THE ROYAL NEW ZEALAND FENCIBLES

Hone Heke defies British authority

Anthony G. Flude © 2005

Royal NZ Fencible & family Hone fells the flagpole

New Zealand became an official Crown Colony of Great Britain on the 3rd May 1841, severing all links with New South Wales, Australia, although the New Zealand Company ship "London"had already landed its first 200 immigrant passengers at Port Nicholson, Wellington on the 12th December, 1840, five months earlier.

The Maori chief Hone Heke Pokai was a nephew of the chief Hongi Hika and was particularly noted for his accomplishments as a diplomat among his own maori people and also the missionaries and settlers. A man of great mana among his people who's life was greatly influenced by the advice given to him by chief Hongi Hika.
Hone's philosophies in life were to tell his people to be kind to the missionaries, to talk and trade with the settlers but to have nothing to do with the redcoat soldiers and to 'not let our lands pass into the hands of the pakeha.' [white settlers]

Hone Heke took part in the maori inter-tribal battles of Koroareka in the year 1830 where his uncle Hengi was killed and later at the battle of Otunoetai, Tauranga in 1833, where he was wounded  and sent back to the Bay of Islands to recover. He was converted to christianity by the missionaries and lived with Rev. Henry Wakefield and his family at Paihia, during which time he became a lay reader at the local church. Hone married Ono, also known as  'Lydia," the daughter of Te Pahi of Ngati-Rehia. In 1837 he was again fighting at Pomare, but returned and settled at Kaikohe.

At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 3rd, 1840, Hone Heke was the first maori chief to come forward to sign, although many of the settlers thought this was more of a theatrical act than agreeing to the terms of the document and its contents.
Hone and his cousin had been gaining revenue from the whaling ships that put in to re-provision at Kororareka [Russel] in the Bay of Islands, charging them a levy of £5 per vessel. At the height of the whaling season, this would have produced a tidy sum of money for the chiefs. However, with the declaration of British sovereignty, Hone was to forfeit this revenue to the Crown, when the newly appointed Harbourmaster collected Port Duties for the Government.

In the following years until 1844, during which time the capital of New Zealand was moved to Auckland, Hone Heke began to talk of rebellion against the new British rules being imposed.
He openly stated that he viewed the flagstaff and flag flown by the military garrison at Russell as a symbol of the British Queen's authority, usurping his mana as leader among his own people. He was further concerned at the maori land that was being sold off very cheaply to the settlers.

Hone began to assert his authority and on the 8th July he ordered his men to cut down the flagpole flying the Union Jack at Kororareka. The British commander was not amused and viewed this action very seriously.
"I consider losing the flagstaff in the same light as losing a ship", said Lieutenant Philpotts, Royal Navy, in his report to the Governor. As a deterent and show of strength, a detachment of 250 men from the 96th regiment arrived at the settlement under Lt.Colonel Hulme but when the northern chiefs later guaranteed Hone Heke's good behavoir , they were returned to Auckland.

Still smouldering, Hone Heke continued to incite his followers and again cut down the flagpole on the 19th January, 1845. The 96th regiment was called from Auckland to restore order and guard the re-erected flagpole. Fortifications were built and the British warship H.M.S. Hazard arrived in the bay.
By early March, although things appeared to have settled down, Hone Heke and chief Kawiti had joined forces. The 96th had returned to Auckland aboard the warship. Skirmishes broke out near Kororareka and looting of settlers houses and goods began on the outskirts.
Hone Heke and his warriors attacked the garrison at Kororareka at dawn on the 11th March, defeating the small British garrison and cutting down the flagpole in defiance of British rule. The town was abandoned and the surviving British settlers transferred to Auckland. Lt. Philpotts ordered the maori occupied town be bombarded with cannon from his fortifications on the outskirts, while the looters went from house to house setting the wooden buildings alight.

The unrest in the north continued into 1846 and the sacking of  Koroareka by Hone Heke and his warriors led Governor Fitzroy and later Governor Grey to request the Colonial Office in London to send troops to help quell the problems. After much debate in the British Parliament, it was finally agreed that a regiment of retired soldiers, rather than a fighting force, were to be recruited and called the Royal New Zealand Fencibles. They were to be sent to the colony to help protect and defend the settlers against the marauding attacks by the maori.
Notices, issued by the British War office on the 4th December 1846, were displayed stating the conditions of enlistment in every military camp in the British Isles where pensioners were stationed.

Enlistment of suitable candidates began in England and Ireland, where the period of service in the Fencibles was for seven years.
The men selected from the volunteers would be of two classes. The first group was to be men already in receipt of military pensions, while the second group would be selected from men discharged without a pension. Those wishing to be considered for recruitment were required to be under 48 years of age, with a minimum of 15 years military service. They needed to be taller that 5ft 5" and medically fit as required by military standards.

Pay was offered at the rate of 1/3d a day which was in addition to their pension money and if married with children, all would receive a free passage to New Zealand at the governments expense. Many of those men enlisted had fought in many countries in the world and would be well used to the sort of conditions they were likely to encounter on arrival in the new fledgling colony of New Zealand.

 On arrival and disembarkation, the men were to receive a three month pension payment, plus an extra one month for each child in the family. They were to be be housed in a small two bedroomed cottage on a quarter acre section of land which was to become their own freehold property if they settled and remained in New Zealand after the seven years enlistment period. Each pensioner was to be be issued with a musket and bayonet, percussion caps, black gunpowder, shot and equipment, a blue serge uniform and peaked hat, a red shell jacket and black army type boots.

The officers were enrolled under different conditions. Each officer was to be given a four-roomed cottage with a kitchen on a sizable block of land [usually 30-50 acres] with the option of additional crown land purchase if they remained in New Zealand at the end of their engagement.
A further item was added to the Fencibles 'conditions of service' after their arrival in New Zealand, which stated that the Governor of New Zealand was to have the option of employing pensioners on Public Works at the current rate of employment that existed in the colony rather than being permitted to hire out their labour privately. All monies earned was additional to their pension.
The Fencible units and their families gathered at the ports of Greenwich, Gravesend or Belfast in Ireland, arriving in New Zealand aboard the ten government chartered vessels over a period of five years between 1847 and 1852.

The Fencible Ships to New Zealand.

 RAMILLIES  Captain McLean  67 pensioners  57 women  123 children  year 1847
 MINERVA  Captain McBrath  80 pensioners  67 women  145 children  year 1847
 SIR ROBERT SALE  Captain Loader  74 pensioners  69 women  149 children  year 1847
 SIR GEORGE SEYMOUR  Captain Millman  78 pensioners  63 women  114 children  year 1847
 CLIFTON  Captain Kettlewell  79 pensioners  72 women  161 children  year 1848
 ANN  Captain Walker  74 pensioners  70 women  153 children  year 1848
 BERHAMPORE  Captain Smith  80 pensioners  67 women  101 children  year 1849
 ORIENTAL QUEEN  Captain Thomas  71 pensioners  62 women  168 children  year 1849
 INCHINNAN  Captain Innis  78 pensioners  68 women  113 children  year 1852
 BERWICK CASTLE  Captain Latta  40 pensioners  37 women  68 children  year 1852

In New Zealand, Governor Grey and his military advisers had drawn a five mile circle on the map around the Auckland township where the Fencibles might be located but some of the chosen sites fell outside these boundaries. The aim of this approximate five mile placement was to keep the Fencible detachments at a reasonable distance from each other so that they could provide military support if required and that they were placed within a five mile radius of their employment.

It was decided that the first detachment of pensioners would be located and settled at Onehunga, some 4¾ miles from Auckland directly across the narrow ismus, coast to coast.  Onehunga, as a sea port, seemed to be an ideal location and one division was to be stationed there. The next  location chosen was Howick [Paparoa], 11¾ miles distant on the eastern approaches where three divisions were to be stationed, followed by Panmure, 7 miles distance, one division and at Otahuhu, 8½ miles to the south, one division.
The remaining company's arrived at a later time by the "Berthempore" and the "Oriental Queen, in September, 1849, by which time Governor Grey had visited Tamaki and chosen a site for another division to be stationed there.

Onehunga Village

The pensioners duties were described in the conditions set out for recruitment. They were required to attend Church Parade every Sunday in full uniform and also to attend six days military drill and firearms training in the spring and autumn of every year. Failure to comply with these conditions would be regarded as 'desertion' and the appropriate military penalties would apply. For the training and parades, the men received 1/3d extra for each day when these duties were performed.

Edward Mellon, was a 9 year old boy travelling with his mother and father, a pensioner of the No 8 Company of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles aboard the "Oriental Queen" in September, 1849 to Auckland, New Zealand.
In a letter written in 1919, he recalls and describes the ships arrival in the Waitemata Harbour and the subsequent journey by foot of the Fencibles, their wives, children and luggage, to the small village of Onehunga, a distance of 4¾ miles.

"At  first we anchored for a short stay at the Parade Ground under the signal station at Mount Victoria to discharge ammunition and explosives. Then the ship was moved up the harbour to a position opposite Fort Britomart where she anchored for three weeks while her remaining cargo was discharged in small 'cargo' boats to the shore. Some mothers went ashore with these boats to view what was then only a small village with few inhabitants, mostly natives with very few clothes on!" he wrote.

Returning to the ship, they told how the natives offered them oranges for sale at 1/- per dozen, live pigs, baskets of fish and potatoes and that the 'tea-tree' they had been told about, was growing alongside the streets and could be taken for free. The boys and girls were not so interested in the 'tea-tree', but the oranges at 1d. each pleased them all.  After three weeks had passed everyone aboard was taken ashore, the luggage taken into Official Bay by the ship's boats and loaded onto the waiting drays.
A horse was put to our dray and together with the others walked slowly up the hill to the top of Parnell to the 'Old Windsor Castle Hotel', kept by a Mr. Johnstone, where a halt was made for the drays to catch up and for the men to treat themselves to some beer, which they declared, was the best they had tasted in four months. [a daily rum ration per man was the only alcoholic drink allowed aboard]

We started onwards, Edward continued, passing through Newmarket, to where there was a hotel called "The Royal George" and opposite a store named 'Cheapside', the owner D. Toohey. When we reached the Great South Road where it joins the Onehunga Road we met a donkey and cart by the roadside; it neighed at us. Wearily we soon reached  the hotel called "The Halfway House'  where a stop took place for the men to get another couple of glasses of beer.Then onwards until we reached Potter's Paddock where all the contents of the drays were dumped onto the grass. Then into the big barn they were carried, for that was to be our new home.

He continued. Someone was dispatched up to One Tree Hill to gather flax which was tied together to form partitions where we all ate what food was provided and sleeping quarters. My parents had two boxes which we used as tables, while we sat and later slept on the grass on the floor. There was no school to attend, so the boys soon got into trouble playing in a large pond of water.  Young James Ingram was sent up the hill for flax and sticks to make guns for us to play games and we drilled up and down like soldiers in rediness to fight the natives if they came.
That all happened in October, 1849 and by the year 1863 I had become a Colonial soldier myself at Papakura.

[Edward Mellon was a resident of Onehunga 1849-1853].

Fencible Cottage 1860

ONEHUNGA VILLAGE  was the first village to be established. The Fencibles and their families off the "Ramilles" were housed for three months at the Albert Barracks in Auckland. They moved to the village of Onehunga on the 17th November 1847, where a large wooden 100ft  building housed them and their families. Later in the year detached cottages were built on a ten acre site and the families moved into their new homes in April, 1848, laying out their gardens and planting vegetables. By July the village of Onehunga boasted its first school attended by 31 boys and 23 girls and by 1850 the population of Onehunga had grown to 867 persons.

PANMURE VILLIAGE was situated by the river at Tamaki which was used for transport to Auckland and a trade route. Most of its settlers were from Ireland who at first built their own raupo huts but the first wooden cottages were not built until 1848. During 1850, seventy allotments were allocated. Many of the Fencible pensioners found employment locally in Public Works or began to use the rich volcanic soil to farm and run horses, cows and sheep. In 1849 the first Catholic School was established.

HOWICK VILLAGE is named after Lord Howick who had been involved in the formation of the Fencibles in England before they embarked for New Zealand. The largest of the Fencible settlements, the volunteers found that little had been done to complete their cottages on arrival. Two sheds were soon built to house them, each 100 feet long but many of the families opted to live in raupo huts built by the local maori. Fifty one cottages were built and completed by 1848 and the families in occupation, the remainder completed by May 1851 to house the 2nd & 3rd Detachments. A General Store had opened in Wellington Street by 1851. Most of the men were employed by the government Public Works, clearing the land allotments or building roads and bridges.

OTAHUHU VILLAGE was the last one to be settled by the Royal New Zealand Fencibles, who again found that no cottages had been erected for them, although the land had been cleared and surveyed. The pensioners on the "Ann" arrived at the beginning of the New Zealand wet winter and were housed in Potters Barn, Onehunga, the same quarters  as those Fencible's off the "Ramilles" in 1847. Many of the men had no trade to offer and were employed in the Public Works building bridges, the first built spanned the Otahuhu Creek, roads and drains. By 1851 the first church school was built, while maori traders plied up the Tamaki River by canoe to sell their wares of sweet potatoes, pork, oranges and fish.

The Royal New Zealand Fencible detachments now formed a regiment of seven hundred and twenty men well placed around the capital, Auckland, to give protection to the new settlers in the colony.

After ten years had elapsed  since their arrival in New Zealand, many of the Fencibles and their families had stayed to gain ownership of their own cottages and land. They had settled and carved out a new and better life for themselves in this new country, where living conditions and climate were better than they had left behind, while their children had become adults and integrated into the work force and New Zealand society. Just a few of the single men returned to England, Scotland or Ireland to re-unite with their family.
 
The names of the men of the regiment of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles and their families are well recorded and preserved in the New Zealand National Archives and libraries where genealogists can research to find their family links.

Resource:"The Royal New Zealand Fencibles 1847-1852" published by NZ Fencible Society Inc.