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Speech

Te Porere

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 18 February 1959
Speaker: 
Viscount Cobham, GCMG, TD

The Juncture of the Streams

We have gathered this afternoon for a good purpose, which is to ensure the preservation of Te Kooti's last stronghold.

When one reads the story of the Mori Wars of last century, one cannot but be struck by the close resemblance to those which the native British waged so bravely and yet so hopelessly against the Roman invader in the first century A. D. Te Kooti, no less than Boadicea, was the victim of injustice; banished to the Chatham Islands without trial, ill-treated and insulted, it was small wonder that he raised the standard of revolt when he escaped, and that other chiefs joined him, including those of Taranaki, Waikato and Taupo.

History may call them "rebels," but it was Sir Winston Churchill who wrote:

It is the primary right of men to die and kill for the land they live in, and to punish with exceptional severity all members of their own race who have warmed their hands at the invader's hearth.

So, from the range of nearly 100 years, Te Kooti stands, a heroic and rather tragic figure at the juncture of two streams which merge into the broad river of contemporary New Zealand social history. Like those of Cassivellaunus and Caractacus, his skirmishes were skilfully contrived and daringly executed.

Today we can honour the memory of a man and a prophet who fought for his rights against odds which ultimately proved hopeless; today we can also say that his struggles, and those of other Mori patriots, were not in vain, for out of them arose the men of both races, now bearing the proud name of New Zealanders, who have shed their blood together in common loyalty to the British Crown and Commonwealth.

Sir Brian Horrocks pays a fine tribute to the magnificent fighting qualities of the Mori soldier in his book, "A Full Life." The strongly held Takrouna position just alongside Enfidaville in North Africa, had to be cleared before the 8th Army could advance in Tunis. Sir Brian writes:

We were then held up by one of the strongest defensive positions I have ever seen. The coastal plain narrowed into a funnel, overlooked by a series of almost vertical hills; these were wired, mined, and held by the enemy. It was a horrible place to attack.

It was the New Zealanders who captured Takrouna. This 2nd New Zealand Division, commanded by General Freyberg, was unquestionably the most experienced and formidable fighting machine in the 8th Army A platoon of Moris was given the final task of capturing Takrouna, but by the time it reached the foot of the pinnacle, only two sergeants and seven other ranks were left.

Somehow or other, these few men scrambled up one at a time led by a most gallant sergeant called Manahi, and captured the whole feature. The enemy casualties were 150 prisoners and 40 to 50 killed, all by this handful of men I have mentioned this fight in some detail, because in my opinion, it was the most gallant feat of arms I witnessed in the course of the war, and I was bitterly disappointed when Sergeant Manahi, whom we had recommended for a V. C., only received a D. C. M.

Nearly a century has passed since old Te Kooti led British soldiers such a dance through the country he knew so well and used so skilfully. He died as a result of an accident, pardoned and at peace. Here, among the mountains sacred to ancient Mori lore, Te Kooti will be remembered by the preservation of his last redoubt.

I now declare Te Porere officially open as an Historic Place under the control of the National Historic Places Trust.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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