Sergeant-Major William Rufus Churchouse, Opotiki 1865
William Rufus Churchouse (1842-1916) was born in Godney, Somerset, England. He enrolled, in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, on 20 Jan 1864 (registration number 41) for the Armed Constabulary. He stated he was 5' 8", an accountant aged 22 and single.
He arrived in New Zealand on the 'Gresham' in 1864 (with 422 other soldier of the Melbourne Contingent Taranaki Military Settlers). He served with the Taranaki Military Settlers Commissariat Transport Corps and was also at Pipiriki, Opotiki
Taranaki Herald, 7 Jan 1865
CHRISTMAS AT KAITAKE
The Age (Melbourne), 11 Nov 1865 OPOTIKI, New Zealand
We have received from Mr W. E.(sic, William Rufus) Churchouse, Sergeant-Major of the East Coast Expeditionary Force, Opotiki, NZ, the following letter, dated 8th October, relative to the war:- Sir, — Since last writing to you, little has occurred here worth mentioning, till the 5th inst., when a smart engagement took place with the rebels at a native village and pa, about four miles from our camp, which ended in the capture of the pa, and the total rout of the rebels, who left thirty-three men dead on the field, the loss on our side being three killed and nine wounded, a list of whom I have attached below.
Early on the morning of the 5th, Major McDonnell, with four officers and fifty rank and file of the native contingent, left the camp on a reconnoitering expedition. After being out about two hours, a quantity of cattle was seen near an old village we had burnt some days previous, on attempting to drive them off, they were fired on by a party of rebels, who had not before been seen.
The contingent gave chase and followed them about half a mile, into a pa that had been built within the last few days, situated near a river with a swamp on one side. Major M'Donnell, seeing this place could be easily surrounded, sent back a man to camp for reinforcements, and threw out his handful of men in skirmishing order in front of the pa, to prevent if possible, the escape of the rebels till further reinforcements arrived.
About an hour after, the remainder of the native contingent, with about twenty of the cavalry under Lieutenant McPherson, arrived, and shortly after, Captain Newlands and Ross's companies of Rangers, when the pa was completely surrounded. The firing was now kept up heavily on both sides; several of our men were wounded, and one killed. About this time, two p.m., a party of the rebels came down from a neighboring pa, about a mile distant, to attempt the rescue of their men in the pa; and attempted to turn our left flank. This was prevented by our small troop of cavalry, under Lieutenant McPherson, who, dismounting half his men, threw them out in skirmishing order, and gradually retiring, drew the rebels some distance out on the plain, to where the remainder of his troop was stationed, when, suddenly mounting their horses, orders wore given to charge.
This was brilliantly executed. The rebels, panic struck, fled leaving nine dead and one prisoner severely wounded in our hands.
No other attempt was made to rescue them by their comrades aud thinking perhaps that discretion is the better part of valor, they retreated to a pa on the spur of some ranges near to watch the issue of the conflict with their less fortunate comrades in the pa we had surrounded.
Troop Sergeant-Major L. O. Kenrick and Farrier-Major, F. De Courcey Duff, of the cavalry troop, received great praise for the gallant manner in which they led the charge. One trooper only received a slight wound in the heel; several of the horses received gun-shot wounds.
About four p.m., Major Stapp arrived from camp with another company and a six pounder gun, and took command. The firing was kept up till dusk, when the rebels commenced a parley, and demanded the terms of surrender. They were told they must lay down their arms, and surrender unconditionally. On their asking for time to consider, an hour was granted.
At the expiration of the hour, one of them came out and had a conversation with the friendly natives and stated they had all agreed to surrender. At this point, some misunderstanding appears to have occurred amongst our men. The Maories in the pa commenced crying cut 'Haere mai, haero mai, pakeha (come here, come here, white man). Some of the men, thinking they had given in, went up to the pa and commenced shaking hands with them. At this moment, they gave a yell, and rushed out of the pa, threw themselves on our men and made for the swamp, This was so quickly done, and a lot of our men being mixed up with them, a little resistance was made for a moment. Luckily, they took a direction right on to where a party of our men were posted, and forced themselves through the midst of them. A sharp struggle ensued, our men bayoneting them as fast as they could use their rifles.
Twenty three bodies were left dead on the field, and numbers more must be lying in the swamp as our men chased them into it, keeping up a heavy fire on them till they were lost in the gloom of the swamp.
The pa was now destroyed, and the men camped on spot that night. Two of the rebels killed were recognised as Hau-hau priests, having red crosses on their breasts; also one named Heremeta Kunpaera, the man who placed the rope round the neck of the Rev. Mr Volkner, and who afterwards assisted in decapitating him.
NOTE about Carl Sylvius Völkner (1819-1865).
On 2 March 1865 Carl Sylvius Völkner, a German-born missionary, was hanged from a willow tree near his church at Ōpōtiki. Followers of a new religion, Pai Marire, who suspected Völkner of spying for the government, were held responsible.
Our casualties for the day were as follow: —
* Private Thos. Melville Brown, P.R., killed
* Private Charles Ratsay, No. 8 Co., killed
* Private Patrick Parsons, No. 8 Co., killed
* Provost-Sergeant Wm. Constable, P.R., wounded right arm, severely
* Sergeant U. Bourke, No. 8 Co., wounded right leg, severely
* Corporal W. Harris, P.R., wounded right arm, severely
* Private W. Thompson, P.R,, wounded right arm, severely
* Private H. J. Williams, No. 10 Co., wounded right side, slightly
* Private Jas. McEvoy, No. 8 Co., wounded head, severely
* Trooper Lennord, W.Y.C., wounded heel, slightly
* Lieutenant Peta, N.C., wounded groin, slightly
* Private Hare, N.C., wounded right thigh, severely
Early next morning a native came down from the pa on the hill with a flag of truce, and stated they were agreeable to give up the murderers of Mr Volkner. He was sent back with a message to the effect that if they were in earnest it must be done at once, or we should immediately start and attack their pa. Shortly after he came down again, and requested us to return to our camp, and they would follow us back. Major Stapp at one gave orders for the troops to advance. Shortly after starting, the commanding officer, Major Brassey, overtook us, and took command. On arriving near the enemy's position, we found three pas, situated one above the other, on a range of mountains running inland.
The troops having been judiciously placed by the commanding officer, and a party sent round to attack them on the left flank, the first pa was stormed. Immediately we charged the Hau-haus retreated at the back from one pa to the other, and escaped to the neighboring hills, without firing a shot. The whole of these positions were thus taken without resistance. All the whares and palisadings were set on fire and destroyed, as also a large village underneath, at the bottom of the range, in which were stored large quantities of grain, potatoes, kumeras, &c. These were also burnt. After destroying everything in the vicinity of the place, we returned to camp in the afternoon.
The behavior of our men, both English and natives, throughout, was excellent, and our colonial Government cannot but be proud to see that her little army (which has up to the present time met with such marked success) is making rapid strides to justify their expectations of soon being able to put an end to this savage warfare. A few more such lessons as they have received during the last three months, and the Maori rebellion will be a thing of the past, soon forgotten in the advancement of a flourishing colony, blessed with a lasting peace.
The Rev Mr Carl Sylvius Völkner (1819-1865)