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Thomas Brandon Wooster

 Birth: Bef. 01 August 1841, Rotherhithe, Surrey, England

 Death: 26 January 1910, Waipawa, New Zealand    Tree      Gravestone

2nd Waikato Militia

Service no. 212, enlisted in Sydney 21 Aug 1863

Arrival in Auckland 3rd September 1863

Medal Award, 27 Feb 1888

More than 2,500 men from the Australian colonies crossed the Tasman to fight in the New Zealand wars. Most joined the Waikato militia regiments and became involved in patrolling and garrison duties.

The battle of Orakau

Orakau pa, sketched by Brigadier-General G.J. Carey (1822−1872), from the Illustrated London News, 1864. The illustration shows British troops in the foreground behind trees and in a trench leading up towards the pa. The smoke of gunfire can be seen at several points around the pa. This image is fanciful in several respects: no British flag flew on the pa, which was not palisaded and was built on a less prominent position. The Battle of Orakau is perhaps better known as “Rewi’s last stand”, a name immortalised by Rudall Hayward’s 1925 silent film (remade as a ‘talkie’ in 1940). It was a brutal affair in which between 80 and 160 of the pa’s defenders were killed, most of them during a pursuit that followed a daring breakout towards the safety of the King Country.

Tuesday 26 April 1864- The South Australian Advertiser THE ADVANCE. Auckland papers to the 8th contain full intelligence of the recent operations at Orakau. The correspondent of the Southern Cross, writing from the front under date of the 4th, says: To commence then, it may be stated that on the morning of the 31st, a force of about 280 men, the whole under command of Major F. S. Blyth, started from Te Awamutu in the direction of Kihikihi.The distance travelled was about six miles beyond Orakau. At 6 o'clock in the morning a second body of troops, numbering about 600, left Awamutu for Orakau. Two six pounder guns were also taken. Brigadier General Carey was in command. On arriving at Kihikihi, the force was further strengthened by reinforcements, numbering in all about 150. The troops arrived at the village of Orakau fresh about daybreak. About 4 o'clock a third force started from the redoubts at Rangiawhia and Haerini, and advanced through the bush to the north east of the Village. The whole arrangements for surrounding the place suspected were admirably carried out; and the enemy in seeking to draw the troops into a trap, were themselves caught napping. On the force under the Brigadier-General arriving at the village fire Maories were seen, but who quickly made good use of their legs, and in endeavoring to escape came across Major Blyth's party, and one was shot; two others got away.

A MASKED PA As the troops advanced towards what ultimately proved to be the masked pa, a few natives showed themselves on the gentle slope on which it was situated, and fired a few shots. The 18th and Forest rangers were in front and at once charged the natives. A company of the 40th, under Captain Hinds, furnished the supports. The Maories retired as the troops came up in skirmishing order, and on nearing some flax bushes it was then discovered there was a post-and-rail fence, rifle pit or trench, and parapet. The strength of the position was naturally concealed by the grove of trees and flax bushes. Capt. King had advanced to within four yards of the rifle pit, and the troops with him, when a heavy volley met them, and eight fell killed and wounded, including the brave captain himself, who was mortally wounded. On receiving this repulse the troops retired a few yards, but were quickly reinforced by a few soldiers under Captain Hinds, and again the charge was made, with an unsuccessful result. Captain Fisher led the third attack, and was then dangerously wounded in the back. The six-pounder guns were afterwards brought into position, and under the direction of Lieutenant Carre played upon the pa for about half an hour. It was at this time that Major Blyth's force was seen working round in the rear of the Maories who must from this time have given up all hope of retiring to the bush at tbsir rear, should the attentions at the front from the troops become too pressing.

THE SAP COMMENCED. The supplementary force from Rangiawhia had also arrived, and the pa being thus effectually surrounded, the Brigadier-General gave orders that a flying sap should be commenced, and this was accordingly done. To prevent the rebels escaping during the night whilst the sap was in operation, messengers were sent to Te Rore for reinforcements, and also to headquarters, the result being a total of about 1,500 troops. The Maories in the pa were estimated to number about 300; the leading chief being Rewi. The sap was continued during the whole of the night without very serious molestation by the Maoirs, The fire was well kept up on both sides, and the rebels do not seem to have thought of attempting to escape.

THE SECOND DAY.Daring the course of Friday the firing on the part of the Maories considerably slackened, and as sensibly increased on our side, owing to the protection afforded by the gabions enabling the soldiers to fire at close range at the pa. The wounds which occurred to our men in the trenches were in many instances entirely owing to the sufferer's want of caution in ex posing his head too long a time over the gabions when desirous of getting a shot at the Maori. A few were said to have been wounded by Moaries firing from trees round the pa. An immense expenditure of ammunition took place on our side; no less than 40,000 rounds of Enfield ammunition being served out during the day.

THE MAORIES REFUSE TO SURRENDER The Sap meanwhile progressed with unabated vigor, and by noon of Saturday near upon 500 yards had been completed, including demi-parallels and traverses. The General and staff arrived from Pukerimu about this time, and the escort accompanying them also brought a quantity of hand grenades. One of the six-pounder guns was also placed in position in the sap, about 20 yards distant from the pa paling, and being loaded with grape was repeatedly dis charged, the hand grenades thrown over whilst the gun was again being charged, and these added to the perpetual crack of the rifles round the entire position, made a most deafening noise, and as may be imagined prevented the rebels from looking for an instant over the ditch or parapets. General Cameron and staff visited the sap several times during the day, and the General expressed his entire concurrence with the whole of the operations. The sap was carried into a branch trench from the pa, and again struck off in a parallel towards the north side. It was about this time that Mr. Mainwaring and Mr. Mair were instructed to place themselves in as near a position as possible with safety to the pa, and to propose to the rebels that they should surrender. This was accordingly done. The firing ceased for a few minutes, and the natives being called to give their attention, were informed that these were the words of the General. He had seen their great bravery, and admired it; but that if they continued fighting, they must all be killed. He would, therefore, ask them to surrender, and they would be treated well A chief then answered," E woa ma, te kupu tenei a te Maori. Ka wbawhai tonu, ake ake, ake." Friends, this is the word of the Maori. They will fight on, forever, forever, forever.)

TWO ATTEMPTS TO STORM REPULSED. On this determined response being given, firing was recommenced, and shortly afterwards a dashing but fll-considered attack was made from the sap on the pa. It appears a soldier working in the sap threw his cap over into the enemy's trench, and then rushed in after it. About twenty others, composed of militia, Forest Rangers, and regulars, working and firing near, followed after him, and, led by Captain Herford, succeeded in crossing the paling and getting into the trench; but here a deadly volley met them, from Maories crowded in the place almost as dense as they could be packed; and out of the twenty, ten were either killed or wounded. Captain Herford was shot through the eye; he had previously whilst engaged in the sap, received three slight wounds. Ensign Chater, of the 65th, was shot through the side. Private Armstrong, militia, killed; and Levett, also said to be killed. Thomas Hannon 18th, shot through the chest, and Worby, militia, shot through both thighs. The names of the other wounded could not be ascertained. When the Maories had discharged their pieces, they ran as fast as they could out of sight; but Captain Herford having fallen, those of the attacking party who were able retired, and brought back with them the dead and wounded, a few rifles, and other mementoes of their visit.

THE PA SILENTLY ABANDONED. Four o clock had now arrived, and the end of the sap being within two yards of the trench on the north side, two attacks on the position having been made, and a heavy fire of grape and rifle bullets being kept up, with a good shower of hand grenades, the rebels must have come to the determination that the place was becoming too hot to hold, and a retreat was decided upon. They appear to have slunk quietly from the north-east corner, and passing through the scrub, bare emerged in the open on the south side,entrusted to the safe guarding of the 40th, under CoL Leslie. The retreat appears to have been noticed from the small breastwork thrown up as a protection for the gunners manning the second six-pounder, and near which, on the sheltered embankment, the General, Brigadier-General, and Staff were discussing the mode of attack. The cry was quickly heard that the rebels were retreating, and a scene baffling description then ensued. General Cameron, Brigadier-General Carey, the aides (Major McNeil and Lieutenant St. Hill), and the gallant colonels on the staff were rushing about to warn and gather together the men from the sap, and various guard points to rush in pursuit. This occupied some minutes, and all this time the arch-rebels were trooping across the open to the South, and not a 40th man appears to have seen them. The Maories must have jumped over the heads of the soldiers lining the road, out of the steep embankment, and so passed into the swamp and high ti-tree —first wounding, it is said, two or three of the 40th, as a remembrance of their passing. They went on at a quick jog-trot down the slope and into the swamp, thus enabling the whole to keep together, for in unity only would they find strength. Major McNeil having warned those in the sap that the foe had fled, a large force was quickly gathered on the edge of the embankment, and firing as quickly as possible at the long line of poor wretches hastening away for very life.

PURSUIT AND FRIGHTFUL SLAUGHTER. No attempt was made to pursue them until the Forest Rangers were seen leading the way round by the south-east to head them; and quickly followed by the Mounted Artillery under Lieutenant Rait. Then the bugles sounded to the soldiers to cease firing, and with tremendous yells the whole force dashed in pursuit. The defence force was next seen crossing the spur of the hill on the south-west side, and closely followed the infantry. The Mounted Artillery were observed to have reached the head of the swamp just as the rebels were emerging, and great execution must have taken place. The Defence Force also succeeded in heading them, and thus hemmed in the swamp, the work of destruction went on with great vigour. The only rebels seen to escape by Captain Pye, of the Colonial Defence Force, was a body of eight who succeeded in getting away, but rested not until they had placed a distance of about twelve miles between themselves and their late position. The infantry and Forest Rangers did great execution in the swamp, and it is said the latter were eagerly prosecuting the work when the infantry were recalled. That the rebels must have suffered severely in their attempted escape may be judged from the fact that on the next day 99 dead bodies had been accounted for, and 26 pri soners, many of them wounded, were in our hands. Out of these, only 14 dead were found in the pa. By one of the prisoners it was stated that Rewi was shot in the thigh before leaving the pa, and on crossing the Punio river he was again shot in the abdomen. His body was said to be lying in the swamp, and the Brigadier-General offered a reward of £10 to any soldier who might bring it in. The great inducement for leaving the pa is said to have been that they were dying for water, and it is considered somewhat singular that in their attempt to escape they should not have made for the bush, where they must have known they had reinforcements. Amongst the dead the following chiefs have been recognised :−Te Nahu (who had his jaw blown away in a great fight years ago, at Otawhao), and Hopata, Ngatiraukau; Oporo, Ngati kowra ; Te Rewiti, Uriwera; Pikia, Uriwera; Paerata, Taupo, Peniamine, Te Warahoe. The chief Wiremu Karamos, Waikato, is amongst the prisoners. The rebel force was composed of drafts from tribes living from the Waikato Heads as far as Wellington. Several of the accidents occurring to our forces must have arisen from bullets fired from our own rifles having failed to make lodgment in the pa. Sergeant Kendrick was wounded in this manner, whilst standing near the commis sariat. Colonel Pitt had a narrow escape whilst looking over the entrenchment near the six-pounder gun, the crown on his cap being torn away by a rifle ball The accident to Lieutenant Chevalier occurred by his falling on a bayonet of a 65th soldier, the weapon entering the thigh. In addition to the casualties before given, I have been made acquainted with the following:—Private Clarkson, 12th, wound of left arm; Walsh, 12th, wound in the hip; and Hughes, 12th, in the back.

REBELS KILLED AT ORAKAU. The following important news was also received by letter from Orakau: —101 Maories have been killed, besides 18 to 20 reported buried in the pa. 33 have been taken prisoners, 26 of them wounded. Our loss is 68 killed and wounded. Rewi has not been found.

COLONEL LESLIE AND THE 40TH REGIMENT The Southern Cross thus refers to the escape of the Maories:—"At the crisis of their fate they burst from the pa on the western side, traversed the ground covered by the head-quarter companies of the 40th Regiment under the command of Col Leslie, and made good their retreat into a swamp beyond. We pay no unwilling tribute to the defenders of the Orakau pa; we believe they behaved as well as anybody of men could behave; and whatever we may think of their cause, they deserved to escape. We would rather not follow this remark up by what we are likewise bound to say—that the conduct of the troops that allowed them to escape through their lines in broad day is not deserving of praise. We withhold censure until we can ascertain the full details of the transaction which snatched a crowning victory from the hands of the gallant officer commanding, and turned it into a humiliating defeat. For a defeat it is, to all intents and purposes, although we can boast of obtaining all the material advantages of a victory. The New Zealand Herald says—" If the rebels at Orakau, in the frenzy of desperation, contrived, as our contemporary says, to break through the 40th Regiment, we entertain a firm conviction that when the time of explanation shall have arrived that the character of the 40th, as a regiment, will remain as untarnished as it did after the peach grove retreat; and it is in that conviction that we have deemed it our bounden duty to pen a few sympathetic—and what we believe will be found to be merited—observations at the present juncture."


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  06 November 2016