Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


A 171-year-old mystery, at the site of the battle of Ruapekapeka in Northland, has been solved.

Date:  15 December 2017

On 12 January 1846 twelve British soldiers killed in the final assault on Ruapekapeka Pā were buried by their comrades in arms in a communal grave where the British had their camp during the battle. Over the years knowledge of the exact location of this grave was lost. 

Ruapekapeka Pā is near Towai, 40 kilometres north of Whangarei. 

Te Ruapekapeka Trust, who jointly manage the pā site with DOC, has been supporting research archaeologist Jonathan Carpenter in his quest to find the grave, as part of his archaeological investigation at the British camp site.

A tent covers the grave of British soldiers killled during the 1846 battle at Ruapekapeka.
A tent covers the grave of British soldiers killled during the 1846 battle at Ruapekapeka
Image: Andrew Blanshard | DOC

A clay pipe found at the grave site.
A clay pipe found at the grave site
Image: Andrew Blanshard | DOC


Over the past two weeks a group of archaeologists from DOC, Heritage New Zealand and representatives from Te Ruapekapeka Trust have worked with Jonathan Carpenter as he investigated a small portion of a pit, that he identified in 2015, as the likely grave site.

After careful work the remains of two men have been uncovered. Personal effects found confirmed that this was the soldiers' grave site. After almost 172 years the grave site has been confirmed.

DOC is working with Te Ruapekapeka Trust on how best to acknowledge those buried at this historic battleground.

Ruapekapeka is a Landmarks/Whenua Tohunga site.


Andrew Blanshard, DOC Senior Historic Ranger
Mobile: +64 27 547 6957

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