Personal info

  • Name: Samuel MITCHELL
  • D.O.B: 7th Sep, 1841
  • D.O.A: 29th Apr, 1864
  • D.O.D: 16th Mar, 1894
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Captain of the Foretop, HMS Harrier, Naval Brigade, Royal Navy,
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
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Sources & Acknowledgements

The Gate Pa near Tauranga, New Zealand 29 April 1864

29 April 1864

More details about:
The New Zealand Wars 1860–65 

As the Waikato War in New Zealand reached its conclusion hostilities broke out on the Bay of Plenty to the east in the neighbouring territory of the Ngati Rangi. The Ngati Rangi had given strong support to the Waikato and at the end of January 1864 British toops landed at Tauranga. Men of the 43rd and 68th Regiments set up camp at the mission station of Te Papa on a narrow strip of land jutting out into Tauranga Harbour. At its mouth a leading Ngati Rangi chief, Rawiri Puhirake, constructed the Gate Pa, so-called because it was by the gate between the missionaries’ land and that of the Maori. Sir Duncan Cameron, GOC New Zealand, decided to respond to this provocation and himself went to Tauranga with reinforcements, including a Naval Brigade under Commodore Sir William Wiseman of HMS Curacao. The British force of around 1,700 faced about 300 Maori. On 29 April the British attacked and at 4pm, assuming that few of the defenders could have survived the initial bombardment, Commander Edward Hay of HMS Harrier led a storming party of 150 sailors and marines, together with 150 men of the 43rd Light Infantry, into the pa. In fact, the defenders had not only survived but lay waiting underground in heavily fortified trenches. In the resulting hail of fire most of the British officers were killed or wounded, including Hay himself, who died of his wounds the next day. Leaderless and having suffered heavy casualties, the storming party had to fall back. Though the British had been humiliated, they simply brought up guns for a further bombardment. The next morning the pa was found to be deserted. The Maori had evacuated it during the night.


 For his gallant conduct at the attack at Te Papa, Tauranga, on the 29th of April last, in entering the Pah with Commander Hay, and when that Officer was mortally wounded, bringing him out, although ordered by Commander Hay to leave him, and seek his own safety. This man was at the time ‘Captain of the Fore-top’ of the “Harrier,” doing duty as Captain’s Coxswain; and Commodore Sir William Wiseman brings his name to special notice for this act of gallantry. 

The London Gazette of 26 July 1864, Numb. 22879, p. 3711

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