Hone Heke soon became disenchanted by what he felt to be
not only Government oppression toward Māori, but also
the many economic losses for the town when the Government
decided to transfer the capital from Kororareka to Auckland.
It was on 8th July 1844, nearly five years after the signing
of the Treaty of Waitangi that the first hostile action
took place in the far north in the fifth largest town in
the colony of New Zealand, Kororareka. The British flag
was raised ceremoniously each morning on a flagstaff at
Kororareka, and one night Te Haratua, second in command
to Hone Heke, chopped the flagstaff down in protest.
The British re-erected the flagstaff, but it was chopped
down again on three further occasions - the second time
on 10th January 1845, a third time on 19th January 1845,
and then for a fourth and final time on 11th March 1845.
In February 1845, after re-erecting the flagstaff for the
third time, the British decided to establish a regiment
in Kororareka, with one section stationed at the flagpost.
A detachment of the 96th regiment, including the sloop "Hazard"
were in place, providing a combined force of 140 soldiers,
sailors and marines based in Kororareka.
On the morning of March 11th
1845, Hone Heke joined forces with another chief, Te Ruki
Kawiti, to unite in an attack. The Māori were well equipped
with muskets by this time, and the settlers in the far North
were the first to experience Māori anger. As Kawiti
and his men created a diversion for the British, Hone Heke
succeeded in chopping the flagstaff down yet again, for
the fourth time. This first attack at Kororareka provoked
what became known as "The Flagstaff War".
In spite of preceding events, the British were taken completely
by surprise, finding themselves in the uncomfortable position
of being outnumbered. During the fierce fighting which
followed, the inhabitants of Kororareka were evacuated
to the ships anchored in the bay, where they were transferred
to Auckland the following day.
Fighting continued all morning, when suddenly the British
garrison's reserve ammunition exploded, setting fire to
the surrounding buildings. The British were now forced to
retreat to their ships, as not only was their ammunition
gone, but the Māori were still firmly holding their
Once the inhabitants of Kororareka had all been evacuated,
Lieutenant Philpotts, from the sloop "Hazard",
ordered the bombardment of Kororareka. The town was subsequently
sacked by both British and Māori, both those for and
those against the government. Hone Heke himself gave orders
that the southern area of the town remain untouched. As
a result, both the Anglican and Catholic churches were spared