This memorial obelisk, positioned on a hillock distinctive for its single cabbage tree (tī kōuka), stands on farmland 120 m from Beach Road in Rangitukia, a tiny settlement at the mouth of the Waiapu River 5 km north-east of Tikitiki on the East Coast. The memorial marks the graves of five colonial troops who were killed between July and October 1865, when a small Pākehā force was based in the Waiapu area.
Most of the fighting on the East Coast during the New Zealand Wars occurred between June 1865 and October 1866. Hostilities were provoked by the arrival of Pai Mārire supporters – Hauhau – in various parts of the East Coast in early 1865, and the killing of the missionary Reverend Carl Völkner in Ōpōtiki on 2 March.
The Ngāti Porou iwi was soon split between supporters and opponents of Pai Mārire. Hone Pohe was one of the new faith’s principal advocates in the Waiapu district. The leaders of the anti-Pai Mārire faction included Rāpata Wahawaha of Te Aowera, Mōkena Kōhere of Te Whānau-a-Rerewa, Hēnare Pōtae of Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare, and Hōtene Porourangi.
The first outbreak of fighting, described by one historian as the ‘Ngati Porou civil war’, occurred between June and October 1865. Several early clashes took place between Hauhau and anti-Pai Mārire factions in the Waiapu Valley, including skirmishes at Mangaone near Pukemaire on 10 June and another at Tikitiki on 20 June. After initial defeats, the anti-Pai Mārire faction appealed to the government for assistance.
The government sent arms and a company of military settlers and some Hawke’s Bay volunteers commanded by Brevet-Major James Fraser and Lieutenant (later Major) Reginald Biggs. The force, some 100 men, landed at Te Awanui near the mouth of the Waiapu River on the night of 5 July 1865. Kōhere’s coastal pa, Te Hātepe, was the colonial force’s base during their operations around Waiapu.
One of the five men buried at Rangitukia appears to have died not long after the force arrived. According to the Hawke’s Bay Herald, military settler Private Walter Laurie was wounded severely in the neck on 19 July in a skirmish against Hauhau outside Kōhere’s pā. It is unclear when Laurie died; his name is not found on official casualty lists.
Fraser and Wahawaha marched on Pukemaire on 3 October. Their force of nearly 400 colonial and kūpapa troops included some 50 Forest Rangers under Captain Charles Westrupp and Lieutenant Ross, who had landed from HMS Brisk the previous day. Pukemaire was a ‘formidable’ position 10 km from the camp; the trenched hill with two connected pā was defended by several hundred Hauhau. After a day of fighting in pouring rain, the colonial force returned to Te Hātepe with two fatal casualties.
One of the dead troops was Private Greaves (or Greeves). According to a report in the Hawke’s Bay Herald on 24 October:
Greeves, a military settler, exposing himself too much while delivering his fire, was hit, the bullet entering his waist belt and coming out at his back close to the spine. He was immediately carried away; while Sergeant Hodges, Lance Corporal Watts, and Keegan, a military settler, were detached … to draw the fire of the enemy from the wounded man… Greeves (one of the last men who joined the M. S.) expired in a few minutes after, suffering great agony but sensible to the last, and engaging in prayer.
The second casualty was Private Christopher Borthwick (or Brothwicke). Again, the Hawke’s Bay Herald reported the circumstances of his death:
The force arrived home [at Te Hatepe] about half-past 6, considerably exhausted, no food having been obtained since the evening before. Unfortunytely [sic], as the men passed the church at Rangituki [sic], a military settler named Christopher Borthwick fell out, being exhausted, and was not missed till two or three hours after arrival at camp. A party was then sent in search. He was found on the ground in a state of prostration, and was brought to camp about 10 o’clock. He was promptly attended by Dr. Grace, but, notwithstanding the use of every means for his recovery, he died in course of the night.
Greaves and ‘Brothwicke’ were buried at Rangitukia on 5 October. Major Fraser read the burial service, with ‘all the troops and a large concourse of natives attending at the solemn rite’.
The Otago Witness reported Henry Moore’s death as the result of a ‘sad accident’ at Waiapu on 6 October:
The schooner Success arrived here from Napier, and brought up in the bay. As the whale-boat was putting off to her she swamped, and four of her crew jumped overboard into the heavy surf. Two reached the shore comparatively unexhausted. One was rescued with much difficulty and was insensible… the other, Henry Moore, of the Volunteers (a man beloved and respected by all his comrades), was, I regret to state, drowned. It appears he was a splendid swimmer, and, as he sank all at once, it is thought he was seized with the cramp, or was struck on the head by a wave. His body has not been recovered.
It is unclear whether Moore’s body was ever found. It is possible that his ‘grave’ at Rangitukia was a memorial rather than his final resting place.
Pukemaire was captured by colonial and kūpapa forces on 9 October. The Hauhau retreated north through rugged bush country to Hungahunga-toroa – ‘Down of the Albatross’ – pā, about 30 km from Waiapu. They surrendered after a small force led by Wahawaha and Biggs scaled the cliff above the pā and fired down into it.
Lance-Sergeant Dearlove (or Deerlove) was ‘severely wounded in left arm and left fore arm’ at Hungahunga-toroa on 11 October. Of the men buried at Rangitukia, he is one of only two named on the official casualty lists (the other is Greaves), which give his date of death as 11 October.
The Hauhau surrender at Hungahunga-toroa eliminated Pai Mārire in the Waiapu area. At Kōhere’s request, Ngāti Porou Hauhau were spared execution and later made to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. From this time, Ngāti Porou as a whole supported the government.
The five Rangitukia graves were originally marked with a wooden headboard, which is now held by Tairāwhiti Museum in Gisborne. The headboard was replaced by a bronze plaque in 1963. The third memorial marker on this spot, the obelisk seen here, was erected by the government on 29 April 2004.
This monument / erected by the / New Zealand Government in / 2004 / replaced the original wooden headboard of / June 1885 / which is now in the / Tairawhiti Museum, / Gisborne.
Erected by the / New Zealand Government / to the memory of the / undermentioned / Hawkes Bay Volunteers / who fell in action at Waiapu / during the New Zealand Wars / of 1865 / Sergeants C. Dearlove / C. Borthwick / Privates W.D. Laurie / H. Moore / C.M. Greaves / R.I.P.