Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Pukehinahina Survivor

This article has been reproduced from the May 2014 issue of the Historical Review.

The symbolism and power imbued in a flag gives those flags which have been present at pivotal moments in history considerable importance. 

The Union Jack. Tauranga Heritage Collection, 0078/04 
Tauranga’s museum collection holds such a flag which is provenanced to the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864. The Union Jack, recorded as being used by British troops, came into the possession of George Alfred Crabbe who was a member of the 1st Regiment of the Waikato Militia posted to Tauranga. While Crabbe was present at the Battle of Gate Pa the militia remained at the rear of the battle. Later, at the Battle of Te Ranga, Crabbe was engaged in fighting Maori.

George Alfred Crabbe of the 1st Regiment of the Waikato Militia

Crabbe’s son Charles was born in the military camp located in the Domain in 1866. In 1938 The Bay of Plenty Times reported that ‘the town was under martial law at the time and many were the occasions on which the warning gun was fired which meant that all women and children had to be taken to the Monmouth Redoubt for safety’.

Crabbe’s shop and home, 405 Cameron Road. Both buildings have been relocated. The store was removed to Tauranga Boys’ College and the home, ‘Jesmond’ to Pyes Pa.

A few years later the family was to settle in Sixth Avenue where Private Crabbe had been allotted land. Vi Simons, Charles Crabbe’s only daughter, remembers: “After the war they had to stay on for three years. He was granted a section in Opotiki but he wouldn’t accept that because he didn’t want to go down there so he got a section up in Sixth Avenue. He was also granted 15 acres way out in the wop-wops, above McLaren’s Falls. In later years that was sold to the Jensen family.”

In 1877 Crabbe had a grocery and drapery shop built on a section not taken up by another soldier. This shop, on Cameron Road, was to become an important meeting place for the growing community. In 2003 the building was relocated to Tauranga Boys’ College.

Vi Simons, granddaughter of George Crabbe outside her home ‘Jesmond’
When George Crabbe died in 1905 the Union Jack was draped over his casket. The flag remained in the family’s possession until 1969 when Charles Crabbe’s only daughter Vi Simons deposited it with the museum.
“A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole,
It doesn’t look likely to stir a man’s soul;
‘Tis the deeds that were done ‘neath the moth-eaten rag
When that pole was a staff and the rag was a flag.”
General Sir Edward Bruce Hamley, referring to the Colours of the 43rd Monmouth Light Infantry Regiment.  This regiment fought at Gate Pa.