Topic: Battiscombe Terrace (TDN 11/07/2020)

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Battiscombe Terrace

Running parallel to the beach in Waitara, Battiscombe Terrace was named after British Navy Lieutenant Albert Henry William Battiscombe.

Albert was born in Italy in 1831. His father Richard was a Reverend working for the Royal Navy and Albert became a cadet in his teens. As flagship of the Australian Squadron, a force of British warships based in Sydney to protect the colonies, the HMS Pelorus arrived here in April 1860 for the First Taranaki War. Senior Lieutenant Battiscombe and the rest of the crew, known as “Blue Jackets”, took part in the failed attack on Puketakauere pā, supported British troops under attack by Māori at Kairau and helped defend their redoubt at Huirangi. The war in Taranaki eventually ended with a truce in March 1861 negotiated by senior Kīngitanga figure Wiremu Tāmihana, who did not want the conflict extending into the Waikato.

Albert kept a journal for much of his time in New Zealand. As well as describing various military manoeuvres and the routines of life at Camp Waitara (“there is a great deal of drunkenness”), he made observations about the Taranaki landscape (“very pretty country”) and weather (“I don’t know when the rain is going to cease”), even the books he was reading.

Although employed by an Imperial government determined to assert its dominance over Māori, Albert was impressed by the techniques used to construct their pā and made detailed sketches of the fortifications that proved so effective at thwarting British guns, describing them as “most ingenious and novel”. On 6 December 1860, after receiving a letter from his family, he wrote in his diary that they “do not approve of the Māori war thinking the natives are in the right”.

Albert Battiscombe married Lucy Robinson, daughter of Queen Victoria’s Sword Carrier, back in Britain in 1866 and they had three children. He continued to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy, becoming a Rear-Admiral, but had retired by the time of the 1881 England Census and was living in Somerset with his family and seven housemaids. He died at the age of 87, shortly before the end of the First World War.

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