Kiwis 'unaware' of wars

Redcoat revival:  Bruce Cairns fires  a musket to mark the New Zealand Wars conference held at Massey University.
CRAIG SIMCOZ
Redcoat revival: Bruce Cairns fires a musket to mark the New Zealand Wars conference held at Massey University.

It was the return of the British redcoats in Wellington, marking a major conference on the New Zealand Wars.

The three-day Tutu te Puehu: New Zealand's Wars of the 19th Century conference took place at Massey University at the weekend.

A presentation by historian Ewan Morris focused fresh attention on an almost-forgotten skirmish in Lower Hutt more than 160 years ago – the Battle of Boulcott's Farm.

On the morning of May 16, 1846, a Maori war party crossed Hutt River and attacked a British military outpost at Boulcott's Farm.

After a fight lasting several hours, the Maori withdrew. Six British soldiers were killed, and two died later of their wounds. It was not clear how many Maori died.

As battles go, Boulcott's Farm was a small affair, "more of a guerrilla attack", Dr Morris said.

He presented a paper at the conference on how the battle has been remembered over time. "In a funny way the memory of the battle lives on, it's not completely forgotten. It keeps popping up. Even though as battles go it was quite small, it keeps resurfacing."

Every day people passed a memorial to the Battle of Boulcott's Farm, near Hutt Hospital, but did not really take any notice of it, Dr Morris said. The memorial was erected in 1925, "so the battle was still just in living memory".

Many New Zealanders were unaware of the rich war history in their own backyard, he said. "It's a shame that battle sites in New Zealand are not better known, and more visited."

Commemoration of the British dead started soon after the Boulcott battle.

Allen St in Lower Hutt was named after Private William Allen, who kept playing his bugle to alert his comrades to the attack as he was being hacked to death.

In the 1970s the skirmish featured in the television drama series The Governor. It also featured in Lloyd Jones' 1988 novel Splinter, and in a 2009 novel, The Trowenna Sea, by Witi Ihimaera.

The golf club formed by the merger of the Boulcott and Hutt clubs has been named Boulcott's Farm Heritage Golf Club.

The Dominion Post