June 18, 2014

Colonial street names… Cameron Street


General Sir Duncan Cameron, who led the Highland Brigade at Balaclava during the Crimean War, arrived in New Zealand to lead the army assembled by Governor Grey. Made up of British troops, various volunteer settlers, and some “friendly” Māori  (fall-out from divide and rule tactics).
General Cameron

 
Cameron was a trained and experienced soldier of the “old school”. He understood the military rules of warfare. This meant that in his mind you fought, you won, the others surrendered, you stopped fighting, there were negotiations and the terms of peace were settled.

 
He led the army into the Waikato where, after the battle at Rangiriri the King’s Council surrendered at Ngaruawahia. So the war was over. No it wasn’t! The government rejected the surrender and ordered him to continue his advance. Although his suspicions were aroused he continued to obey his political masters, and continued into Maniapoto territory and then to Tauranga. By this time, however, both he and many of the British Army officers and troops had developed a deep respect for their Māori opponents who they considered to be brave and heroic. 

“One cannot help admiring the heroism of these Māoris in holding out so bravely against such immense odds, and then preferring to try to force their way out, with almost certain prospect of death, rather than surrender.”

 
Cameron wrote this after the battle at Ōrākau.

 
The letters home of officers and men not only praise the Māori fighting spirit, but criticise the greed of the settlers, often in very strong terms.
 
Cameron also perceived that Māori were being drawn into the war in defence of their homes and families, something that was honourable and reasonable. He realised that the war was entirely about the acquisition of land, by defining all the Māori who fought as rebels and confiscating their lands as punishment. This was not proper warfare, it was discreditable dirty work for unjust and immoral reasons.

 
When he was ordered to Taranaki, and learned more about the Waitotra so-called “purchase”, he wrote to Grey expressing his disapproval. Grey told him off and ordered him to carry on, but by now Cameron was determined to have no more involvement. He didn’t want to resign, he was perfectly happy to be a soldier. So he wrote to the War Office in England expressing his opinions. He also began to carry out his orders as slowly as possible. The Colonial Office allowed his resignation as part of the replacement of British troops with settler militia. The War Office unofficially supported his stand by appointing him to head the Military College at Sandhurst .

 
A bit of a mixture, but he certainly ended up with some streets named after him.

 
 

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