British logistics in the New Zealand wars, 1845-66 : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
While military historians freely acknowledge the importance of logistics - the function of sustaining armed forces in war and peace - the study of military history has tended to focus on other components of the military art, such as strategy, tactics or command. The historiography of the New Zealand Wars reflects this phenomenon. As a result, the impact of logistics on the Wars remains largely unexplored and misunderstood. The British superiority in numbers, materiel [sic] and technology has been one of the most consistent and enduring themes in the historiography of the New Zealand Wars. Although more recent, revisionist histories have also highlighted the impact of Maori military prowess as a factor, interpretations of the course and outcome of the Wars are still dominated by accounts which stress the numerical and technological superiority of the British Army as critical. There are several problems with this approach. At its most basic, it ignores the historical reality that small, poorly-equipped forces have occasionally defeated larger and better equipped opponents. More importantly, it fails to take into account wider British strategy in New Zealand, and events that took place off the battlefield, such as the provision of the logistical services that did much to shape the outcome. The result is a lack of balance that prohibits true assessment of the respective capabilities and performance of the two sides. While it is acknowledged that the British had superior numbers and technology for most of the Wars, this thesis will show that the outcome of the New Zealand Wars was due more to the quality of British logistics and logistics doctrine, and the application of logistics within a coherent strategy, than to any quantitative advantage. This will be achieved by tracing the development and application of British logistics in New Zealand between 1845 and 1866. It will be seen that the outcome of the New Zealand Wars was determined by the implementation, by the British, of a strategy that applied their greatest strength (their army's ability to fight sustained campaigns) against the critical Maori weaknesses (logistics, and an inability to fight prolonged wars). It will also be seen that the cornerstone of British strategy was strong, effective logistics.