Battle re-enactment fires up

Loud bangs and poofs of smoke and sawdust will reverberate from Tauranga Domain tomorrow in a live firing of salutes to commemorate 150 years since the 1864 Battle of Gate Pa.

The public is being encouraged to attend one of three re-enactments during the day, to be performed by the visiting NZ Armed Constabulary Force Re-enactment Artillery Unit contingent.

The NZ Armed Constabulary Re-enactment Unit will perform a re-enactment of the Battle of Gate Pa at Tauranga Domain, as part of 150-year commemorations.

NZ Armed Constabulary Force Re-enactment Society commandant John Osborne says the free public event will see cannon and gun firing displays at 10am, 12pm and 2pm at the domain’s northern end.

“We will be staging three gun salutes – each time firing two six-pounder Armstrong full-size field guns and five full-size 12-pounder Coehorn mortars,” says John.

“They make a good noise – lots of bangs, flash and smoke.”

John says the group is making the re-enactments as “real and accurate” to the battle as possible – using replica guns and participants dressing in period costumes.

“Our men will be in artillery uniform and the ladies in civilian dress.

“The public will also be able to inspect the guns on completion of each salute – and we’ll have a raffle, with winners getting to fire the guns, “ says John, who says his group’s replica Armstrong and Coehorn mortars were built in Napier by members in 1983 and 1985.

John says six-pounder Armstrong guns were brought to the battlefield on April 28, 1864, and set up in a battery with Coehorn mortars at a range of 350 yards.

“The six-pounder Armstrong guns and Coehorn mortars were part of artillery barrage of the pa site, lasting from dawn to 4pm on April 29, 1864.”

John says at noon, two six-pounder guns were dragged across Kopurererua swamp and set up on the hillside opposite the pa, to fire directly into it.

It was believed the artillery barrage from all guns had killed most Maori defenders; and just after 4pm on April 29 an assault led by sailors, marines and soldiers of the 43rd Regiment charged forward.

But the Maori defenders sheltered in deep trenches and bunkers, coming through the barrage mostly unscathed.

“The attacking soldiers and sailors were met by a withering fire from the hidden defenders with many of them killed or wounded. The survivors turned and retreated back to their lines,” says John.

“This was the single most devastating repulse suffered by a British storming party during the whole of the New Zealand Wars period.”

The Pukehinahina Charitable Trust organised this public event.


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