Ironclad gunboats on the River Waikato in 1863

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An old Police colleague of mine has recently written a book that will be of interest to colonial-period wargamers. The Waikato River Gunboats by Grant Middlemiss, and illustrated by marine draughtsman Harry Duncan, is the story of the gunboats used by the British during the invasion of the Waikato, New Zealand, 1863.

The Waikato Flotilla was purpose built for the New Zealand Colonial Government, and deployed during the British invasion of the Waikato 1863, when a force of 12,000 British and Colonial troops invaded the Waikato region.

To reach the rich pastoral land of the Waikato interior a reliable transport route was required to move the men and their supplies. The Waikato river provided that route.

production_cover.108194352_largeThe armoured iron gunboats of the Waikato Flotilla formed the base of a naval force and transport service to move the troops past the Maori fortifications along the river.

The Waikato Maori who took up arms against the British built sophisticated defensive lines along the river, and later inland, to stop the advance of the invading army.

This book tells the story of those gunboats and their life on the river during the Waikato campaign.

Framed_print-small.108194956_large2Here’s a poster by Harry Duncan, showing all the river gunboats of the Waikato Flotilla.

 

pioneerHMCS Pioneer, originally named Waikato, as she looked on her arrival at Onehunga from Australia in 1863.

 

koheroaHMCS Koheroa, built in Sydney and shipped to Port Waikato in sections where she were assembled in 1864.

 

avonHMCS Avon with reduced armour as she was deployed on the Waipa River in January 1864.

 

ant and chub2
The small gunboats Ant and Chub, two of the four coastal sailing craft that were armoured with iron plate and fitted with an Armstrong gun and Coehorn mortar.

 

  • The Waikato River Gunboats
  • Author: Grant Middlemiss
  • Marine draughtsman: Harry Duncan
  • Over 80 illustrations on 124 pages in B5 format
  • Website: www.waikatorivergunboats.com
  • $NZ35.00
  • Available by emailing the author: middlemissgrant@gmail.com or in New Zealand through PaperPlus stores

 

Here is the contents page of the book:

Preface ……………………………………………………………. 3

Overview of the conflict ………………………………………………… 5

Naval presence ………………………………………………… 10

Plan to invade: birth of the Waikato Gunboat Flotilla …………….. 13

Purchase of Avon ………………………………………………… 13

Avon arrives on the Manukau ……………………………………. 18

Maori threats concerning Avon ……………………………………. 22

From peaceful trader to armoured gunboat ………………………… 23

Construction of small gunboats ……………………………………. 29

Seizing Maori canoes ……………………………………………….. 34

Captain Mercer and his experiments ………………………… 37

Wreck of HMS Orpheus ……………………………………. 38

Avon deployed to assist rescue operations ………………………… 40

Intelligence from the Waikato interior ………………………… 40

Avon heads for the Waikato ……………………………………. 42

Battle of Koheroa ………………………………………………… 42

Avon reaches the Waikato river ……………………………………. 43

Exploring the Waikato ………………………………………………… 44

Avon in her first action ………………………………………………… 46

Maori fortifications July-October 1863 ………………………… 48

Consolidation of British position ……………………………………. 50

Arrival of gunboat Pioneer ……………………………………. 53

Battle for Meremere ………………………………………………… 61

Consolidating Cameron’s position ……………………………………. 66

Battle of Rangiriri ………………………………………………… 67

Capture of Ngaruawahia ………………………………………………… 74

Marching to the interior ……………………………………. 78

Establishing the Water Transport Corps ………………………… 81

Port Waikato naval dockyard ……………………………………. 85

Death of Lieutenant Mitchell ……………………………………. 87

Sinking of Avon ……………………………………………………………. 87

Arrival of Koheroa ………………………………………………… 90

Moving on to the Waipa Plains ……………………………………. 95

The raising of Avon ………………………………………………… 97

Move to Upper Waikato river ……………………………………. 98

The Royal Navy pulls out of the Waikato ………………………… 104

Epilogue ……………………………………………………………. 106

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9 Comments

Filed under American Civil War, Books, Colonial New Zealand Wars, Uncategorized, Victorian Sci-Fi

9 responses to “Ironclad gunboats on the River Waikato in 1863

  1. That looks like a fascinating read and the illustrations perfect for anyone wanted to scratch build them.

    • That would be an interesting project, Michael. Especially now that Perry Miniatures do British troops of the 1860s who could accompany these gunboats.

  2. Thanks for posting – it looks like a great book! I will have to keep an eye out for it.

    • Me too, Lemuel. Despite posting about it here, I haven’t yet got this book myself. I’m planning to pop into a PaperPlus or Capital Books some time soon.

  3. Great to see a book come out in this detail on such a little-known aspect of the Waikato War. I could only ever give these ships a bit of a side-mention in my books on the wars, alas. Intriguing to think that this was happening here – and, on the other side of the Pacific, the US Civil War was utilising conceptually similar vessels (‘armoured’), albeit larger scale, for much the same purpose.

    • Yes, I thought about that, too, Matthew. The famous Monitor vs Merrimack duel had taken place only one year earlier, I think. I wonder if learning from America contributed to the design of the NZ gunboats?

      • I’m not sure. The general principles were well known to the British by the early 1860s. One thing that’s always impressed me is the ‘high tech’ aspect of iron armour at the time – these riverboats really were cutting edge military of the day in many respects. And showed it, when Cameron invited reporters down to Meremere on board the Pioneer and sat there while Maori engaged the ship – quite safe behind their armour. One of the few times in industrial-age naval history when the armour vs projectile war was in favour of the former.

  4. Pingback: A’sailing o’er the bright blue sea | DRESSING THE LINES

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