COVER PHOTO: A painting by artist John Williams of British troops at Ruapekapeka pā. Photograph: John Williams/New Zealand's ministry for culture and heritage
The remains of 12 British soldiers who fought in New Zealand’s Northern War have been found in a mass grave, 170 years after the battle took place.
The Northern War occurred between 1845-46 when Maori tribes rebelled against British colonial rule.
Maori chief Hone Heke and his supporters were pursued by the British Army after he took down a British flag in an act of protest.
The Northern War was the first challenge faced by British rule since the signing of the treaty of Waitangi a number of years previously.
It is viewed by historians as the beginning of the New Zealand Wars.
Archeologist Jono Carpenter, who has been looking for the soldiers’ remains since 2013, said of the discovery:
“These men took the Queen’s shilling. They came from halfway around the world and ended up dying here and now their bones have become part of the earth.”
According to Carpenter, the men died during an attack from Maori troops on January 11th, 1846.
1600 British soldiers battled 400 Maori fighters, and despite the odds, the battle is seen as having ended in a draw.
Although little remained of the bodies, a musket ball was unearthed from beneath the ribs of one of the soldiers.
Pita Tipene is a descendant of both Maori chief Kawiti, as well as the Colonel Robert Wynyard, and told One News:
“We’ve been wondering for years and years, ever since 1986, where the soldiers were buried and because we didn’t know where they were buried, we couldn’t give them the reverence and the respect that they deserved so this is absolutely huge.”
The Department of Conservation is currently in the process of consulting with local Maori tribes as they decide how the troops will be commemorated.