The Second New Zealand War. 1860 - 1872
British forces under the command of Colonel C. E. Gold fired the first shots at Te Kohia Pa (Waitara) commanded by Te Ati Awa Chief Te Hapurona on the 17th March 1860.
The Second Militia Act of 28th May 1858 allowed New Zealand to be defined into military districts as decided by the Governor. During the Second New Zealand War, Auckland was divided into 3 Military Districts.
The cavalry units within the Auckland districts were allocated to the 3rd Auckland District and formed part of the ‘3rd Battalion Auckland Militia.’
The cavalry troops that were attached to the 3rd Battalion Auckland Militia are. —
Prince Alfred Cavalry
The Waikato units were dissolved in 1867 and became part of the 4th Battalion Auckland Militia.
The Militia Act of 28th May 1858 also gave Government approval for the acceptance of volunteer corps, as distinct from the militia, in order to preserve peace within New Zealand.
The NZ Militia was essentially a local home force and was generally limited to duties within a distance of 25 miles from their place of registration.
Volunteering gave immunity from Militia service, and the opportunity for volunteers to elect their own officers and a choice of uniform, although the uniform and horse were usually supplied by the volunteers themselves, this was assisted by a capitation allowance from the Government. (Capitation depended on regular attendance of drill and parade inspections)
All other units that I have mentioned are from other Militia districts, however, I consider them deserving of a mention due to the expansion of the Auckland Military District on the 17th January 1895.
Otahuhu Royal Volunteer Cavalry
The Otahuhu Royal Volunteer Cavalry was formed during a public meeting held in Otahuhu on the 3rd April 1860.
Major Marmaduke George Nixon was elected commanding officer. (Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in April 1860)
James Walmsley was elected Captain
Howard Hutton was elected Lieutenant
Henry Hardington was elected Cornet (Second Lieutenant)
One of the Otahuhu Cavalry Corps first resolutions passed on April 3rd was. —
“That every man who is willing to provide his own horse and uniform, shall be eligible to become a member of this Corps.”
The service uniform adopted by the Otahuhu Cavalry consisted of a blue tunic, buff breeches and boots.
Auckland Cavalry Guards Volunteers
The Auckland Cavalry Guards Volunteers were formed during a public meeting held at the Exchange Hotel in Auckland on the 5th April 1860.
One of the first resolutions passed at this meeting was. —
“That a Company of Volunteers be formed to serve as Mounted Guards in conjunction with the Auckland Volunteer Rifles.”
Captain Thomas Beckham was elected commanding officer of the Auckland Cavalry Guards on the 7th April 1860. The other officers elected were Lieutenant Main and Cornet Holt. (Commissioned 8th May 1860)
The uniform adopted by the Cavalry Guards was blue with white facings.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a gazette notice listing the official Government acceptance date for either the Otahuhu Cavalry or the Cavalry Guards. I can only speculate that the Cavalry Guards received seniority due to their being placed first in line on parade.
The following is a Monthly report, dated the 27th April 1860. It is a rough statement of the Auckland Settlements disposable military force at that time. —
Auckland Volunteer Rifles, about 360.
Militia Volunteers, about 40.
Onehunga Volunteers, about 200.
Howick Volunteers, about 100.
Auckland Cavalry Guards, about 45.
Otahuhu Cavalry, about 120.
Naval Coast Guards Volunteers, 62
65th Regiment, about 80.
Ships of War. Marines landed, about 40.
About 800 more men were to be armed in Auckland and the villages.
Auckland Cavalry Volunteers
Due to a disagreement between Captain Beckham and the Deputy Adjutant General (Under Secretary), the Auckland Cavalry Guards were disbanded on the 28th June 1861.
Members of the Auckland Cavalry Guards were then requested to join the ‘Auckland Cavalry Volunteers’ which was formed on the 5th July 1861, under the command of Captain Lionel Fitzgerald.
In February 1862 a new set of Volunteer regulations were published in the New Zealand Gazette, which in effect cancelled all existing Volunteer regulations and required all Volunteer units to be disbanded and to be reformed under the new regulations.
The Otahuhu Royal Volunteer Cavalry and Auckland Cavalry Volunteers were disbanded and ordered to return their Arms, accoutrements and ammunition by the 15th May 1862.
Colonial Defence Corps
On the 20th March 1863, Colonel Nixon took command of the newly formed Colonial Defence Corps, which was to operate in conjunction with the Irregular Cavalry (Light Cavalry Corps).
The Irregular Cavalry was formed from around 100 men of the Royal Artillery, which had been stationed in Auckland under the command of Captain Mercer, R.A.
(Captain Henry Mercer, Royal Artillery, was killed during a second failed assault on Rangiriri Pa on the 20th November 1863)
Otahuhu Royal Cavalry Volunteers
On the 22nd June 1863, General Cameron, accompanied by his Aide-de-camp and Private Secretary, arrived in Auckland aboard H.M.S. Eclipse.
Notice was issued soon after the General's arrival, to the effect that 400 men would be balloted for out of the Auckland militia force for active service, if a sufficient number of volunteers were not forthcoming. Negotiations were also entered into with the Otahuhu people for the re-organisation of the efficient cavalry force formerly embodied in that district.
The first meeting to reform the Otahuhu Cavalry Volunteers was held in Otahuhu on the 9th July 1863.
The following appointments were published on the 20th July 1863. —
“Appointments, Auckland Militia Volunteer Regiments—
Royal Cavalry Volunteers—
Lieutenant Colonel Marmaduke Nixon
Captain Howard Hutton
Lieutenant William Thomas Bassett
Cornet Walter Harris
(The Otahuhu Troop being the first to reform were given seniority and claim to occupy the first position on the right when on parade)
Colonial Cavalry Defence Force
The following notice was widely distributed throughout Otahuhu around the 10th July 1863. —
“Those who are desirous of enlisting into the Auckland division of the colonial defence force, to apply at the Militia Orderly Room, Otahuhu, between ten and four p.m. None but good riders are invited to apply. Horses, arms, appointments, and uniform will be furnished to the non-commissioned officers and privates. The pay will be, sergeants 7s. 6d, corporals 6s. 6d, and privates 5s. per day, and they will have to find their own rations but forage for horses will be supplied when necessary.”
(The notice was signed - Lieutenant Colonel Nixon)
The Auckland Cavalry and Otahuhu Cavalry were incorporated into the Colonial Cavalry Defence Force under the command of Colonel Nixon. (Major Walmsley 2nd in Command)
It is worth noting that the Cavalry Guards and Otahuhu Cavalry did not loose their identities, it simply meant that members of these two corps who signed up with the Colonial Cavalry Defence Force could be called upon at a moments notice to active service, and serve where needed.
Auckland Royal Cavalry Volunteers
After a preliminary meeting on the 13th July 1863, the Auckland Cavalry Volunteers was reformed, adopting the title ‘Auckland Royal Cavalry Volunteers on the 15th July 1863.
The election of officers was held on the 19th July 1863 as follows. —
First Lieutenant – Henry Hardington (Promoted Captain 19th August 1863)
Second Lieutenant (Cornet) – Stannus Jones (Promoted First Lieutenant 19th August 1863)
Sergeant – James Foley (Promoted Cornet 19th August 1863)
In September 1863 the Auckland Royal Cavalry was called out for active service and was stationed at Papatoetoe until relieved from duty in February 1864.
Howick Royal Cavalry Volunteers
Although I have been unable to confirm the historical accuracy, it appears that the Howick troop, Royal Cavalry Volunteers (Also known as the ‘Howick Royal Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry’) was formed on the recommendation of Colonel Nixon by Every MacLean in late July 1863.
Every MacLean was duly elected Captain and James Robertson as Cornet (Second Lieutenant)
The Howick Troop, Royal Cavalry Volunteers were disbanded on the 30th July 1874.
The Engagement at Rangiaowhia
Major Marmaduke George Nixon |
Death of Colonel Nixon
Colonel Nixon was severely wounded at Rangiaowhia on the 21st February 1864, from a bullet penetrating the chest and injuring the lungs. Gangrene set into the wound and Colonel Nixon died on the 27th May 1864. (Lieutenant Colonel Nixon was promoted to Colonel in April 1864)
The mounted artillery and Defence Corps passed round to the eastward to avoid crossing the swamp. Sharp skirmishing work ensued for a few minutes between our troops and the Maoris, who were at last driven out of the wood, and sought refuge in flight, and by concealment in the whares.
The cavalry fortunately came up in good time to intercept several of the enemy attempting to escape, and at once took them prisoners. A total of 33 were captured in this manner, excepting a few who surrendered to other parties of the attacking force.
In the hot pursuit of Maoris who had been resisting the advance, the troops so closely pressed the wily foe that seven or eight were seen to enter a large whare, and which was quickly surrounded. It was in effecting this movement that most of the casualties occurring from rebel fire took place. Most of the Maoris were armed with double-barrelled guns, and a heavy fire was kept up from every conceivable hole and cranny in the building.
Colonel Nixon was dangerously wounded by a ball fired from this whare, and four of his men killed and wounded. The gallant Colonel was shot through the lungs, and Corporal Alexander was riddled with shot the moment he rushed in at the door. Private McHale also suffered the same fate.
Volley after volley was poured into the whare by the 65th and Forest Rangers round it, but still the rebels continued to discharge their pieces with good effect, the 65th suffering two casualties, and the Forest Rangers one.
The whare was now discovered to be on fire, but whether ignited intentionally, or by accident from firing one of the rifles close to the dried weeds of which it was composed, I cannot state. The whare was about eight yards in length, but not until six yards at least had been burned, and a number of volleys fired into the place, did the last of the Maoris make a dart, for the purpose of escaping. He had not advanced two paces before he fell on his hands and knees, amidst the burning embers of the portion of the raupo roof already fallen in.
From the intense heat of the flame it was impossible to extricate him, and he died and was burned where he fell. This was the last victim. When the fire had burned itself out, the embers of the whare were examined to discover the body of private McHale, of the Defence Force, who had been shot down when the rush was made at the door, and had fallen inside.
The following drawing of the fight at Rangiaowhia shows Colonel Nixon lying to the left of the door of the whare on the right
The Charge Of The New Zealand Cavalry At The Battle Of Orakau.
On the 30th March 1864, it became known that the natives were constructing a defensive position at Orakau, three miles from Kihikihi, in a southwesterly direction, and five miles from Rangiawhia in a northwesterly direction.
The Pa at Orakau was a square, stockaded redoubt, rifle-pitted within, lying some little distance in front of a small swamp which extends towards Rangiawhia, and was sheltered by a strip of bush.
Beyond Orakau the country was rough and hilly, and was intersected in all directions by innumerable creeks and swamps, which are the tributaries of the Waipa River.
As a part of Colonel Carey’s column, approximately 25 mounted artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Rait, arrived at Orakau on the 31st of March 1864, having come from Te Awamutu.
The force proceeded past the village of Orakau, with the 18th being in advance. A single shot was fired by a native scout when they arrived within 900 yards of the enemy, and shortly after the troops received some heavy volleys from some peach trees a short distance in their front. The fire was returned, and the troops passed through the trees, and the cavalry were ordered to the front, but were shortly ordered back, again on seeing what confronted them.
The Royal Artillery troopers were used patrolling the lines during the siege.
The Colonial Defence Force Cavalry leading packhorses loaded with hand-grenades under the command of Lieut-Colonel Henry Havelock, arrived in the morning on the 2nd of April, the last day of the siege of Orakau, having come from Pukerimu via Ohaupo.
At noon General Cameron and his staff arrived from Pukerimu with an escort of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry.
Early in the afternoon General Cameron, impressed by the Maoris courage, decided to give the garrison an opportunity of making surrender. The buglers sounded the “Cease fire,” and two interpreters of the staff, Ensign William Mair of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, and Mr. Mainwaring were sent into the sap with a white flag to invite the natives to capitulate.
Mair wrote the account in the form of a letter to a relative shortly after the capture of the pa.—
“I got up on the edge of the sap and looked through a gap in the gabions made for the field-piece. The outwork in front of me was a sort of double rifle-pit, with the pa or redoubt behind it. The Maoris were in rows, the nearest row only a few yards away from me. I cannot forget the dust-stained faces, bloodshot eyes, and shaggy heads. The muzzles of their guns rested on the edge of the ditch in front of them. One man aimed steadily at me all the time, his name was Wereta.”
“Then I said.— E hoa ma, whakarongo! Ko te kupu tenei a te Tienara: ka nui tona miharo ki to koutou maia, kati me mutu te riri, puta mai kia matou, kia ora o koutou tinana.”
(‘Friends, listen! This is the word of the General: Great is his admiration of your bravery. Stop! Let the fighting cease; come out to us that your bodies may be saved’).
The reply received by Mair is commonly accepted as the most famous defiance in New Zealand history:— “E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake!”
(‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!’)
Out of water and down to the last few rounds, the 300 Maori defenders, facing an attacking force of 1,474 could see their situation was dire and untenable.
At about four o'clock in the afternoon the Maori defenders made their escape on the south side in a southerly direction.
Interestingly, the rebels met little resistance during the break out and by the time they had reached the swamp, they had legged some 400 yards in front of their pursuers.
It appears that at the beginning of the pursuit, Colonel Havelock divided the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry into two parties, taking one to the right with him, and sending the other to the left.
The mounted artillery were sent up the middle following the natives up to the swamp which was impassable to the horses, followed up by the two companies of Forest Rangers, regulars of the 65th and 70th, and members of the Militia.
By the time the Maoris had got through the swamp, the cavalry were ahead of them and the infantry had come up. They were openly exposed to a tremendous storm of musketry fire from their pursuers, and were again met and turned into the swamp by some of the Defence Cavalry.
The mounted artillerymen had dismounted, and revolvers in hand chased the Maoris through the swamp.
It is said the cavalry did vigorous work and that the pursuit continued for five miles across the river, until Colonel Havelock rallied the men and turned them back to camp.
(3 members of the Colonial Defence Corps are reported to have been wounded.)
Waiuku Royal Cavalry Volunteers
On the 5th May 1866 a meeting was held at the Waiuku Hotel for settlers of the Waiuku district (South of Auckland) to form a corps of cavalry volunteers. Due to the Volunteer Act of 1866 relative to Mounted Corps forming as Light Horse, the first resolution of the meeting was. —
“That they should enrol themselves into a cavalry corps, and that corps to be called the Waiuku ‘Light Horse’ Cavalry Volunteers. This was carried unanimously.”
During a second meeting it was decided to change the name to the Waiuku Royal Cavalry Volunteers
The Waiuku Cavalry Volunteers are mentioned as being officially accepted for service on the 12th March 1866. (This may be a simple period typo where March has been incorrectly entered as May)
John Thomas Mellsop was elected Lieutenant (date of commission, 18th July 1866) and Colour-Sergeant Ebenezer Hamlin was elected Cornet (date of commission, 18th July 1866).
Ebenezer Hamlin was instrumental in the formation of the Waiuku Cavalry and has an interesting history. He was the ninth and youngest son of Reverend James Hamlin, one of the pioneer missionaries of New Zealand. Hamlin was born in 1844 at Orua near the South Head of the Manukau.
Just after Hamlin had turned 16 he joined the 1st Battalion, Auckland Militia at the time of the Taranaki war, and during the subsequent Waikato war he served in the 3rd Battalion of the same militia, and also with distinction in the volunteer force under Capt. Lloyd, being twice honourably mentioned in despatches to the Governor.
Hamlin was a crack shot, winning the New Zealand champion rifle belt in 1874. He was promoted Major on the 19th November 1885, and served a total of 25 years with the Waiuku Cavalry before retiring in June 1891.
Captain Ebenezer Hamlin
On the 6th July 1887, the “1st Regiment of New Zealand Cavalry Volunteers” was formed from the North Island Cavalry troops.
The Waiuku Cavalry Volunteers having the longest unbroken service, were given seniority and were designated ‘A’ Troop.
The Waiuku Cavalry Volunteers (Also known as the ‘Waiuku Mounted Rifles’ from 1885 onwards) was finally disbanded in October 1895.
Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers (Opotiki Cavalry)
On the 23rd October 1866, the residents of Opotiki held a public meeting for the purpose of forming a volunteer corps for the defence of the district.
The Minutes of that meeting show the following resolutions that were passed. —
“That the civilians of Opotiki form themselves into a Volunteer Corps.”
“That the Volunteer Corps at Opotiki shall be a cavalry corps.”
“That a General Purposes Committee be appointed, to consist of five members.”
“That Messrs. Gwynneth, Litchfield, Moore, Thompson, and the mover (B. Reynolds), do form the committee, and have power to communicate with the Defence Minister as to the formation of the corps, their position, uniform, and the appointment of officers.”
“That the chairman do now enrol the names of those willing to become members of the corps.”
“That Mr. Footer be appointed secretary to the corps, and take the names of gentlemen intending to become members of the corps.”
“That the members of the corps to find their own horses, but the Government be requested to find all necessary arms, accoutrements, ammunition, &c.; and that the corps have the power of nominating their own officers.”
“That a copy of the minutes of this meeting be forwarded to the Hon. the Defence Minister, together with the names of members.”
At a meeting of the General Purposes Committee, held on the 25th October, to “consider and take action in reference to the formation of a Volunteer Cavalry Corps at Opotiki,” it was proposed. —
“That the commanding officer be supplied with a copy of the proceedings, and requested to recommend the enrolment of the corps to the Hon. the Defence Minister.”
A general meeting of the Volunteer Cavalry Corps was held at Opotiki on the 30th October 1866.
The Minutes of that meeting show the following resolutions that were passed. —
“That any person wishing to become members of the corps be proposed and seconded by two members of the corps, at a general meeting, and his election shall depend upon the votes taken at such meeting.”
“That the corps be named the ‘Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry Corps.’
“That the dress of the corps be cord breeches and boots, French-peak caps, and blue jumpers.”
“That the corps be enrolled under the regulations of the Volunteer Act.”
“That this meeting now proceed to the election of officers for the corps.”
The undermentioned gentlemen were duly elected: —
John Gwynnetb was elected Captain.
Joseph Thompson was elected Lieutenant.
Harry Charles Wrigg was elected Cornet.
“That the names of Messrs. Gwynneth as captain, Thompson as lieutenant, and Wrigg as cornet, be forwarded to the Government, for their approval, as the officers elected by the corps.”
The nomination of three non-commissioned officers: —
C. Litchfield was elected sergeant-major.
S. Kelly and J. Davis as sergeants.
“The corps, now numbering 37 strong, gave three cheers for their new officers, and after a vote of thanks to the chairman, the meeting separated.”
Gazetted January 1867. —
“The services of the undermentioned corps have been accepted by the Governor; —
The Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers. Date of acceptance, December 23, 1866.”
Captain John Gwynneth
It is worth mentioning that two of the four New Zealand Crosses that were awarded to cavalrymen were awarded to members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers, Cornet Harry (Harold) Charles William Wrigg and Cornet Angus Smith. (Only 23 New Zealand Crosses were awarded)
New Zealand Gazette, 6th November 1869.
It is notified that his Excellency the Governor has been pleased to award to Cornet Angus Smith, of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers, the decorative distinction instituted by Order in Council dated 10th March 1869, for the following act of bravery performed by him: —
On the 7th June 1869, when the party of cavalry in charge of Cornet Smith was surprised at Opepe by Te Kooti’s band, and nine men out of thirteen were killed, Cornet Smith, though suffering from a desperate wound in his foot, set out with tho object of finding the tracks of his commanding officer , and apprising him and the party with him of their danger, when a less brave or thoughtful man would have proceeded straight to Fort Galatea, which post he would no doubt have reached in forty-eight hours, with comparatively little risk, and with the certainty of getting immediate medical assistance to himself. On his road Cornet Smith was captured by the rebels, tied up to a tree, and stripped of all his clothing and Crimean medals. He was in this position four days, without food or water, when he managed to release himself, and proceeded to Fort Galatea, which he reached on the 17th June, having been ten days without food or clothing. On account of his wounds he had to go for a considerable distance on his hands and knees, and to risk his life twice by swimming rivers.
Cornet Angus Smith
New Zealand Gazette, 18th March 1898.
His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to award the Decorative Distinction instituted by Order in Council dated the 10th day of March, 1869, to Harry Charles William Wrigg, Esq., late Cornet, Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers, in consideration of his having, on the 29th day of June, 1867, with Trooper McDonald, voluntarily carried dispatches from Lieutenant-Colonel John H. H. St. John, then at Opotiki, to Lieutenant Colonel Philip Harrington, at Tauranga, through country infested by the Native tribes then at war with the British.
It is also worth mentioning that Wigg’s award of the New Zealand Cross some 30 years after the action is somewhat controversial given that those who could have recommended him were all dead. (Worthy of its own thread!)
The Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers were disbanded in July 1881.
Prince Alfred Light Horse Royal Cavalry Volunteers
The North Shore Light Horse Cavalry Volunteers was formed in December 1868 with Charles Ross Cholmondeley Smith elected as Lieutenant (Promoted Captain) and J. Motion as Cornet (promoted Lieutenant).
On the 1st June 1869 the North Shore Light Horse Cavalry were assembled at the Government building, North Shore, to receive Prince Alfred’s letter accepting their services, which was read out by Lieutenant Smith.
With the Duke of Edinburgh as an honorary member the North Shore Light Horse changed its name to ‘Prince Alfred Light Horse Royal Cavalry Volunteers,’ North Shore.
It appears the official acceptance date of the Prince Alfred Light Horse Royal Cavalry Volunteers is the 20th March 1869.
Initially the Headquarters and weekly drills were conducted at Edgcombe’s Hotel. In February 1870 drills were alternately conducted at Edgcombe’s Hotel and at the Whau Public Hall. Monthly inspection parades were generally held at the Albert Barracks, Auckland.
The Prince Alfred Troop Royal Cavalry Volunteers were disbanded in November 1872.
Tauranga Cavalry Volunteer Corps
The first attempt to raise a cavalry corps by the residents of Tauranga was on the 2nd January 1867, but it appears the Government did not accept their services.
It wasn’t until the 14th December 1868 that the subject of forming a cavalry corps in Tauranga was raised again. It was during this meeting that Colonel Harrington said he thought a cavalry corps would be of signal service in an open country like this, and that he would give the movement his cordial approbation and support.
It was decided that “Captain Constantine Moorsom should command the corps, the other officers to be elected when the full number of names should be obtained.”
It appears that Samuel Clarke was elected as Lieutenant and that the Tauranga Cavalry Volunteers were officially accepted for service in February 1869.
The Gazette 19th August 1870 states. — “That his Excellency having, at their own request, disbanded the Tauranga Cavalry Volunteers.”