Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 4, September 1965

By Captain C.W. Vennell. (Retired List - formerly Hauraki Regiment).

The Hauraki Regiment, which has its headquarters in Tauranga, can look back on a distinguished record of 66 years including participation in four overseas wars. It grew out of a tradition of voluntary service established during the Maori Wars of last century.

The earliest volunteer infantry unit in what is now the Hauraki area was the Opotiki Rangers Rifle Volunteers formed on 29th August 1867. It followed the formation of the Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry on 23rd December 1866. Each was composed largely of men who had served in the 1st Waikato Regiment of Militia and who first settled the Tauranga and Opotiki districts. Each distinguished itself in the Hau Hau wars.

In the next 25 years no fewer than 20 volunteer units (not including cadets) were formed - and all but one disbanded - nine at Thames, three at Tauranga, four at Opotiki and one each at Coromandel, Tapu, Puriri and Katikati.

The first of the Tauranga units was the Tauranga Cavalry formed on 30th December 1868 and disbanded on 9th August 1870.

The Hauraki Regiment, formed on 9th July 1898 as the 2nd Battalion Auckland Rifle Volunteers, with headquarters at Paeroa, included the following independent companies:-

Te Aroha Rifle Volunteer Company

formed 15th September 1892

No. 1 Company Ohinemuri R.V

formed 16th June 1897

No. 2 Company Ohinemuri R.V., Karangahake

formed 26th July 1897

Hauraki Rifle Volunteers, Thames

formed 11th October 1897

No. 3 Company Ohinemuri R.V., Waihi

formed 29th November 1897

Coromandel Rifle Volunteers

formed 28th February 1898

Onehunga Rifle Volunteers

formed 9th July 1898

The commanding officer of the new battalion was Major Thomas Nepean Edward Kenny, surveyor and county clerk, of Paeroa, formerly of the 73rd (Perthshire) Highlanders, better known as the Black Watch, and of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He had acted as adjutant in the operations against Te Kooti in the Waikato in 1870 and was afterwards a sub-inspector in the Armed Constabulary.

Only 15 months after the battalion was formed the first New Zealand Contingent sailed for South Africa. Among the eight men from the Hauraki area in its ranks was the battalion's first Regimental Sergeant-Major, Sgt. Major G. R. Bradford, formerly of the Goldstream Guards.

Bradford, who went overseas as a private (farrier), died of wounds received in the contingent's first action at Jasfontein Farm. He was the first man from New Zealand and the first of any colonial contingent in the South African War to give his life for the Empire. In all, more than 200 men from the Hauraki area landed in Africa as members of the ten contingents sent from New Zealand.At home the South African war period was one of change. On 9th February 1900 Major E. W. Porritt, formerly battalion adjutant, succeeded Major Kenny in command. On 10th March the services of the Huntly Rifles were accepted and, on 5th April, the Te Aroha Rifles were transferred to mounted infantry. On 15th November the Thames Naval Artillery (formed in 1869 as the Thames Naval Volunteers) changed its identity to become part of the battalion as No. 1 Company Thames Rifle Volunteers.

On 1st October 1901 the designation of the battalion was changed to "2nd battalion, Auckland (Hauraki) Infantry Volunteers". On 17th January following the services of the Thames Naval Artillery Band were accepted as the battalion's first band. On 18th April 1902 the Rotorua Rifle Volunteers and. the Waihi Rifle Volunteers (both formed two years before) were attached to the battalion. The Rotorua company was disbanded on 6th December 1905.The years following the war were comparatively uneventful and then, in 1907, the regiment's first battle honours, "South Africa 1900-1902" were conferred by King Edward VII. On 28th September the same year, at a battalion parade held at Thames, the King's Colour (presented by the New Zealand Government) was consecrated, presented and trooped.When the Defence Act of 1909 came into force the volunteer units became merged in the new Territorial organisation in which the Hauraki Battalion - the sixth in order of seniority in New Zealand - became the VI (Hauraki) Regiment. It was made up of the following companies:-

A Company. Thames ( formerly No. 1 Thames Rifles).

B Company, Paeroa ( formerly No. 1 Ohinemuri Rifles).

C Company, Thames ( formerly Hauraki & Coromandel Rifles).

D Company, Waihi ( formerly No. 3 Ohinemuri & Waihi Rifles).

E Company, Te Aroha.

F Company, Morrinsville.

G Company, Tauranga and Opotiki (half-company each)

H Company, Rotorua. and Matamata (half-company each)

Regimental Band, Thames (the former battalion band)

Lieutenant Colonel Porritt, who had been promoted to that rank in 1902, remained in command.

On 10th July 1911 the regimental badge was approved and the present motto, "Whaka tangata Kia Kaha", adopted as from 4th April 1912.

It is worthy of record even in this brief summary that, on 20th November 1911, Bernard Cyril Freyberg, of Morrinsville, then aged 23, was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Hauraki Regiment. He joined the Haurakis just in time to attend its first annual camp.

This was held at Morrinsville on the property of the second-in-command, Major R. C. Allen, from 17th to 20th February 1912 and is claimed to have been the first infantry camp in the Dominion. It was attended by 23 officers (among whom was Lieut. S.S. Allen, - the late Colonel Sir Stephen Allen - Major Allen's brother) and 373 other ranks out of a total strength of 28 officers and 961 other ranks.In February 1913, the Hauraki Regiment was allied to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry which, as the 43rd Monmouthshire Regiment, fought at Maketu, Gate Pa and Te Ranga in the Tauranga district in 1864 and helped to garrison that district for two years afterwards.

In the same year new colours were presented to the Regiment by the Officers and men of the former volunteer Battalion. The ceremony was performed by the Governor, Lord Liverpool, at Hautapu Camp, Cambridge, on 3rd May 1914.

With the outbreak of World War I on the following 4th August the calibre of the Regiment was soon to be sternly tested. The first draft of Hauraki volunteers left Paeroa for Epsom Camp nine days later. They were to form part of the 6th Hauraki Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion, 1st N.Z. Expeditionary Force. The Battalion first saw action on the Suez Canal against the Turks in February 1915 and took part in the landing at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli. on 25th April 1915. Three Hauraki Officers were killed and one wounded in the landing.

On the withdrawal from Gallipoli after eight months fighting, the Auckland Battalion was reformed as two Battalions, each including a 6th Hauraki Company. Transferred to France early in 19l6 the 1st and 2nd "Aucks" (one commanded by Lieut-Colonel R. C. Allen - both Haurakis) took part in the Battle of the Somme of that year. The actions listed as Battle honours on the Regiment's colours were by no means all in which the Haurakis took part. Space here will permit no more than a recital of their names :-

- 19l6 - Battles of the Somme; Flers-Courcelette and the capture of Martinpuich; Morval and the capture of Cambles, Lesboeufs and Gueidecourt; Le Transloy Ridges, capture of Eaucourt l'Abbaye and Le Sars and attack on Butte de Warlencourt.- 1917- Battle of Messines and capture of Wytschaete; Ypres; Polygon Wood; Broodseinde and 1st Battle of Passchendaele.

- 1918 - First Battle of the Somme; first Battle of Arras; Ancre; Albert and capture of Chuignes; second Battle of the Somme; the breaking of the Hindenburg Line; second Battle of Bapaume and capture of Mont St. Quentin; Havrincourt; Canal du Nord and capture of Bourlon Wood; Cambrai and capture of Villers-Outreaux and of Cambrai; the Selle (Picardy); the Sambre, passage of the Sambre-Oise Canal and capture of Le Quesnoy.

After 1917 there was a 3rd Auckland Battalion, also with a 6th Hauraki Company.

Maintaining interest in military affairs after any big war is a difficult task but, in the hands of such men as the two Allens already referred to, Lieut-Colonel (later Colonel) F. Prideaux of Whakatane, and many others including Captain J. M. Allen the Haurakis were kept in being, between the wars, when there was no longer the spur of compulsory training to keep them together.

On 20th February 1930 at Paeroa, Colours presented to the regiment by the Paeroa Returned Servicemen's Association were formally handed over by the G.O.C. New Zealand Forces, Major-General R. Young. C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.In World War II the identity of the Haurakis, as well as that of the other New Zealand regiments, was partly lost. It was retained as far as possible in three companies, one in each of the first three echelons of the 2nd N.Z.E.F. In each of the 18th, 21st and 24th Battalions B Company was originally composed mostly of men from the Hauraki Regiment.

Nine days after the outbreak of war voluntary enlistment for the First Echelon was opened and three weeks later, on October 3rd 1939 B Company and the rest of 18th Battalion entered Hopu Hopu Camp at Ngaruawahia.

They saw their first fighting against the Germans north of Mount Olympus in Greece in April 1941. Meanwhile their fellow Haurakis of the 21st and 24th Battalions had caught up with them. Together they experienced the bitter fighting, privations and final withdrawals from Greece, then Crete.

When all three battalions were reformed from the scattered remnants which returned to Egypt, they moved, into the desert. In the next three years they were to fight their-way right across North Africa and then through Italy. ** Their leader, now Lieut-General Lord Freyberg, V.C., G.C.M.G., K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O. (and three bars), was the most famous Hauraki of all - none other than the former junior subaltern who joined the Regiment in 1911, 30 years before.

** On 5th October 1942, just before Alamein, the 18th ceased to be Infantry and became part of the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade.

The many actions in which the Hauraki Regiment took part can be only briefly sketched:

Sidi Resegh, where the 21st was cut to pieces and its C.O., Lieut-Colonel J. M. Allen (also an Hauraki) killed, then after a period in Syria, Ruweisat Ridge and El Agheilla; the decisive battle of Alamein, the famous "left hooks" at El Agheilla and Wadi Akarit, and the most notable one of all - Tebaga Gap - and the crowning episode of Takrouna. These were the highlights. There were many more. . .

Through the mud, slush and snow of Italy - the Sangro and Orsogna, Cassino and the stubborn struggle northward to Florence, the switch to the Adriatic coast to Rimini and the Senio, where they fought both the Germans and the weather .

In nearly four years of fighting the three battalions in which Haurakis served suffered heavily. The 21st, for example, had no fewer than 2190 casualties - 444 officers and men killed, 1172 wounded and 574 prisoners of war.

Meanwhile at home the 1st Battalion, Hauraki Regiment was mobilised on 15th December 1941 and, for the next 18 months formed part of the garrison troops holding the North Auckland peninsula against the threat of a Japanese invasion. With its passing these Haurakis scattered to the four winds, mostly overseas, and by the end of 1944 the battalion was reduced to a static role, its few remaining members being in permanent headquarters at Tauranga.

After the war it continued to exist under command Lieut, Colonel S.J. Hedge, E.D., - mostly .in name only - - until 1949 when Lieut. Colonel E.W. Aked.M.C. and small groups of enthusiastic officers and N.C.O.'s scattered through the area laid the foundations of the regiment ready for the reintroduction of compulsory training.

The Korean war has come and gone but in 1950, just as in 1866, 1899, 1914 and 1939, the traditions of the regiment have been maintained; its officers and men have shown that the spirit of service is just as strong in the regiment to-day as it ever was.

Wellington, 30th December 1954.


Authorities quoted in "A Short History of the Hauraki Regiment" include the following :-

Regimental H.Q:

1. Historical Record Book, VI Hauraki -Regiment.

2. Services of Officers, VI Hauraki Regiment

3. Standing Orders, 1914.

4. Historical Records of the 43rd Regiment.

5. Typescript by Major R. G. Webb and Captain (now Brigadier) J. Connolly (re B Company, 24 Bn, in Middle East).

6. War Diary 1 Bn. Hau. Regiment 13 December 1941 to 24th December 1943.

7. Files – various.Army H.Q., Wellington;

8. Army Lists - various.

9. A Brief History of the Few Zealand Military forces, 1840-1940, by Colonel J. H. Nankivell (U.S. Military Attache in Wellington).

10. The New Zealanders in South Africa, by D.O.W. Hall.

11. New Zealand Military Journal, July 1912.

12. Files – various.Base Records (Wellington):

13. South African War files, personal files, etc.

War Histories Branch (Wellington):

14. War Diary, 1 Auckland Bn. 1915-1918)

War Diary 2, Auckland Bn. 1916-1918) Army Archives

War Diary 3 Auckland Bn. 1917-1918)

15. Typescript records of 18 Bn, 1939 – 45.Other Sources:

16. Colonial Defence Office In Letters (1863-1870), Dominion Archives, Wellington.

17. New Zealand Gazettes (1863-1892).

18. Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives 1900-1903.

19. N.Z. Parliamentary Papers (Defence, Militia and Volunteers) .Wellington Library.

20. Letter to writer from Courtenay Kenny Esq., Paeroa, 24 April 1950.

Published Works:

21. The New Zealand Wars and the Pioneering Period, by James Cowan.

22. 2/Auckland, by Lieut. Colonel S.S. Allen. C.M.G., D.S.O,

23. 21 Battalion, by J.F. Cody.

24. 24 Battalion, by R.N. Burdon.