British soldiers' mass grave uncovered at Ruapekapeka

The lost mass grave of 12 British soldiers from the country's first major battlefield has been uncovered in Northland more than 170 years after the Battle of Ruapekapeka.

Ruapekapeka Trust trustee Allan Halliday says, "He was pretty sure about 2 years ago that the graves were here and it wasn't until Monday of last week that we started digging and confirmed it."

The archaeologist who made the discovery, Jono Carpenter acknowledges the role that Māori played in the discovery of the mass grave.

"It's an incredibly important part of our history and I hope that Pākeha New Zealand takes note that it was the Māori community that kept the memory alive and introduced the issue to me."

DOC cultural advisor Kipa Munro says, "Although they were the enemy it was the Māori who made sure this was followed through on."

Munro says that it's important to now mark the soldier's grave. Carpenter hopes that the British Government will take part in the unveiling of a monument on the burial site.

"It's important so that the family and descendants of these soldiers can come here and identify the grave."

Carpenter says, "I hope that the British Government takes an interest because we've found your boys and we'd like you to come down and help us take care of them as time goes on."

The Ruapekapeka Trust is considering holding a memorial for the soldiers on the 175th commemoration of the Battle of Ruapekapeka on the 10th of January.