The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864
2. Colonel Greer's Report to the Deputy Adjutant General
2. Colonel Greer's Report to the Deputy Adjutant General.
I have the honour to state for the information of the Lieut.General Commanding that in compliance with his instructions I marched out of Camp with the 68th Light Infantry, carrying one day's cooked rations, and a greatcoat each, on the 28th instant, at a quarter to 7 o'clock p.m., my object being to get in rear of the enemy's position by means of a flank march round their right. To accomplish this it was necessary to cross a mud flat at the head of a bay about three-quarters of a mile long, only passable at low water, and then nearly knee deep, and within musketry range of the shore, in possession of the enemy—rough high ground, covered with ti-tree and fern.
At the point at which I got off the mud flat there is a swamp about 100 yards broad, covered with ti-tree about 5ft. high, on the opposite side of which the end of a spur—which runs down from high ground in rear of the pa—rises abruptly. This was also covered with heavy fern and ti-tree.
It being of the first importance that these movements should be accomplished without attracting the attention of the enemy, my instructions were to gain the top of the spur alluded to during the darkness, and to remain there until there should be sufficient light to move on.
The regiment was all across, lying down in line across the crest of the ridge, with picquets posted around them, at 10 o'clock, which was two hours before the moon rose. I beg here to state that to the well-timed feint attack made by the Lieut-General Commanding on the front of the enemy's pa, I consider myself indebted for having been enabled to accomplish this, the most difficult part of the march, without being attacked at a great disadvantage, and exposing the movement to the enemy; for when we reached the top of the ridge, the remains of their picquet fires were discovered, the picquets having no doubt retired to assist in the defence of the pa.
About half-past 1 a.m. I advanced, and at 3 o'clock I reached a position about 1000 yards directly in rear of the pa. I was guided in selecting this position by hearing the Maoris talking in their pa, and the sentries challenging in our headquarters camp. It was dark and raining at the time.
I immediately sent Major Shuttleworth forward with three companies to take a position on the left rear of the pa, and I placed picquets round the remainder of the rear, about 700 yards distant from it.page 36
At daybreak I despatched three companies to the right under command of Major Kirby and posted a chain of sentries so that no one could come out of the pa without being seen. Up to this time the enemy did not appear to be aware that they were surrounded; they were singing and making speeches in the pa. Later in the morning Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, C.B., Deputy Quarter-Master General, visited my post, having an escort with him of thirty men of the Naval Brigade under Lieut. Hotham, R.N., and seeing that I wanted a reinforcement on my right, he left his escort with me, and I received valuable assistance from that excellent officer and his party. About the same time Major Shuttleworth moved more to his left and closer to the pa.
These positions were not altered during the bombardment, except temporarily, when the Maoris showed a disposition to come out at one or other flank, or when it was necessary to move a little from a position getting more than its share of the splinters of shell which kept falling about all day during the bombardment.
When the bombardment ceased, and the signal of a rocket let me know that the assault was about being made, I moved up close round the rear of the pa in such a position that the Maoris could not come out without being met by a strong force.
About 5 o'clock p.m. the Maoris made a determined rush from the right rear of their pa. I met them with three companies, and after a skirmish, drove the main body back into the pa; about twenty got past my right, but they received a flank fire from Lieut. Cox's party (68th 60 men) and Lieut. Hotham's (30 men) Naval Brigade, and sixteen of the Maoris were seen to fall; a number of men pursued the remainder. By the time I had collected the men again and posted them it was very dark. My force available on the right was quite inadequate to cover the ground in such a manner as to prevent the Maoris escaping during the night; in fact I consider that on such a wet dark night as that was nothing but a close chain of sentries strongly supported round the whole rear and flanks could have kept the Maoris in, and to do that a much stronger force than I had would have been necessary.
During the night the Maoris made their escape. I think that, taking advantage of the darkness, they crept away in small parties; for during the night every post saw or heard some of them escaping and fired volleys at them. The Maoris, careful not to expose themselves, never returned a shot during the night, but there were occasional shots fired from the pa, no doubt to deceive us as to their having left it.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the 68th during the march on Thursday night; it was performed with the most complete silence and regularity. I have also the greatest pleasure in being able to state that during the whole of their fatiguing duty page 37 they were always ready to obey cheerfully any order they received, and after dark it was most difficult to move about from the way in which the ground in the rear was swept by the musketry in front.
I am much indebted to the officers and non-commissioned officers for the active intelligence and zeal with which they performed their duty. I beg to mention particularly Major Shuttleworth, 68th Light Infantry, who, with the guide and six men, went feeling the way to the front during the night march, and afterwards commanded on the left, repelling several attempts of the Maoris to get away in that direction.
Captain Trent, 68th Light Infantry, who with his company formed the advance guard during the night march, and performed that duty with much intelligence, and was afterwards engaged on the left, where he enfiladed a rifle pit, and in the front covering a working party.
Lieut. Cox, 68th, who occupied with judgment and good effect an important position on my right, where he enfiladed a rifle pit, and quite shut up what appeared the principal point of egress from the pit.
Lieut. Hotham, Royal Navy, who was with a party of the Naval Brigade at the same post with Lieut. Cox.
To Lieut. and Adjutant Covey, 68th Light Infantry, Field Adjutant, I am on this occasion, as on every other where duty is concerned, much indebted for the zeal and intelligence with which he has assisted me in seeing my orders carried out. During the whole time he was constantly on the alert, and active wherever he was required. To all I owe my best thanks.
I wish to bring to particular notice the admirable manner in which the regiment was guided by Mr Purvis, who volunteered to act as guide on the occasion. He went to the front with Major Shutteleworth and six men, and without hesitating or making a mistake, brought him straight to the position I was to occupy.
The whole of the 68th Regiment was back in camp at 4 p.m. yesterday. The Casualties are as follows:—
Killed— Sergeant, 68th Light Infantry.
Wounded—16 Privates Infantry.
H. H. GREER,
Col. and Lieut.-Col. 68th L.I.,
Commanding Field Force,
Camp Puke Wharangi.