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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

Winners of the V.C. — Heroes who won the Victoria Cross at Gate Pa and Te Ranga

page 81

Winners of the V.C.
Heroes who won the Victoria Cross at Gate Pa and Te Ranga.

To Tauranga in the latter part of 1933 came an interesting visitor—Mr R. G. Harwood Manley, grandson of Dr. Manley, who took part in the Gate Pa battle, and on that occasion won the Victoria Cross. After his return to Auckland Mr Manley wrote to me and furnished much interesting information concerning his grandfather. In his letter Mr Manley said:—

“This is to keep my promise, if very belatedly, made to you when I was in Tauranga just after Christmas, to send you a copy of the account which I have of the Gate Pa battle and which I enclose herewith. I have copied this from a typed copy, which my uncle, Lt.-Col. W. G. N. Manley (Dr. Manley's eldest son), copied for me in 1923 when I first came to New Zealand. His source of information was some book which I think is one on the various winners of the V.C., but I am not sure if this is so.”

He then went on to say:—

“Ever since I have been in New Zealand, being the only one of the family who has been here since my grandfather except my sister who came out just before last Christmas, I have been particularly interested to try and dig up all the information I can about his activities and experiences here and your booklet has added a lot to my knowledge in this direction. I still have to find out, however, which were the other three Pas at the taking of which he was present. I believe his services here included some time in both Taranaki and the Waikato. Although I have twice read practically the whole of that quite elaborate book “Defenders of New Zealand,” which gives details of many battles and encounters in the Maori wars, I have not found his name mentioned anywhere except in your booklet.

“As I think I told you I am still hoping to get from my uncle eventually some relics which my grandfather took home from New Zealand with him. These include two books written in manuscript in Maori (one of which I understand is a New Testament), a green-stone mere, a whalebone patu, a sinnet fishing line with shark's tooth hooks, and possibly others. It is quite possible that the mere or patu or both were taken from the Gate Pa or even from the native chief who tried to take him prisoner on that occasion and whom he had page 82 to shoot down with his revolver, according to Capt. Mair's account.

“I have always hoped that I might be able to meet some one who had known my grandfather (which I never did), although naturally they would necessarily be pretty well on in years now. But I see from Captain Mair's account that he did know him well and that Captain Mair was alive for several years after I came to New Zealand at least. Unfortunately I never knew this then, in fact not until I got the book from you, or I could have taken steps to meet him before his death and probably gathered much, to me, interesting information.

“I hope the enclosed account will be of interest to you. It at least gives one point which is not mentioned in Captain Mair's account. That is that the storming party did not meet with any resistance from the Maoris even after they were inside the pa, and as a result ‘casting away their arms they dispersed in search of plunder.’ This is very probably the true account and explains the previously apparently inexplicable panic of the men a minute later when they were attacked by an enemy who were still below the ground, out of sight, of unknown numbers and able to snipe them off without the possibility of an effective reply. Besides being an essential part of the account of the battle, if true, and probably explaining the extraordinary defeat and huge loss of the British forces at the hands of such a small, ill-armed band, it says volumes for the shrewdness of the Maori in adopting a type of defence and warfare not practised by the British until the Great War, as well as for their judgment of the phychology of their enemy and their marvellous powers of restraint in letting such a formidable force walk so far into the trap before giving it away.”

The account forwarded by Mr Manley is as follows:—

An Account of The Services
The Late Surgeon-General William George Nicholas Manley
In The
Crimea, New Zealand and Franco-Prussian Wars.

“William George Nicholas Manley entered the Army Medical Department as an assistant-surgeon in 1854. Proceeding to the Crimea in the following summer he served with the Royal Artillery at the Siege of Sebastopol from the 11th of June until the fall of the place.

“He served with the Royal Artillery during the New Zealand war of 1864-6, and he was thanked in general orders and promoted to the rank of Staff-surgeon for ‘distinguished and meritorious ser- page 83 vices rendered to the sick and wounded during the operations in New Zealand,’ his commission being dated 20th October, 1865. He was present at the assault and capture of four pahs, but it was on the occasion of a serious disaster that he won the Victoria Cross.

“The Maoris had constructed a strong stockaded work at Tauranga called ‘The Gate Pah’. It was situated on a narrow slip of land connecting a peninsula with the mainland and on each side of the Pah was a swamp extending to the sea. It was thought only possible therefore to attack it in front. The troops assembled in front of it constituted a formidable body, consisting of the 43rd and 68th Regiments, some artillerymen with eleven Armstrong guns, six mortars and two howitzers, a few engineers and a naval Brigade 200 strong. Sir Duncan Cameron arrived on the *27th April, 1865, to assume command and that night, under cover of the darkness, the 68th Regiment with thirty sailors made their way through one of the swamps and took up a position in the rear so as to intercept the defenders should they try to escape.

“At half-past seven on the morning of the 28th, a cannonade was opened on the Pah, into which a continuous shower of shot and shell was rained until four in the afternoon. So slight had been the reply from the enemy's muskets and rifles that it was thought that the garrison must have been annihilated. Nevertheless, to make assurance doubly sure, it was determined to continue the cannonade until a practicable breach had been made. It was not, therefore, till 4 p.m. that the assault was delivered. The stormers consisted of portions of the naval Brigade and the 43rd, the remainder constituting the supports. After a brief musketry fire, the stormers, with loud cheers, rushed towards the Pah, Commander Hay of H.M.S. Harrier leading the way. In a moment the ditch was passed, the breach penetrated and as only an occasional shot was heard, those outside deemed the affair over. The stormers were of the same opinion for all they could see was a few wounded Maoris, so, casting away their arms they dispersed in search of plunder.

“The wily Maoris had, however, taken refuge from the cannonade in underground chambers covered over with turf and branches. Almost uninjured by the shot and shell which had, for more than eight hours, been poured into the Pah, the defenders waited patiently for the assault. At length the sound of cheers gave notice that the stormers were at hand and immediately afterwards a crowd of soldiers and sailors streamed with disorderly impetuosity into the work and, seeing no enemy, scattered themselves page 84 over the interior. Thus hidden and invulnerable, the Maoris sent up, as it were from the bowels of the earth, shot after shot, each one of which hit its mark and to which no effectual reply could be made.

“Struck with panic at such an unexpected attack, this new form of death so daunted our men that those who had not fallen rushed out of the place in the wildest confusion, leaving the interior strewed with dead, dying and disabled comrades. Seeing what had happened, Sir Duncan Cameron at once ordered forward the supports. These at once responded to the appeal and led by Captain Hamilton of H.M.S. Esk, made for the breach. Captain Hamilton was the first over the ditch but he then fell dying, with a bullet in the forehead. Seeing this, thrown into confusion by the backward rush of the stormers and pitilessly pelted by an incessant fire from the Maoris who had by this time emerged from their burrows, the supports also fled and not all the efforts, not the most daring gallantry, of the officers could arrest the maddened flight of our men.

“When the sudden fire was first opened on the stormers, Commander Hay was one of the first to fall mortally wounded. In the selfishness of terror both the soldiers and sailors abandoned the wounded. There was, however, a noble exception—Samuel Mitchell, Captain of the foretop of H.M.S. Harrier. He, casting aside all thoughts of personal safety, raised Commander Hay in his arms and, under a heavy fire, carried him out of the Pah. There he met Dr. Manley, who had volunteered to accompany the storming party and who, notwithstanding the panic, confusion and terror which prevailed on every side, calmly dressed Commander Hay's wound and then entered the Pah to see if there were any more wounded whom he could succour. It is said that he was one of the last officers to leave the Pah. Throughout that sad evening his efforts were to alleviate suffering where necessary and Sir William Wiseman, commanding the Naval Brigade, reported that he ‘ministered to the wants of the wounded and dying amid the bullets of the enemy with as much sang froid as if he had been performing an operation in St. George's hospital.’ Both Mitchell and Manley obtained the Victoria Cross for their devotion on this occasion.

“We may here remark that during the ensuing night the Maoris abandoned the work and managed to get off in safety, notwithstanding that the 68th and thirty sailors watched the rear of the Pah.

“Dr. Manley, had he never done anything else, would have well earned a place on the list of British heroes. He, however, subsequently nobly justified his right to the Victoria Cross. While in New Zealand he happened to be present during the disembarking of some artillery in the Waitotara River. As he was quitting the steamer a gunner fell overboard. The man was in imminent danger page 85 of drowning but Dr. Manley promptly sprang into the water and rescued him. For this feat he was awarded the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society.

“Accompanying the British Ambulance to France in 1870, he so distinguished himself by his energy, courage and devotion that he was thanked by General von Wittich, commanding the Prussian Division to which Dr. Manley was attached. He was granted the steel War Medal and the second class of the Iron Cross, the latter decoration being conferred upon him ‘on account of his devoted and excellent conduct in seeking out and caring for the wounded of the 22nd Prussian division in the actions of Chateauneuf and Bretoncelles on the 18th and 21st November, and the battles of Orleans and Cravant on the 2nd to the 10th December, 1870. He also obtained the Bavarian Order of Merit for 1870-71. In December, 1872 he attained the rank of Surgeon-major.”

In the New Zealand Railways Magazine of 1st August, 1934, appeared under the heading of “Heroes of the Maori Wars,” a story by H. L. Chisholm of “How Fifteen Victoria Crosses were won in New Zealand.” After describing the incident at Gate Pa which gained for Foretop Samuel Mitchell and Dr. Manley their V.C.'s, he goes on to relate how Sergeant John Murray of the 68th Regiment and Captain Frederick Augustus Smith of the 43rd Regiment won their V.C.'s at Te Ranga. He states:—

“On 21st June, Colonel Greer found the Maoris entrenching for a formidable pa at Te Ranga and he attacked at once. The natives made a desperately gallant stand, but they wilted before a successful bayonet charge, and the few survivors broke and fled. The Tauranga campaign was over.

“The winners of the awards were Sergeant John Murray of the 68th Regiment and Captain Frederick Augustus Smith of the 43rd Regiment. Sergeant Murray received his ‘for his distinguished conduct when the enemy's rifle position was being stormed.’ He ran up to a rifle-pit containing eight or ten Maoris and without any assistance, killed or wounded every one of them, and afterwards ‘proceeded up the works, fighting desperately and still continuing to bayonet the enemy.’

“Captain Smith is stated to have led on his company in the most gallant manner. Although wounded before he had reached the rifle-pits, he jumped down into them where he began a hand-to-hand encounter with the enemy, thereby giving his men great encouragement and setting them a fine example.

“Although it is not mentioned in the official citation, there is the authority of Mr Cowan for saying that Captain Smith led the right of the advance and received two wounds, and that Sergeant Murray killed a Maori about to tomahawk a corporal who had just run him through with his bayonet.”

* General Cameron states in his despatch on the battle of Gate Pa that he transferred his headquarters to Tauranga on April 21st. The year of course was 1864 not 1865.

This movement was on the night of the 28th.

Should be the 29th.