Wednesday, 18 May 2011
NZ Wars - Maori (2)
Grey, the new governor, was ambitious and young. Aged only 33 (in contrast to Colonel Despard, who was 60), Grey was determined to bring the colony to heel and issued an ultimatum to Heke and Kawiti which they could never accept. Grey then marshalled the forces available throughout the country and received reinforcements that had been sent from as far afield as India. His army grew to some 800 regular infantry, a naval brigade of 400, 450 friendly Maori and a dozen cannon of various calibres. He ordered Despard to attack the new pa at Ruapekapeka. Dragging heavy artillery through the bush required a huge effort and the force took 3 weeks to reach the pa. The bombardment began on New Year's Eve, 1845. At some stage Heke managed to sneak into the pa with 60 warriors.
By 10 January 1846 the guns had created a breach in the pa's outer palisade. The next day, Despard's Maori scouts reported that the pa had been abandoned and British troops moved to take possession. Whilst Kawiti and a dozen warriors were still in the pa, the majority were outside and the British were attacked by Maori firing from the bush (it's unclear whether this was a pre-meditated ambush, or whether the garrison were outside at prayer) and after a 3-hour fire-fight both sides withdrew. The abandonment by the Maori of Ruapekapeka again led the British to claim a substantial victory. But Grey knew that again a convincing military success had again eluded the British, and it appears that Maori casualties were lower than those of the British (which were about 45). Moreover, Heke and Kawiti were still at large. Belich believes that the Maori plan was to lure the British into an ambush, where hidden Maori could catch their enemy in the open. This is interesting given the slaughter of the attack on Ohaeawai, but the Maori strategy may have been to wear down the British by making them attack inland pas in difficult terrain. Captain Collinson of the Royal Engineers wrote: "1100 men were occupied a full month in advancing 15 miles and in getting possession of a pa from which the enemy escaped at the last moment, and escaped with the satisfaction to him of a drawn battle. The question is, was it worthwhile to go through all that laborious march to obtain such a result?" (Nowadays, driving through West Auckland prompts much the same feeling.)
The figures shown here are further Maori sculpts from Empress Miniatures, plus Heke again. Unfortunately, there will be a gap in posts until Saturday as work requires me to leave London for a couple of days.