The Treaty of Waitangi of February 1840 created New Zealand as a British colony. Designed to alleviate tensions between the Maori and white settlers (or pakeha), the treaty was interpreted differently by the two sides and friction between Maori and settlers increased in the years following its signing. The central issue was the settlers' desire for land and the Maori's reluctance to accommodate that desire. Within a few years conflict broke out, with the first blood being shed in Nelson at the top of South Island. The first prolonged period of fighting, however, took place in the Bay of Islands, to the north of Auckland in North Island; the First New Zealand War, or "Flagstaff War" or "Northern War", broke out in January 1845 and continued until January 1846.
Local chiefs of the Ngapuhi tride in the Bay of Islands area, Kawiti and Hone Heke (the nephew of Hongi Hika who we met in the previous post) objected to British rule, although part of this appears to have been frustration at the economic consequences of the authorities' decision to transfer the capital of New Zealand from the town of Kororareka (renamed Russell soon afterwards) to Auckland. The Maori demonstrated their anger by cutting down the Union Jack flag pole at Kororareka, the symbol of British sovereignty. On 11 March 1845 Maori under Hone Heka and his ally Kawiti attacked Kororareka, a battle which Roly Hermans has recently worked into a Sharpe Practice scenario.
The attack was a disaster for the British. The forces in the town consisted of 140-odd soldiers from the 96th Foot, sailors from the sloop HMS Hazard and marines. The townsfolk contributed some 200 armed men to this force. The Maoris are thought to have fielded between 500 and 600 warriors. Defences around the town included 2 blockhouses and a stockade. These were taken by the Maori and the British garrison was put to flight. The soldiers and civilians both sought refuge in the ships lying at anchor in the harbour and Kororareka, the 5th largest town in New Zealand, was abandoned.
As they were the first combatants against the Maori, before British forces became involved, I thought I'd start with the settlers. These 4 figures form one pack in the Empress Miniatures rage. I was originally unsure about the top hats. I appreciate that people did wear them in the 1840s, but when going into battle....? Also, spectacles on a figure seem to be a Paul Hicks trademark - neat, but a pain to paint! Anyway, the range could usefully do with another couple of packs of civilians and hopefully they may be forthcoming. In the meantime, I'll be looking at other ranges, particularly the Perry ACW rioter figures. Below are a couple of photos of the area today. On the left is the harbour at Russell. The picture on the right shows the Bay of Islands from the Waitangi treaty grounds.
4 figures. Painted April 2011.