Rangiriri Battle Memorial To Be Unveiled On 135th Anniversary

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

A new monument to members of the Royal Navy who died in the Battle of Rangiriri will be unveiled and dedicated on Friday morning (Nov 20 at 11am) the 135th anniversary of the engagement.

Made from granite and capable of lasting for several thousand years the new monument replaces the original sandstone one which had weathered badly.

Five of the six naval servicemen named on the memorial are believed to be buried at Rangiriri while the sixth was buried at Symonds Street in Auckland. The Rangiriri Cemetery is recorded as containing 46 of the 49 soldiers and sailors killed that day.

The remains of Mäori slain in the battle are believed to have been disinterred in 1876. A low rectangular mound in the cemetery marks their original burial plots.

The Department of Internal Affairs' Heritage Property Unit is responsible for war graves in New Zealand and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jack Elder, will participate in the ceremony along with representatives of the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Mäori Queen and local dignitaries.

BACKGROUND: On November 20, 1863, three weeks to the day after British troops had taken the Meremere positions, an attack was launched from the Waikato River on Mäori entrenchments near Rangiriri. After a two-hour artillery bombardment the troops bayonet charged the Kingite trenches to capture the outer earthworks.

However the British could not take the central redoubt and were repulsed with heavy losses. General Cameron ordered further attacks but these also ended in disaster. British casualties numbered 132 in a day of heavy fighting. When night fell many of the Mäori defenders slipped away. The remaining defenders surrendered the next day after their request for more gunpowder to continue the fight was refused.