Image 'Breach at Gate Pä, April 30, 1864'

TLF ID R5405

This is a watercolour created by Lieutenant Horatio Gordon Robley showing Pukehinahina or Gate Pä at Tauranga, New Zealand, on the morning of 30 April 1864. Two British soldiers are standing guard over the scene. In the background two figures are carrying someone away on a stretcher. A slain Mäori defender lies in the trench in the foreground. A discarded musket also lies in the foreground, while other items scattered around the scene include a shovel, several gourds, ammunition cartouche and a spear. A flimsy palisade rings earthworks consisting of a raised position with a horseshoe- shaped trench with firing positions cut into it. There is evidence also of bunkers within the trench. Tauranga Harbour can be seen in the distance. The watercolour measures 17.8 cm x 25.5 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset illustrates the aftermath of the significant battle of Pukehinahina or Gate Pä (coastal Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, east coast of the North Island) during the New Zealand Wars that erupted in 1860 in the central North Island of New Zealand when some iwi (tribes) resisted British attempts to impose authority; the battle involved one of the heaviest defeats inflicted on British forces during these Wars.
  • It depicts a scene that resulted from the response of the Ngäi Te Rangi leader Räwiri Puhirake (?-1864) to the British stationing troops at Te Papa in Tauranga to block any support for the Mäori King movement in Waikato - Puhirake interpreted this as an invasion of Ngäi Te Rangi territory that could not go unchallenged.
  • It highlights the strategic leadership of Räwiri Puhirake - after challenging the British to do battle, he oversaw the construction of the Pä and with only 230 warriors was able to withstand the strongest artillery barrage of the New Zealand Wars, as well as a combined British force of 1,700 British men under the command of General Duncan Cameron and Colonel Greer.
  • It reveals the adaptation of Mäori to European-style warfare - Räwiri Puhirake devised a modern pä that allowed his warriors to wait in reinforced bunkers strong enough to withstand the bombardment; the Pä itself was designed as a trap to draw in the British troops and, when it had served its purpose, was abandoned by the defenders.
  • It illustrates an event that reflected the inability of the British to recognise Mäori military capabilities during the New Zealand Wars - the modern pä consistently frustrated British efforts and, despite heavy shelling, the British assault on the Pä by 300 soldiers was a complete failure; they were cut to shreds by the defenders, who, safely hidden in bunkers, opened fire, killing a third of the storming party.
  • It highlights an event remembered for its acts of chivalry as much as for its fighting, due in part to the actions of Hënare Taratoa - Taratoa was a Christian minister who wrote a code of conduct for the battle, imploring that the enemy be cared for and not ill-treated when wounded, and drew on Romans 12:20, 'If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink'; this code was exemplified by Hëni Te Kiri Karamü (Jane Foley) who famously gave water to Lieutenant-Colonel Booth as he lay dying in the trenches at Gate Pä.
  • It is an example of the work of Lieutenant Horatio Robley of the 68th Durham Light Infantry - Robley (1840-1930) made numerous sketches associated with his experiences of the New Zealand Wars, and was commonly referred to as the 'soldier with a pencil'; this offers a combatant's view of the battle, providing primary evidence that gives some insight into the nature of fighting during this campaign.
  • It reveals why, after the Wars were over, the British army used the fortifications at Gate Pä as a model for trenching and as a precursor of the trench warfare used in the First World War.

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Horatio Gordon Robley
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Horatio Gordon Robley
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements