maandag 30 november 2009

Opononi, Paihia and Ngawa

Today is the last day of November 2009 (Monday 30th.)

Today we drove from Opononi to a place called Paihia. The weather this morning was not very promising (there were lots of clierwds) but, as the last days, the farther we got the better got the weather.
Sitting now in the van, the weather is very nice, the sun shines and the temperature is good, it’s nice and warm.

The journey was uneventful apart from two very interesting visits we made.
After breakfast we left Opononi and drove to Ngawa Hot Springs.
Our tour guide tells us these springs are a thing that can’t be missed, so we went totally for these hot springs.
And, of course there were other people as well (there was a bus full of youngsters/students) to visit this magnificent landmark on the North Island of New Zealand.

We went in and we saw about ten square pools of 3 x 3 meters in which you can sit and enjoy the hot or warm water.
We didn’t go in because the place looked like a dump with foul water pools but, somewhere in a corner a woman was enjoying the warm water.
As a souvenir of this awesome place I made a few small video’s.
We’ll always remember Ngawa Hot Springs!!

After another hour or so we bought the necessary groceries for today and after that we came along another landmark, Te Whare Karakia O Mikaera,
Saint Michael’s Anglican Church of 1871, built on the site of Pene Taui’s Pa (Pa means stronghold), at which was fought the Battle of Ohaeawai, July 1st. 1845.
The battle was fought between the English (who lost) and the resisting Maori’s.

Since there is not much else to tell I’ll inform you about this battle.

During Heke’s war (the English trying to put another gem* in the British crown, the gem being the North Island of nowadays New Zealand) the British troops under colonel H. Despard suffered very heavy casualties in their assault on Pene Taui’s Pa at Ohaeawai.
The assault was a follow up action after two earlier engagements between the English and Hone Heke and Kawiti (Maori chiefs and their warriors) in which the English couldn’t defeat the Maori’s.
The Maori’s had withdrawn to the place where the church later was built being a heavy stronghold with three rows of palisade’s, a deep trench and other earthworks (the architect of the stronghold being the Maori Kawiti). Amongst the stronghold were heavy timbered hidden rifle pits and in all the stronghold would prove to be impregnable to artillery and musket fire.

The force of the British consisted of 565 men amongst which Maori allies, blue jacks of the HMS Hazard and men of two English regiments together with Auckland volunteers.
They had two 6 pounder brass guns and two 12 pounder carronades from a man of war called HMS Hazard. The force was disembarked from the ship on June 23rd. and the colonel marched up to the Maori stronghold and camped about 500 meters down from it.

On June 24th. the first gunshot was fired and although the four guns kept up a barrage the whole day, the shots had no real effect on the stronghold and the colonel ordered a heavier gun (a 32 pounder) from the ship.
This gun arrived on June 30th. in the morning and right away the 32 pounder opened fire together with the 4 lighter pieces of artillery.

During the bombardment a Maori sortie slipped out of the Pa and circling through the forest surprised the Maori allies and the British piquet protecting a 6 pounder gun on a nearby hill.
The Maori’s shot one soldier, seized the 6 pounder and hauled down the flag of the English there on the hill.

Colonels Despards embarrassment turned into fury when he saw the captured British ensign run up on the Pa’s flagstaff and he determined to storm the Pa the same day.

Colonel Despard imagined that four shot - apparently the soldiers brought only four shot from the ship - of the 32 pounder would have loosened the timber palisades sufficiently to enable his troops to storm the stronghold with success and bring down the Maori force.
Remonstrations of his fellow officers against such a useless attack failed to move the obstinate colonel.
He ordered a storming party to parade directly after the bombardment in the afternoon of the 1st. of July and the troops given a midday meal which for many of the troops was their last.

The troops formed up in the valley beyond the Pa about 100 meters from the stronghold. Now came the awful interval of waiting between bombardment and storming the Pa, the parties taking their appointed places while the rear of them still were throwing shot and shell into the Pa.
Than out blared the bugle “advance”.
There as a quick fire of commandments of the column officers and the troops dashed over the ferny slopes towards the Pa.
The troops were within 50 yards of the palisades and the defenders opened fire. It was a one sided fight.
Gun flashes spurted from the base of the stronghold and from loopholes higher up, with gun smoke hiding the palisades and the attackers stopped deadly in their tracks.
Not a single Maori could be seen since they were safely hidden in their trenches between their strong palisades. And although English troops managed to reach the palisades they were not able to break through.
The Maori fire completely commanded the angle which was the centre of the attack and the Maori gun (the seized 6 pounder) killed and maimed many of the attackers.
Through the din of yelling and musketry the notes of the bugle were heard: “retire” and many British soldiers were gunned down in the withdrawal by Maori fire.
The whole action took only five minutes and within that time more than 40 English soldiers lost their lives and more than 100 were wounded, some mortally and others maimed for life. Almost one third of the English force was out of action in those few minutes.
Many a deed of gallantry and devotion illumined the tragedy of that retreat, several men returned through hot fire to carry off wounded comrades.

The total of Maori losses are not known but couldn’t have exceeded ten killed.

After this defeat the English remained camped near the Pa, keeping up a intermittent bombardment during 10 days with the 32 pounder and the other lighter guns, for which new shot was hauled from the ship.

It was Maori custom to leave a Pa when blood was spilled and after the ten day bombardment, when the English dared another attack, the Maori force had withdrawn during one of the nights after the battle.

In January 1846 there was a last decisive battle where the remaining Maori’s lost their independence to the English.

If you like this story I can make others up. There still is Gallipoli, Balaclava, Modderspruyt, Dunkerque, the Boxers of Peking, Trafalgar, etc.

After this bloodbath of 150 years ago (somewhat totally different from bathing in hot springs) we are now at Paihia.

Tomorrow we will go south again, direction Auckland.

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