Sunday, 6 July 2014

Wars and Street Names

Miranda and Esk Streets, c.1956-7
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 07-391
War always leaves its mark on a landscape, one way or another.  The remnants of the trenches of Gate Pā and Te Ranga were long ago filled in, but the memories remain – in the stories, the monuments and carvings, the Mission Cemetery, and also in the names of Tauranga streets. The battle of Gate Pā on 29 April 1864 was so significant to the area that a number of current names recall it. Devonport Road is named after the naval base in England, because the Naval Brigade which took part in the battle was camped nearby. Durham Street takes its name from the 68th Durham Light Infantry and Monmouth Street from the 43rd Monmouth Light Infantry. Several streets are named after vessels which brought the troops into Tauranga in 1864: Esk Street, Harrier Street, Miranda Street.

Henry Harpur Greer
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 03-143
But most are named after people. The unusual width of Cameron Road – which later provided lush grass verges for the town cows to graze – was to accommodate the troops led by General Duncan Alexander Cameron (1808-1888) as they marched from their camp at the Domain south to Gate Pā. Greerton Road was named after Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Harpur Greer (1821-1886). Hamilton Street and Harington Street (Harington with one ‘r’) were both named after officers who took part in the battle. Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton (1820-1864) of the 43rd Monmouths was killed by being shot in the head while standing on the parapet urging his men to advance. Colonel Philip Harington was in command of the 1st Waikato Militia. He survived the battle to be granted land on Cambridge Road which he named Kelston.  Manley Grove and Mitchell Street are named after the two Victoria Cross winners at Gate Pā, Surgeon-General William George Nicholas Manley (1831-1901) and Samuel Mitchell (1841-1894). Of the officers who dined at the mission house with the Rev. Alfred Nesbit Brown and his wife on the 28th, Manley was the only one to survive the battle.

Much could be said, especially when considering street names deriving from Gate Pā, about the imposition of Pakeha names on Māori landscapes, and the politics of conquest. This topic is beyond the scope of these notes. But for interested readers, it was eloquently covered by Dr Giselle Byrnes in her article "'A dead sheet covered with meaningless words?' Place Names and the Cultural Colonization of Tauranga," which appeared in the New Zealand Journal of History in 2002 (Volume 36 no 1 - PDF).

H.M.S. Achilles Reception, early 1940
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 99-301
The land wars are not the only conflict to be remembered in our street names. Victory Street in Welcome Bay recalls Nelson’s flagship at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and Dunkirk Street was named in the 1950s to commemorate the dramatic evacuation of British troops from the French coastal town in 1940. Both of these names emphasise our colonial past and the ties which bound us to the United Kingdom.  Some names more directly linked to New Zealand’s own prowess in the wars of the twentieth century are Achilles Crescent, after the cruiser HMS (later HMSNZ) Achilles which in December 1939 was the first New Zealand unit to fire a shot in anger in World War II and also the first New Zealand warship ever to take part in a naval battle. Anzac Street, also named in the 1950s, commemorates the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps of World War I. Maleme Street is named after a town in Crete. During World War II it had an airfield which the Germans captured in May 1941, which gave them a major tactical advantage.

Bernard Freyberg speaking in the Tauranga Town Hall, 1948
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 99-832
Sir Bernard Freyberg (1889-1963) had not one but two streets named after him, which seems appropriate as he was such a notable participant in both world wars. In World War I as a young man he was awarded the DSO twice and was mentioned in despatches five times, and during World War II he commanded the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the New Zealand Division. The two streets are Bernard Street off Fifteenth Avenue and Freyberg Street in Otumoetai.

Bellamy, A. C., ed., Tauranga 1882-1982. Tauranga : Tauranga City Council, 1982.
McCauley, Debbie (2012-2014) Tauranga Names Resulting from the Battle of Gate Pā, Tauranga Memories Kete
McCauley, Debbie (2013-2014) Battle of Gate Pā: British, Tauranga Memories Kete
The battle: days 1-3 - The Battle for Crete, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 6-Mar-2014
McGibbon, Ian (2013) Freyberg, Bernard Cyril, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 25-Sep-2013
Battle of the River Plate, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 20-Dec-2012
Byrnes, Giselle (2002) 'A dead sheet covered with meaningless words?' Place Names and the Cultural Colonization of Tauranga, New Zealand Journal of History, 36, 1.

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