Welcome to the story of New Zealand’s first navy. The Waikato Flotilla was purpose built for the New Zealand Colonial Government,  and deployed during the British invasion of the Waikato 1863, when a force of 12,000 British and Colonial troops invaded the Waikato region.

To reach the rich pastoral land of the Waikato interior a reliable transport route was required to move the men and their supplies. The Waikato river provided that route.

The armoured iron gunboats formed the base of a naval force and transport service to move the troops past the Maori fortifications along the river.

The Waikato Maori who took up arms against the British built sophisticated defensive lines along the river, and later inland, to stop the advance of the invading army.  This is the story of those gunboats and their life on the river during the Waikato campaign. 




                                                                                            Author Grant Middlemiss

Grant was born and raised in Dunedin, spending much of his teens mucking about in small boats with the Sea Cadets, later joining the Otago Division of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve. (HMNZS Toroa)

An interest in the early sailing ships that brought his family to New Zealand in the 1880’s was the start of a lifelong interest in maritime interest.  Grant and wife Vicki retired to Cambridge after Grant’s 36-year career with NZ Police, where the story of the Waikato River gunboats caught his attention.

In the course of his research Grant came across an international website for paddle steamer enthusiasts ( and there made contact with Harry. 

                                                                                  Marine draughtsman Harry Duncan  

                                                                                  Marine draughtsman Harry Duncan


1949 - 2015

Harry was born in and grew up around Wellington and spent much of his youth messing about in small boats. 

A professional draughtsman, he had a passionate interest in the detailed design and construction of paddle steamers and enjoyed recreating the lost plans of the vessels.

He built marine models most of his life. When living in Hamilton he stumbled upon the hulk of the Rangiriri, researched it and drew up a set of construction drawings for her and her sister ship Koheroa.

Harry shifted to Vietnam on his retirement and sadly died soon after.