that the country produces nothing."
Australians already had a wide reputation as accomplished beer drinkers. in the New Zealand war the lack of beer seems to have been a bitter bone of contention. "Worst of all the men complain that there is no beer available. Australians should imagine the situation of the Waikato force - 1,300 Englishmen - who for five weeks have lived off bread and salt-meat, and who have not seen a bottle of beer. They have to march without beer, they have to fight without beer, and they have to stand in the rain, the cold, and the heat, with a gill of rum as their only stimulation."
Willoughby never tired of describing the hardships, or complaining about the weather. He once referred to the tattered uniforms worn by the Australians as "Falstaffian". The single issue of military clothing obviously showed signs of wear! Blue shirts, black trousers and grubby boots lent an unkempt atmosphere, to the Australians appearance.
His praise for Bishop Selwyn, the Bishop of New Zealand and Senior Colonial Chaplain to the Militia, is worth noting. "The Bishop whose continued enthusiastic
efforts to promote the welfare of the Maori race has rendered him unpopular with the Auckland population ... is spoken of most highly by the Army. He is a man of unquestioned ability, and his style and force of preaching, I should say, unsurpassed in the Australian Colonies. He is said to exercise great influence over the men, and certainly, the attendance at evening services which are not compulsory, are nearly as well attended as the morning services which are compulsory."
Although iron bars, pitchforks and other items which might be manufactured by the Maoris into weapons were tightly controlled, newspaper reports of information, which today would be regarded as classified, did not seem to bother the authorities. Willoughby had a free hand, and ready access to military information which ' if published during a more conventional war, might have lent great advantage to an enemy. In this case, he reported in detail the disposition of Imperial Regiments, strengths of Colonial Forces, names of gun-boats and where they were serving. According to his reports in January 1864, there were in New Zealand 8,063 Imperial troops drawn from eleven units, supported by 9,637 full time, or part-time Colonial Militia, of which 2,400 had enlisted in the Australian Colonies.
Including men of the Royal Navy and Marines over 18,900 men faced an estimated fighting force of 1,300 poorly armed Waikato Maoris, supported by 1,300 less organised warriors in Taranaki and the East Coast. The Maoris were woefully short of military equipment. Willoughby made no wild estimates of 15,000 armed Maoris, or even 5,000 as was the more commonly accepted figure at the time.
Howard Willoughby remained with the Australians for several months growing more disgusted at the land lust which seemed to him second nature to New Zealand settlers. He saw a rift widen between the Imperial Staff and the Colonial Government. He reported on incidents of gun running and powder smuggling, a subject which raised the hackles of the settlers. These activities could not be policed as most of the fledgling New Zealand Navy was river-borne in gun-boats on the Waikato.
In the General Assembly it was mentioned that arms and powder were being offloaded at Stewart Island. Later, it was taken by sea to the East Coast of the North Island, presumably taken overland to the Waikato tribes who were doing the fighting. The easily procurable double
barreled shot-gun, or "tu-papa" remained the most popular fighting weapon of the Maori, and despite restrictions, it was obtainable commercially. Little escaped Willoughby's attention, and the Australian press was well served by this man with a gift for description. He wore no uniform, nor press badge, yet of known war correspondents covering the New Zealand war his reports are by far the most thoughtful and constructive.
At the end of 1863 three Regiments of Waikato Military Settlers had already moved out to their tasks. Each of them had established an area of responsibility on the edge of the Waikato in what came to be called the "King Country". Some Companies of the Settlers had been in the field since early October.
By the beginning of 1864 the war entered the final stages, but for hundreds of enlisted Australians anxious to come to grips with the Maoris, mounting frustration and bitterness would sour many of their hopes. The Imperial troops were sick of the war, and General Cameron was talking publicly of the war having little aim other than the acquisition of land. However, the Colonial Government was determined to have absolute submission, and to this end the war policy went on.