The forthcoming launch of the Empress Miniatures range of figures for the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s has brought to mind the part I took over 20 years ago in an unforgetable reenactment event.
In 1990 I was one of five New Zealand police officers selected to take part in the official reenactment of the Treaty of Waitangi on the 150th sesquicentennial anniversary of its signing. We represented the five New South Wales Mounted Police troopers who accompanied Captain William Hobson RN from Australia in 1840. Hobson was the new Governor of New Zealand, and he signed the Treaty on behalf of the Crown with the chiefs of many of the tribes of New Zealand.
The reenactment featured well-known actors and descendants of the real-life Treaty signatories. It was played on the grounds of the Waitangi meeting house in the beautiful Bay of Islands, in front of a large audience, including Queen Elizabeth II.
The five of us were all police history buffs, so we researched the NSW Mounted Police uniforms of the time, and had them sewn up for us by a theatrical company. So overall we were probably relatively realistic – from a distance, anyway. The same could not be said for the naval officers, whose uniforms were definitely not accurate from any distance. The Maori chiefs, however, really looked the part.
While the reenactment was mainly about the discussions and debates that went on before and during the actual signing of the Treaty, the highpoint for me was being rowed ashore in a cutter with the official party at the start of the event. The crew were all in period costume. On each side we were accompanied by several huge ‘waka’, or Maori canoes. It was spine tingling listening to the paddlers chanting across the water. It was one of those moments in reenacting when you feel as though you have really stepped back in time. The memory will live with me forever.
To see much bigger images of the pictures from the slideshow at the top of the page, click on the thumbnails below.