Ōtāhuhu is 13 km south-east of central Auckland, on a narrow strip of land between an arm of Manukau Harbour and the estuary of the Tāmaki River. Ōtāhuhu was established as a military settlement in 1847, one of a number of towns garrisoned by former imperial soldiers that protected Auckland from any threat of attack by Waikato Māori.
In July 1860, a military blockhouse was completed on Ōtāhuhu’s Canal Reserve. The timber and corrugated iron structure was enclosed by an earth bank and ditch. Its construction was a prelude to rapid military expansion in the fledgling settlement.
From April 1860 the 3rd Battalion Auckland Militia Regiment was headquartered at Ōtāhuhu. With an uneasy truce established in Taranaki, the first British troops – a detachment of the 70th Regiment – arrived at Ōtāhuhu on 14 May 1861. They were based at the new military camp that had been built just north of the main settlement.
According to one historian, Camp Otahuhu ‘was rather badly organized in the first hurry of war preparations’. Inferior accommodation, poor food and inadequate sanitation caused much sickness among the troops. The memoirs of one 70th Regiment officer, the future General George Greaves, give an insight into conditions at Camp Otahuhu.
We had a not very lively time in that camp... it rained incessantly. We encamped on a beautiful grass field of alluvial soil, which became liquid mud ... Timber was collected and the men commenced building huts for themselves and the officers
By the end of May 1861 nearly 3000 soldiers were concentrated in and around Auckland. Of these, two-thirds were camped near Ōtāhuhu.
Ōtāhuhu became a base from which troops moved south to invade the Waikato. On 24 December 1861, British troops were despatched from the camp to extend the Great South Road southwards to the Waikato River.
By July 1863, when the invasion began, Ōtāhuhu was one of the principal British bases on the Great South Road. The large tented camp was fortified with a stockade, and a small military hospital was being planned. This would stand adjacent to Ōtāhuhu’s Anglican cemetery, a ‘neat burial-ground’.
Ōtāhuhu’s first Anglican church, Holy Trinity, was located on the corner of Church and Luke Streets. Work on the building began in late 1851. As the military presence in the town increased, the church became too small for its congregation:
For some years the church at Otahuhu has satisfied the wants of the parishioners, but since the rapid advance this township has latterly made – owing to the establishment of a military camp in the neighbourhood – the present building has been found too small. Moreover the site of the present church is such that its approach is impassible during the winter months
The old church building was relocated to a new site in Mason Avenue – closer to the village near the Great South Road – and converted into a schoolhouse. A new and larger church was formally opened next door to the site of the old building on 27 December 1863. The Anglican cemetery remained to mark the former site.
The latter site, known today as Holy Trinity Memorial Park, covers 0.4 ha on the east side of Church Street. The park contains two mass graves of British troops who were killed in action or died in active service during the New Zealand Wars. Records of the Department of Internal Affairs state that one grave contains the remains of 150 troops, the other 20 to 30.
Official casualty lists identify at least 13 men who died at Ōtāhuhu. It is likely, though not certain, that these men were buried at Holy Trinity cemetery.
|Last Name||First Name||Regiment||Regt No.||Date of Death||Place of Birth||Trade||Enlist-
|Private James||2nd Bn, 14th Foot||1090||19/??/1863||Thurles||Tailor||9 Feb 1859|
|McDonagh||Private Patrick||2nd Bn, 14th Foot||847||12/08/1864||Kildangan||Groom||10 Nov 1858|
|Fitzgibbon||Private James||2nd Bn, 14th Foot||1455||17/10/1866||unknown|
|Walsh||Sergeant Martin||70th Foot||2623||29/09/1864||Clonoughty||Labourer||31 Mar 1847|
|Plunkett||Private James||2nd Bn, 18th Foot||1639||15/07/1864||Roscommon||Tailor||22 Apr 1854|
|2nd Bn, 18th Foot||249||17/12/1864||Blackburn||Servant||19 May 1858|
|Private James||2nd Bn, 18th Foot||1448||31/03/1866||Newcastle||Labourer||1 Mar 1861|
|Dudley (Dudby)||Private Francis||43rd Foot||2919||27/12/1864||Stoneyford||Labourer||30 Mar 1852|
|Power||Private Andrew||43rd Foot||3297||27/12/1864||unknown||31 Mar 1847|
|Kearns||Private Peter||50th Foot||3928||03/01/1865||Dublin||Servant||7 Feb 1854|
|Perkins||Private Michael||50th Foot||53||26/11/1864||Tipperary||Labourer||19 Feb 1856|
|50th Foot||4149||04/03/1866||Gorey||Labourer||17 Feb 1854|
|Bellew (Bellen)||Private Thomas||2nd Bn, 14th Foot||277||20/11/1863||Tynemouth||Draper||14 Sept 1857|
Holy Trinity Memorial Park also contains six individual New Zealand Wars graves. Little is currently known about the death of Staff Assistant Surgeon John Anderson on 12 April 1865. Further research is also required into the accident that killed 39-year-old Colour Sergeant William Fogarty of the 65th Regiment on 14 May 1863.
Contemporary newspapers reported the deaths of the other four men. Australian solicitor Major Walter Vernon Herford, of the 3rd Waikato Militia, was wounded at Ōrākau between 31 March and 2 April 1864. The ‘gallant officer’, who was ‘conspicuous for his bravery’, had been shot in the eye, a wound that was initially deemed ‘hopeless’. However ‘careful medical treatment’ and the ministrations of his wife allowed Herford to go home to Ōtāhuhu.
His wound was, however, so severe, both from its nature and the fact of the medical men not being able to extract the ball, which they believed to be still in the head, that Major Herford never satisfactorily recovered, and at times suffered such agony as to render him perfectly insensible.
The unfortunate Herford ‘gradually sank’. The 35-year-old died at his home on 28 June 1864 and was interred at Holy Trinity cemetery three days later.
Captain Oates Joseph Travers of the 70th Regiment died at Penrose Farm on 4 December 1864. Travers had sustained serious injuries to his leg and ankle after being thrown from a gig – a light two-wheeled carriage drawn by one horse – a week earlier. Travers’ funeral at Ōtāhuhu on 7 December was conducted with full military honours.
Royal Artillery Staff Surgeon Robert Storey committed suicide at Camp Otahuhu on 7 February 1865 following an illness. Storey left behind a wife and a child who had been ill for some time. This was apparently ‘a source of great concern’ for the 30-year-old Yorkshireman, who was ‘passionately fond’ of his child. Immediately before his death, Storey feared that his child had died. According to the Daily Southern Cross, ‘no cause can be assigned for the suicide beyond the temporary derangement of deceased’s intellect induced by prostration of body’.
Victoria Cross recipient Lieutenant John Thornton Down of the 57th Regiment died at Camp Otahuhu on 27 April 1866 and was buried at Ōtāhuhu the following day. Down had contracted typhoid fever – a disease transmitted by the consumption of food or water contaminated by the faeces of an infected person – during a voyage from Taranaki to Auckland. The 24-year-old had won his Victoria Cross for his bravery in action at Poutoko in Taranaki on 2 October 1863.
Luke Street mass grave
Plaques [A] and [B] (identical)
Here lie the remains of men / who served their / Queen and Country / in the Maori Wars of 1863–65 / “They live in memory by their deeds”
Plaque [C] – missing
Church Street mass grave
This plaque is to commemorate troops who were / stationed in Otahuhu during the Maori Wars and / were buried in this cemetery. / They were attached to the following regiments: / 1st Battl. West Yorkshire Regiment (14th Foot) / 1st Battl. Middlesex Regiment (57th Foot) / 1st Battl. York & Lancashire Regiment (65th Foot) / 1st Battl. Durham Light Infantry (68h Foot) / 2nd Battl. Lancashire Regiment (40th Foot) / The Suffolk Regiment / The Royal Irish Regiment / Royal Artillery / Transport Corps / Imperial Staff Corps / 3rd Waikato Militia (a Colonial Force)
Here lie the remains of men who served their / Queen & Country in the Maori Wars of 1863–65 / They live in memory by their deeds.
Sacred / to the memory / of / Robert Storey, Esq. / late Staff-Surgeon, / Royal Artillery, / only son of E. Storey, Esq. / of Helensburgh, Yorkshire, England, / who died at Camp Otahuhu / 7th February 1865, / aged 30 years. / Erected by his brother officers of / all branches of the Army in N.Z.
In loving memory / of / Color Sgt / Wm. Fogarty. / H.M. 65th Regt. / Died at Camp / Otahuhu / through an accident / May 14th 1863 / in his 40th year. / Native of Cork, / Ireland
Sacred /to the memory of / Lieut Col John Gray / late of H.M.’s __ [?] Regiment of __ [?] / who died at __ [?] / April 7 1850 aged 55 years / __ [?] lamented by family and friends __ [illegible] / Also / Barbara / relict of the above / who departed this life / July 30 1882
Sacred / to the memory / of / John Thornton Down V.C. / Lieut. 57 Regt. / who died at Camp Otahuhu / April 27th. 1866. / Aged 24½ years. / This tablet is erected by his brother / officers.
Sacred / to the memory / of / Staff Asst. Surgeon / John Anderson. M.B. / Died April 12th. 1865 / aged 39 years
Walter Vernon / Herford / Major 3rd Waikato / Militia / wounded at Orakau / died June 28 1864 / aged 35 years
In / memory of / Oates Joseph Travers, Esq. / Captain H.M. 70th Regiment / who departed this life at / Penrose / on the 4th December 1864 / aged 32 years. / This stone was erected / by his brother officers