Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006

(by Basil Thorp)

WHILE THE North Island (New Zealand) Land Wars (1845-1872) did not reach the Hauraki district, both Maori and Europeans left this area to become involved.

One such person was Alfred Thorp, son of the first white settler in the Ohinemuri district, Joshua Thorp, who settled at Puke in 1842, opposite the present-day Historic Maritime Park.

This long-running conflict is often referred to as the New Zealand Lands Wars (Michael King) and also the Maori Wars of the 19th century. The Ohinemuri district did not feature in any of the campaigns for many reasons, the main ones being that there was no strategic significance and the land had no agricultural potential, hence no settlement value.

As the Imperial Forces moved southwards from Auckland, mainly along the Waikato River, confiscating potentially valuable land, fears arose that Auckland could be the attacked from bands of militant Maori. A series of redoubts or fortified defence posts were constructed to the south of Auckland from coast to coast. Each was manned by up to 200 members of the Colonial Defence Force. It was at the Clevedon Redoubt that Alfred Thorp enlisted, joining the newly-formed Wairoa Rifle Volunteers in 1863.

The Volunteers' pay was 5 shillings (50 cents) per day and 6 shillings (60 cents) a day for non-commissioned officers. This was more than the British Imperial Soldiers were receiving. There was no pay for those volunteers who went awol (absent without leave).

Detailed attendance rolls and payments, kept in the traditional British Army manner, are held by New Zealand Archives. The Colonial Force continued until the mid-1870s although the numbers were reduced.

Many of this Force received the New Zealand Medal which was authorised in 1869, and it was only awarded to soldiers who had come under fire or who had seen action. There were 1940 medals issued with the Wairoa Rifle Volunteers receiving 23, with Alfred Thorp being a recipient. It is now a family heirloom.