The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1, 1933)
Through the Valley of Death
Through the Valley of Death.
So went on the hopeless fight, but not for much longer. Rewi gave the word; his warriors loaded their guns with their last cartridges, and with the women and children in their midst, they charged out in a body, going at a steady trot at first, until the amazed soldiers opened a fearful fire upon them. That retreat through the fern and swamp to the Puniu River and beyond was, like the defence of the pa, full of deeds of gallantry and self-sacrifice. Rewi himself was surrounded by a small bodyguard of his devoted kinsmen; one of those gallant fellows, his nephew, Te Huia Raureti, still lives on the Puniu banks, a white-headed veteran of over ninety, the very last of the warriors of his clan who fought through to safety that day of mingled gloom and glory.
When the sun went down on Orākau a hundred and sixty Maoris lay dead on the battlefield and on the line of flight to the border river. More than half the garrison, and of the survivors, half, probably, were wounded. Of the British, seventeen were killed and fifty-two wounded. There is a lament of Ngati-Maniapoto for their dead in Taranaki that also applies to Orākau:
“The land is swept and desolate,
Mournfully rolls the tide of Puniu,
The waters sob as they flow.”
So fought Rewi his last fight for his people and his country. He survived to live in peace and honour in near neighbourhood with his Pakeha antagonists. We on the old frontier lived on the very ground that was salted down with the flesh and blood and bones of scores of the gallant dead, the men—and women too—of Orākau. Cattle graze on that sacred soil; maybe the present owner wonders why years of cultivation have not smoothed out that rough bit of turf. Forty men and women were buried there, within the fence on the north side of the road as you drive over Orākau. Their parapets were just tumbled in on them. When the trench graves were filled in, the clenched hand of a Maori protruded above the ground, and a soldier trampled on it to tread it under. The last gesture! Defeated, shot and bayoneted; dead, but unconquerable.
The Orákau battlefield. (Photo. by the writer of this article.) The eucalyptus tree was planted after the war to mark the emplacement of one of the Armstrong guns used by the British troops in the attack on the pa, at a range of 350 yards. The line of trees marks the main road, which intersects the site of the Maori fortification.