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FIGHT AT VAILELE., Auckland Star, Volume XXX, Issue 85, 12 April 1899
FIGHT AT VAILELE.
A NATIVE AMBUSCADE.
WHITE FORCE SURROUNDED IN
A FATAL ENCOUNTER.
BRITISH AND AMERICAN OFFICERS AND SAILORS KILLED.
On Saturday, April Ist, there occurred a severe engagement in the bush about three miles from Apia, in Avhich seven British and American lives were lost, three of these being naval officers. The fight took place m the same district in .which Mataafa surprised a German naval force in the war of ten years ago and killed a large number of the Germans. This locality is the German plantation cf Vailele (so called from a stream which runs down there to the sea, 'vailele' being the Samoan equivalent of the Maori 'wairere,' a waterfall or 'swift water.') It is curiouS that these two fights, the most disastrous to European forces in the history of Samoa, should have occurred in about the same locality, and that the attacking party should in both cases have been under Mataafa. This plantation of Vailele is a large one, and has for some years been under the management of Mr Hufnagel. On the morning of April the first an expedition was sent out from Apia for the purpose of clearing die country to the eastward of the town, in the direction of Vailele. This was considered necessary in order to keep Mataafa's men at a distance froiri the town, and prevent them throwing up entrenchments near the town. At
3.30 a.m. H.M.s. Porpoise steamed out of the. harbour along the coast, in order to bombard villages. A land party, consisting of 110 British and American sailors, and 150 Malietoa natives, the whole being- under the command of Lieutenant Freemau, of H.M.s. Tauranga, was sent out along the beach to the. eastward of Apia". The Porpoise was accompanied by the U.S. Philadelphia's steam launch, and also towed three large native boats containing 100 men from the other British ships under the command of Lieut. Gaunt. .
- The Philadelphia's steam launch was under the command of Lieut. Miller. H.M.s. Royalist, also went out of the harbour along the coast, In order to afford protection with her big guns from- the sea. She steamed out of the harbour at 1.30 p.m.
The land force, totalling 260, under Lieut. Freeman took, the beach route from Apia, and marched along for about three miles till the Vailele plantation was reached. The force took with them a machine gun, an automatic Colt, something ou the principle of a Maxim, which belonged to . the American warship Philadelphia. The gun had been taken to pieces the previous day by the armourer of the Philadelphia, and" was supposed to be all right, but it had not been tested. The British officers under Lieut. Freeman" were Lieut. Cave (H.M.s. Porpoise) and Lieut. Hickman (H.M.s.. Royalist), while Lieut. Lansdale and his friend Ensign (Sub-Lieut.) Monaghan, of the Philadelphia were in charge of the American bluejackets. All the Britishers were armed with the Lee-Metford rifle. Mr Mac Donald (surveyor) and Mr James Mackie proceeded with the force to give assistance. Dr. Lang, surgeon of the Philadelphia, accompanied the column. Early in.the afternoon. H.M.s. Royalist opened fire on the village of Motaa, clearing the country in that vicinity. The land force, after marching along the coral beach, reached the village as the shelling was finished, and rushed into the village at the 'double,' but did not meet the enemy. The Royalist then shelled the native villages of Matafagatele, Fagalii, Vailele, and Letogo, one after the other, and after each bombardment the column, under Mr Freeman, marched in and burnt a few of the houses which belonged to the adherents of Mataafa. ' ,
The Anglo-American and native force reached Leto'go about four o'clock in the afternoon, and then left the sea beach and turned inland, the intention being to march through the German plantation of Vailele and take a shorter route across the country through the hush back to Apia. The road which Mr Freeman decided to take going back was about three quarters of amile inland from the •beach. The reason for this procedure was that the rebels were expected to lay an ambuscade for the-force along the beach on the homeward route, but as affairs turned out the column inarched straight into one on the inland route. , ■'Soon after leaving the beach the column passed the house of Mr Hufnagel, the manager of the German plantation at Vailele, and one of* the officers asked him whether he knew of there being arty of Mataafa's -warriors in the plantation. The manager asSuted Lieut.' Cave in positive .terms that there were none of them there.^ The march was resumed, and the~ allied force took its way in the direction of the inland road to Apia, which turned westward through the plantation, and which was reckoned to be a short cut. to the town. The little column march along feeling secure and satisfied with their day's performance, and there was no thought of a surprise by the enemy. Soon after leaving the manager's house under the cocoanut trees they came to the Fagalii stream* a small creek'with steep banks, down which, they descended by a winding track under the spreading forest foliage. At this picturesque spot the men stopped foi^ a short rest and a drink, and then ascended the opposite bank of the Fagalii. Just as the column topped the river bank they were greeted by a SHOWER OF BULLETS. from the enemy ..lying in ambush amongst the trees' and undergrowth close to the top of the rise. The Europeans were at once extended in skirmishing order, and opened ftre on the enemy, who were seen to be in large numbers with new rifles, and alsd with the Colt automatic inachine gun. Several volleys were ■ fired by the machine gun, then it suddenly jammed and refused to work. Brisk rifle firing was kept up, and Mataafa's white-capped fighting men fell back and disappeared in the shadows Of the bush. A halt was ordered and Lieut. Lansdale and the Philadelphia's gunner spent nearly half an hour trying to pht the machine gun right. In this encounter one of the Europeans was wounded, and a Samoan woman waa also hurt. The order being given to resume the march, the .force proceeded along the hush road in the direction of Apia, When about half a mile further had been covered the enemy were again encountered in large numbers amongst the cocoanut trees. They attacked the column in force, and it was reckoned that there were at least 800 of Mataafo's men engaged. WHITE MEN WITH THE REBELS. It is stated that several white men were seen in the ranks of. Mataafa's warriors ..givifag directions. A, Tei7 sharp fight ensued," and things looked very bad for the white force, who were greatly outnumbered. The white force was attacked in front and on both flanks, and was in' fact surrounded by the naked ;bush fighters of Mataafa. VOLLEY AFTER VOLLEY was poured into the ranks of the British and American sailors from the, rebels, who had excellent cover be-\ hind the trees. 'The friendly natives were at this time ahead and had entered the valley of the Vaivase stream, the American, sailors coming next with the machine gun, and the British force last. It was apparent that while the troops had halted after the gun jammed at the Fagalii creek, the native foe instead of clearing out had formed an ambuscade, surrounding the force on the east, west and south sides. THE MACHINE GUN DISABLED. " Soon after the men in ambush made their presence known Lient. Lansdale opened fire on them with his machine gun, which when in proper working order was capable of firing 400 bullets a minute. After a few rounds had been fired, however, the gem jammed again . and became quite useless. Sent. Lansdale once more tried to get \ it to work, and wh.ile.-so' engaged, he,, was wounded, a bußet striking him just above the knee. - The friendly, natives mat a heavy.
fire from three sides while they were in the valley of the Varvase, and as they had been given only a small supply of ammunition, and had fired all their cartridges, they retreated towards Apia. They behaved well throughout, but having no ammunition were forced to leave the scene in a hurry. RETIRING TO THE BEACH. Mr Lansdale received another bullet wound, and Ensign Monaghan, _ who went to his help, was also wounded.. As the skirmishing co/tinued and the rebels were seen to be in great force it was decided to make for the beach again. Between the AngloAmerican force and the beach were two barbed wire fences, which were soon cut by Mr Freeman's orders. It was felt that the path of safety was along the beach, and that, if the atj tempt, to reach Apia through the bush was continued the force would be completely surrounded and decimated by the enemy. The 'Retreat' was sounded on the bugle by Mr Freeman's orders, and the column headed clue north through the bush and undergrowth to the beach, fighting as they went. Several men had been hit by this time, one or two being killed, and it was found very difficult to carry them oft' through the bush and over the rough ground. A few of friendly Samoans who had some cartridges left were busily engaging the enemy on the eastern flank, with four British bluejackets, who kept bravely at their position till the last. LIEUT. FREEMAN KILLED. Lieuit. Freeman, finding that the American portion of the force in charge of the Colt gun did not retreat when the bugle sounded returned to them to a little rise where the gun party were firing briskly with their rifles at the rebels. Just as he approached the top of the hill a bullet struck him in the chest and he fell dead, shot throus-h the heart (as was found afterwards). Some of his men tried to carry him off, but as he was -a big man and heavy they had to leave him to save their own lives, the. country being very rough. REBELS UP THE TREES; The Mataafa natives all the time kept up a constant fire on the retreating force, which was now on the march for the sea- coast, leaving their dead and wounded on the field of battle. Numbers of the rebels were seen to be firing from cocoauut trees, where they had good positions for sharp shooting. Several of them were shot while up the trees, and in some cases the bullets went right through the trees and struck the natives behind them. AMERICAN OFFICERS KILLED. The various British and American companies were by this time making across country for the beach, under a hot fire from the natives, who were all around them. The machine gun had to be left in the bush, with abut 2COO rounds of ammunition. The maner in which two American officers met their death was sad and touching. Lieut. Lousdale, Ensign Monaghan, and a small party of British and American bluejackets were together, soon after the gun jammed, when Mr Lansdale was shot through the leg. Ensign Monaghan and two American sailors ■ tried to assist the officer and one of the sailors was then shot down. Lansdale told the other to retreat and save himself, which the man did. Hurst, a seaman belonging to H.M.S. Porpoise, then came up and heard Lansdale say that he was done for, and urge Monaghan to leave him. Monaghan, however, did not, but bravely stuck to his wounded friend, meeting his death heroically while endeavouring to protect Lansdale. A • buttet struck Lansdale through the heart, and he fell dead. Monaghan, still defending himself, was shot through the breast a few seconds afterwards, and fell dead near the fellow officer whom he had stood by to the last. The gun squad of which Mr Lansdale had charge, was in the rear dxiring the retreat,, and therefore exposed, to the heaviest fire. . A PLUCKY DOCTOR. - Surgeon Lang, .of the Philadelphia, who was with the column, took part in the fighting. Soon after the firing commenced an English marine was struck by a bullet, and Dr. Lang took the man's rifle and took active part in the subsequent fighting. He then turned his attention to the wounded, and bandaged many of those who. were shot: ' . THE RETURN TO APIA. •As the retreating force approached the beach and came in view of H.M.S. Royalist, that vessel sent a shell into the place just vacated by the Europeans, and it burst in the middle of the rebels. A loud cheer was given by the survivors as they emerged into the open, and they then" started to throw up earthworks on the beach. By this time it' was dark. Communication was established with ■ the Royalist, and the wounded (who had been carried, or had • walked through the bush) were taken off to the ship in boats. ... Several more shells were fired by the Royalist into the bush and the Vailele plantation, but it was impossible to see what damage was done. Mr MaeDonald who guided a stretcher party through the bush towards the. sea caught a horse at MataUtu and rode into Apia with the news. He met Capt. White of the Philadelphia and told him what had happened, and the captain at once signalled for reinforcements, which were landed from the British and American ships. The reinforcements at once marched ont along the beach and met the retreating party. It was not known then that- the American 1 officers were .killed; it was thought ' they might be in hiding, though wounded.
FIGHT AT VAILELE., Auckland Star, Volume XXX, Issue 85, 12 April 1899
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