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A Maori War Hero

A few weks ago there was a meeting at Te Ngutu-o-Te-Maru,' to commemorate the disastrous engagement of forty-two years ago, , when Major Von TempsTcyV force was defeated^and the gallant ' major fejl. • . One of the bravest and most adventurous spirits identified with the early, history of New Zealand was Gustavus Ferdinand Von Tempsky (says the New Zealand Times). The memorial service was held on the forty-second anniversary of his death, for it was on September 7, 1866, that he fell a victim to a Maoririfle during the unsuccessful attack by the British on Ruaruru, the stronghold of the chief Titokowaru. j Von Tempsky, the son of a lieutenant-colonel in the Prussian t arpy, obtained a commission in % the English service, but under the influence of a strong abhorrence of routine, and red tape, iand an equally decided taste for he promptly left his regiment and endeavored to found a colony on the eastern coast, of Central America. -The venture turned out a failure, and Von Tempsky was made captain of an irregular force of Mosquito Indians, who did good service against the Spaniards. His intimate friend the British Consul-General met a- fearful death, slipping ' overboard from a boat and being immediately : devoured by alligators before assistance, could be rendered Thf 9 : seems to have turned Von Tempsky 's ardor for the position into disgust, and he went off , to California, to enter the excitement of a gold rush. \ Subsequently a journey through Central America occupied his attention, and next we find him in Victoria, offering to command a party for the exploration of the interior. He was beat»n for the position by the ill-fated Burke! and golden rumors from Coromandel then attracted him to New Zealand. On the-breaking out of the VVaikato war in i 86 3,, his3 „his services were, accepted by the Government, an^he was soon commended for his gallantry, and raised to the "rank of captain. When the. •rebel position of Paterangi was surrounded" one of the sharpen contests between the Imperial troops and the Natives started as a result of an ambush by the latter. A body of soldiers who had gone down to battle in the Mangap.ko R.ver, a tributary _of the VVaipu, ,was attacked, ard what, commenced as an ambush ended in- a pitched battl«v Ensconced in high fern on the right bank of the' river, theNatives kept up a destructive fire, but in the teeth of this Von Tempsky gallantly led his men across the stream, armed with. t revolvers and bowie knives. . Those' oh the left bank lost sight of them for a time, but, .they triumphantly reappeared in possession of the spot formeih/ held by the enemy, and many bodies

of Natives testified to thi deadly effect of the fighting at close quarters which Von Tempsky and his men had piuckily undertaken. . He secured his commission as major during this "cam- _ ' " _ When he was asked" to place" himself, under the command' of Lieutenant-Colonel" Fraser, a junior officer 1 of recent standing in the colonial force, he poinNblanli refused, resigning his commission. His men almost mutinied. However, he resumed service at Wanganui with his" company, and on* September 7 hiV gallant life ended during" the repulse at Ruaruru. ' " *" The references to Major Von Tempsky's death and the anniversary of the fight (writes the "Auckland correspondent 'of the, Otago Daily Times) have, brought forward conflicting accounts • of what led to the disaster, and frequently' it has' been asserted" that Colonel McDonnell's plans were frustrated by the" majpr^ ' impetuosity. ... . , - Mr. James Shanaghan, of the Auckland Labor Ddparimen? ; was with the major to, the end, and he has furnished' the' most interesting account of what really happened that has been pub : - s * hshed locally. He says the position was disclosed to the enemy" by the friendly Natives firing long before the scene of action was reached. When the clearing was reached the friendlies refused to go further, and the troops led by Colonel McDonnell filed past them, being received by a withering fire a little further on Th»" troops returned the fire with great effect, and when the commanding officer gave the order to cease firing that was where ' the blunder came in. The men were being shot down like sheep, and Colonel McDonnell was completely unmanned. • I will - never forget the scene,' said Mr. SKanagha*. ' McDonnell was lying on the ground, reclining on his elbow, and Von Tempsky" and Hunter were pleading to be allowed to charge. The colonel then replied, "I cannot; I do not know where we are" He then jumped up and said, "Come along, Hunter," and theY ' moved off to the left and left poor Major Von Tempsky to carry"' out the policy of masterly inactivity imposed on him by his" chief. Our brave old major was walking to and fro " with his sword in his hand, furious at being caged as he was. I met him, and he spoke to me in his kindly.thoughtful wav, and asked why I did not take cover. I answered by putting th.> same question to him. He then said, "1 am disgusted Tf I get out of this scrape I will wash my hands clean of this business." He then sent me to take up a position and "keep my eyes open,, as the bullets were coming thick. " I left him to obey the last order he ever gave. I had not gone~ far when a man of our company was shot. The major went to his assistance, and was s^t, the bullet entering the centre of his forehead. He fell dead on top of the man to whose assistance he was g o ,ng. That was how Von Tempsky died. A Frenchman named Jensen and I went to Von Tempsky and lifted him up and laid him on his back, and just as we did so a bullet struck Jensen on the side and travelled across his breastbone. Another struck (he magazine box he had on his back. I left Von lempsky and picked up Jensen, carrying him out across th.cleanng [then met Hunter, and when we were about ten paces from Von Tempsky's body Hunter was shot deed I Col hold of him and started ,to pull him back; then h said to one of our men, "Come along for Major Von 1 empsky's body ' I his man refused, but Captain Buck came up and asked if'i" knew where Von Tcm E »kf was. I said "Yes," 'and he saidf Come along, lad, la's get him ovt." When w, cumo to the body I was hit by a bullet on the left thumb. Just as I changed he carbine to my other hand a bullet struck my left hand fnd the carbine stock knocked me backwards. Then Buck was shot dead, and as 1 got up a bull,* took my cap off l Aot av ™ from the cleanng, leaving Von Tempsky and Buck dead Together. Jhcre weri four of us went for Von Tempsky's body Jensen and I were wounded, and Hunter and Buck were killed" There were 63 killed and wounded in the action, and tw^ birds lt::jd ere pa shot down while . they hatad inaciK ' c * w.*

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/NZT19080924.2.13

Bibliographic details

A Maori War Hero, New Zealand Tablet, 24 September 1908

Word Count
1,201

A Maori War Hero New Zealand Tablet, 24 September 1908

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