Memorial for William Stewart and Matthew Hodgkins, who were killed at Ōhaeawai.
British commander Henry Despard’s decision to assault the modern pā of Ōhaeawai on 1 July 1845 was roundly criticised in terms ranging from ‘stupidity’ to ‘lunacy’. Major Cyprian Bridge recorded that after the assault he and his men were ‘tired and dispirited and disgusted beyond expression at having been defeated by a mob of savages and with such fearful cost too’. Bridge criticised Despard for not attacking the pā at its most vulnerable point, but to be fair to the colonel the level of concealment achieved by the outer fence made it difficult to know exactly where this weak point was.
Despard was nearly 60 and had not seen active service for almost 30 years and was perhaps no longer up to running a campaign. Despite the criticisms of some of those who survived the assault that day, he continued to enjoy the support of his Australian-based superior, General O’Connell, and Governor Robert FitzRoy.