Top Shows

Frontier Of Dreams

Sundays 6.40am | TV ONE

Battle of Rangiriri

Today, the site of Rangiriri pa is split by State Highway One. In 1863 it was a place where about 500 Maori held a strong defensive line (in a small strip of land between the Waikato River and Lake Waikare) against attacking Imperial forces.

On 20 November 1863 Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron and his British troops moved up to Rangiriri and attacked the pa. Cameron sent gun boats up the river so troops could land behind, whilst those in front assaulted Maori defences with the first of three attacking parties.

This type of fighting was new to many of the Maori defenders. They were up against about 900 troops supported by artillery. Despite great determination, the British soldiers were forced back by the equally strong-willed Maori defenders.

When the Maori side became low on ammunition they asked the British for more so they could continue the fight. When the British refused, the Maori decided to negotiate and raised a white flag of truce. But Cameron's troops marched in and the battle was won.

The British losses were higher than expected, with 47 known deaths on each side. The troops called it "Bloody Rangiriri", as it was the greatest number of British killed in any of the battles of the New Zealand wars. With Rangiriri won it wasn't long before the whole of the Waikato was unlocked for Cameron's army and the settlers who followed close behind.