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Ōpepe Military Cemetery

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1869 to 1880
Location: Opepe, Napier-Taupo Road, Taupo, Waikato, New Zealandmap
Surnames/tags: Cemeteries New_Zealand
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Ōpepe Military Cemetery

Ōpepe Cemetery is a small cemetery with only 5 graves. Two of the graves are war graves, containing the bodies of nine members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry who were killed in a surprise attack by Te Kooti's advance guard on June 7th 1869. The other three graves are of settlers who died after the New Zealand Wars had ended. The site is maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage

Ōpepe was at the intersection of two major pre-European walking tracks, and was the birthplace of the Maori leader Te Rangitahau. Little remains of the settlement today which has State Highway 5 passing through it.

Wikipedia notes: "During Te Kooti's War, in early June 1869 Te Kooti and about 150 of his supporters moved towards Lake Taupo in the center of the North Island. At Ōpepe, just short of Taupo, they ran into party of fourteen Militia, who were camped in the abandoned village. Nine of the militia were killed with no loss to Te Kooti. One of the men, who was drying his uniform, escaped completely naked across rough country in mid-winter, and was awarded the New Zealand Medal. A military stockade was built at Ōpepe in 1869 but closed in 1885. The township thrived for several years in the late 19th century."

(For background: Te Kooti was a Māori prophet and founder of the Ringatū Church, which blends Old Testament Christianity and Māori traditions. Five of the 14 men attacked escaped alive, one being George Crosswell.)

Department of Conservation staff dismantled the totara headboards that were deteriorating and removed them from the site on 14 June 2010 for restoration. They were re-installed in the little cemetery by Department of Conservation staff on Christmas Eve 2010.

The cemetery is one of the way-markers on a walking track through the Ōpepe scenic reserve, and can be reached along Ōpepe Graves Track.


List of Interments

  • Hector Gillies Ross (trooper) died 7 June 1869 (Lieut) - was shot while asleep.
  • Alex McKillop (trooper) died 7 June 1869 - a trumpeter or bugler from Opotiki.
  • Charles Potier (trooper) died 7 June 1869 - The son of Te Puna farmer and Frenchman Pierre Charles Potier (1815-1890) who married Te Karapapa the daughter of Puhi-of the Pirirakau and Meria (Charles Rotohiko).
  • Ernest Lawson (trooper) died 7 June 1869 (Ensign) Ernest was shot while asleep. Ensign in the Auckland Militia, and was acting as a trooper in the Tauranga Cavalry Volunteers.
  • Joseph Bidois (trooper) died 7 June 1869 (1850-1869). Parents in Tauranga. The son of Frenchman and early Tauranga trader Louis Bidois.
  • John Cook (trooper) died 7 June 1869
  • Frederick Gill (trooper) died 7 June 1869. Aged 18 when he was killed (reg. 1869/5611) (later exhumed and buried in Mission Cemetery, Tauranga). Son of Mr. Gill, clerk to the Commissioner at Tauranga.
  • Charles Johnson (trooper) died 7 June 1869. Parents in Tauranga. His record is on the Cenotaph Database.
  • Michael F Slattery died 7 June 1869 (Sgt) - Sergeant with the Tauranga Cavalry. Married with a wife and family in Tauranga.
  • Sgt Major Henry Leslie - died 23 March 1876
  • Edward Andrehen - died 7 October 1875
  • Another settler (name to be determined)
Ōpepe Memorial. Image Credit: Debbie McCauley (2014).

Sergeant Charles Dette was named as one of the deceased in the Newspaper account of the attack, but does not appear to be listed on the headboards, nor on the memorial at St George’s Church (Gate Pā). See https://debbiemccauleyauthor.wordpress.com/biographies/pierre-charles-potier-1815-1890.

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Note that Sgt. Dette was one of the five survivors of the attack.
posted by D McCauley