Review of ‘The Waikato River Gunboats’


Previously I posted about a new book on the gunboats used during the invasion of the Waikato in 1863.  I received my copy of this book the other day.  And I’ve got to say it is even better than I expected.

The story is well-told and very readable and gripping.  It describes how the small flotilla of converted and purpose-built ironclad gunboats supported the invasion of the Waikato in 1863.

The story brings to mind lots of intriguing wargaming scenarios, such as troop landings, assaults on fortifications, bombardments and Maori ambushes – not to mention battling against the mighty Waikato River itself, with its sunken forests and ever-shifting channels.


The illustrations are stunning.  There are many contemporary paintings (some I’ve never seen before).  The very detailed drawings by Harry Duncan of the vessels themselves will be inspirational for those making model gunboats, whether for the New Zealand Wars or elsewhere.

  • Title: The Waikato River Gunboats
  • Author: Grant Middlemiss
  • Marine draughtsman: Harry Duncan
  • Cover painting: Andrew Burdan
  • Over 80 illustrations on 124 pages in B5 format
  • Website:
  • $NZ35.00
  • Available by emailing the author: or in New Zealand through PaperPlus stores.


12 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Waikato River Gunboats’

  1. I wonder if there is anything in the book about the ‘Gymnotus’ which is an interest of mine. Although not a gunboat as such, she was operating on the Waikato River from early 1864.

    1. Hi Roger

      This Grant’s answer to your query:

      No I have not mentioned “Gymnotus” in my book as she was not a gunboat, but was on the rivers following up the advance of the troops. Her owner when in the Waikato was Ralf Simpson who operated all the military canteens, supplying liquor, food and every thing from a needle to an anchor. I am gathering information about her and Simpson. After the navy left in April 1864 ‘Gymnotus’ was the first civilian steamer to come to the new settlement of Cambridge in July/August 1864. I am keen to find out more about her. I understand there is one image of her (photo I think) but have yet to see a decent copy of it.

      1. Happy to share what I have. I am planning an article on her. I have drawing of her and a copy of a painting but have never seen a photo at all. I have tried to find something about her possible origins in England as it was suggested in the article in the Maritime News (1975) that she might have originated in the UK canals but my enquiries drew a blank there. Richard Bach does seem to have been quite a clever engineer and in her time she was very modern. You can sometimes find information on her using the heading ‘Jim Notice’ which is obviously the name that people who were illiterate might use. How can we make contact?

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