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Battle of Ohaeawai: Map

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The Saint Michael's sign at Ohaeawai


The Battle of Ohaeawai was fought between British forces and local Māori during July 1845 at Ohaeawaimarker in the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker. The battle was notable in that superior British forces were beaten by outnumbered Māori.

The battle happened during the Flagstaff War where it is described at length. A combined force of British Troops and Māori allies attacked a Māori Pa or fortress. After a desultory bombardment the British commander, Colonel Despard, grew impatient and ordered a frontal assault. Over a third of his force was quickly killed or injured. Māori who fought with the British were not impressed.

Having made their point the local Māori withdrew a few days later.

After the battle two models were made of the ingenious design of the pa. One went to Britain and sat forgotten in a museum. The other travelled around the various Māori tribes of New Zealand where it was studied with interest. It became the basis of what is called the Modern Pa, a design allowing aggressive-defensive tactics that the British Army never successfully cracked.

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