Nukumaru Battle (part 1)


The "Battle of Nukumaru" took place near Paetaia Lake, which is at the end of Paetaia Road, a few km's south of Waitotara


Video & Story Credits: Darren Ngawera,  A walk through old South Taranaki with a Maori Descendant

A walk through old South Taranaki with a Maori descendant is one persons research and collection from various sources, centered around the documentation of the Maori prisoners sent to Otago in 1869.

 Battle of Nukumaru

 The "Battle of Nukumaru" took place near Paetaia Lake, which is at the end of Paetaia Road, a few km's south of Waitotara. The actual battle site is probably around the house and sheds that can be seen in the video behind the group of trees, and may have also moved onto the land in front of that property and along that side of the lake. The gully's in the area, were most likely used as cover to get as close to the troops as possible before the attack. 

There is an old map that shows the British armies camp on the other side of Paetaia Lake, on the flat below the area where the rows of young pine trees can be seen on the hills. General Cameron's army had just started their invasion of the district and had pitched camp in that area around the 25th January 1865. The Maaori army had a number of local tribes from the area and throughout Taranaki but also numerous supporters had come from as far as Otaki too Waikato, and had gathered at Weraroa paa to oppose General Cameron's march into South Taranaki. 

The prophet Te Ua Haumene was at Weraroa paa and according to Tu Patea, the Maaori warriors were under the fighting chief, Patohe Te Ngohi, the brother of Hone Pihama.The paa Nukumaru was recorded to be around half a mile from the British camp and is where the fighting started and also where the British officer Johnston was killed by Pita Weka, it is just out of the video shot and probably a few hundred meters from the house and sheds. 

A newspaper would publish Brigadier-General Waddy's report: "When I formed the camp close to the Paetaia Lake, and about half a mile from the small native village of Nukumaru. Immediately after the camp had been formed I ordered out picquets, and, as a picquet of the 18th Regiment approached a bush close to the village which I considered necessary to occupy, it was fired upon by a party of rebels, who quickly retired and took up a strong position at the edge of the bush, further away from the village. The men of the picquet got under cover behind a railed fence with a small ditch. 

Firing was kept up by both sides until dusk, after which it gradually slackened, and ceased altogether at midnight. "It is with deep regret I have to report the loss of the service of Lieutenant Johnston, 40th Regiment, Deputy- Assistant-Adjutant-General, a most zealous and gallant officer, who proceeded with the picquet to see it posted as I had directed. He was mortally wounded soon after firing had begun, and died next day at noon…I have also to report that about 2pm of the 25th January the outlying picquets were suddenly attacked by the rebels in large numbers, who managed to approach under cover of the high fern and flax plants unperceived until close upon the sentries; after a short resistance the picquets were over powered and forced to retire. Immediately after the fire commenced all the troops in camp got under arms, and I sent a reinforcement to each picquet of 100 men. 

The attack on the left was at once checked and the Maoris were soon driven back, but on the right they advanced with great determination and pushed on through the village of Nukumaru. Into this bush the Royal Artillery having moved to the right at the same time as our cavalry, fired some rounds from the two Armstrong six pounder guns, and the Maoris soon retired from it. Considering the very difficult nature of the ground across which the cavalry had to move their advance was rapid and their charge effective. "Two wounded Maoris were brought into camp; one of them is Te Arawa, eldest son of Pumipi Ngatimaniapoto, a leading chief and I believe a relative of Rewi. Both these men said that 600 Maoris came on to the attack of our position." Daily Southern Cross, 18th August 1865.

I am not sure if the newspaper has spelt Te Arawa's name right but I have put everything as the paper wrote it.The full accounts of the British armies numbers, regiments involved and their version of the battle can be found in James Cowans book New Zealand Wars, vol 2. Amongst the soldiers, are some who recorded the armies journey with paintings and sketches, one of these painting's incudes some of these soldiers at Nukumaru paa or a "Picket at Nukumaru", and shows some of the whare, this can be seen by googling "Picket at Nukumaru".This attack on a British camp in the open had never been experienced by British soldiers in New Zealand and although the Maaori had less numbers, older weapons and amongst their warriors were old men and young boys, the attack left the British officers rattled enough, that their army would move further towards the coast and avoid the bush altogether, The British reported 17 killed and they were buried in the hills behind their camp and near the lake.

The army also recorded finding eleven Maaori killed, that they also buried a little further back from the soldiers, although Tu Patea records 23 Maaori killed, its likely some were carried off the field of battle. Those of the British killed and buried in this area, would later be exhumed and reburied at Whanganui Cemetery but the Maaori killed at this battle still remain in two graves, that were said to be close to where the British soldiers cemetery was. Some newspapers briefly record the Maaori burial areas as behind where the soldiers were buried, one writes the location as: "a little in the rear of our men" (New Zealand Herald, 6th February 1865), and another writes: "remains of a mound at the N.W. end of the burying ground, where a number of natives were buried in one grave" (Wanganui Chronicle, 5 April 1892).

There is a map from 1886, and shows the location of the soldiers graves, which is in the hills beside where British camp use to be, these hills are now filled with rows of young pines, that I mentioned earlier and can be seen in the video, the Maaori graves are probably in the same hills.In James Cowans book "New Zealand Wars" vol 2 he interviews Tu-Patea te Rongo and Te Kahu-Pukoro about Weraroa and the battle at Nukumaru, the following is their accounts:"Among the Hauhaus who fought at Nukumaru was the late Te Kahu-Pukoro, the Ariki of the Ngati-Ruanui Tribe. 

Te Kahu-Pukoro, was then only a lad of about thirteen, but he had already fought and been wounded at Sentry Hill. Describing the attack on Cameron's camp, the old warrior declared that it was a pakanga pai (an excellent fight), in which the opposing armies met in the open and got to close quarters. Armed with a gun, he took part in the charge into the General's camp and fought again on the following day. It was a more satisfactory battle than the affair at Sentry Hill in the previous year, where all the odds were against the Maori braves who attempted the assault of a walled fort.Another Maori veteran of Nukumaru, Tu-Patea te Rongo gave an animated description of the two days' fighting. Tu-Patea, who lives at Taumaha, is the leading chief of the Pakakohi Tribe, of the Patea district; he fought all through the West Coast War, and in 1868-69, was one of Titokowaru's picked fighting band, the Tekau-ma-rua. He is a grey-moustached old soldier, of big athletic frame and strong features, a good type of the active fellows who kept the coast in turmoil up to the beginning of the "seventies"."Nukumaru" said Tu-Patea, "was my first experience of battle. 

There were perhaps two thousand Maoris assembled on the Waitotara to bar the General's march northward. we all assembled at Weraroa pa, a few miles away, and from there marched down towards the sea to attack the troops. Among the warriors were men from Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto, besides a great many from Taranaki. Of our tribe, the chiefs were my father Hau-matao, Tu-mahuki Rongonui, Paraone Tutere, and Kahukura-nui. Te Ua-Haumene, the chief prophet of the pai-marire, was the man at the head of the assemblage at Weraroa, but our fighting general was Patohe. Te Ua was an atua- a god. He remained in Weraroa pa while the army was out under Patohe engaging the soldiers. I marched with my father-I was only about thirteen years old-to get my first lesson in the art of war. I carried a short-handled tomahawk. 

My war-path clothing consisted only of a koka of flax, a short roughly dressed mat worn as a rapaki around the waist."The plain at Nukumaru was covered with fern, flax and toetoe, and from the cover of this our men attacked the troops. In the first days fighting my uncle Tama-kanohi was shot. I watched the fight. One of our warriors, Pita Weka, charged right into an officer's tent in the camp and shot the officer dead. (This was Adjutant-General Johnston.) Pita was killed in the battle at Te Ngaio, near Kakaramea, not long afterwards. He was a big active young man, a renowned toa taua, a bold and experienced warrior. Besides his double-barrel gun, he was armed with a whalebone patu, worn in his girdle.'Our warriors rose from their cover and charged on the soldiers at the command 'Kokiritia!' from the chiefs, and then 'Puhia' ('fire'), was the word. When the Pakeha opened fire on us, we held our right hands up on a level with the face, palm open, and cried 'Hapa, hapa!' ('Pass over!'), the charm which Te Ua told us would prevent the bullets from striking us. 

Those who acted according to Te Ua's instructions in every respect were not hit. He had his two atua, the gods Rura and Riki; but he was also, as I have said, an atua himself."Amongst the Taranaki high chiefs who fought at Nukumaru were Te Wharepouri and Tohu-Kakahi. Te Whiti was also there. Hone Pihama was not at Nukumaru, and those who said he was in command there were quite mistaken. Patohe, his elder brother, was the leader there. Hone Pihama was not a war-loving man. Patohe formerly lived at Ngatiki, near Hawera. He had been a captive in Waikato, where he was tattooed."The fighting on the first day at Nukumaru lasted well into the night. we had twenty-three men killed. On the second day we attacked again, when the troops were at dinner; we were all determined to prevent Cameron's advance up the coast. There were Maoris there from all along the West Coast from Otaki to Waikato. One warrior was a near relative of Rewi Maniapoto; he fell at Te Ngaio a few weeks later. NZ Wars vol 2. pg 47-49

Ngaa Rauru Paa
Kuranui Paa

Related Posts