Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Whitmore, George Stoddart

WHITMORE, Sir GEORGE STODDART (1830–1903), major-general, commandant of forces in New Zealand, born at Malta on 1 May 1830, was son of Major George St. Vincent Whitmore, R.E., and grandson of General Sir George Whitmore (1775–1862), K.C.H., colonel-commandant R.E. His mother was Isabella, daughter of Sir John Stoddart [q. v.], chief justice of Malta. Educated at Edinburgh Academy and at the Staff College, he achieved some success, and entered the army in 1847 as ensign in the Cape mounted rifles. He became lieutenant in May 1850, captain in July 1854, and brevet-major in June 1856. He distinguished himself in the Kaffir wars of 1847 and 1851–3, and was present at the defeat of the Boers at Boem Plaats in 1848. In 1855–6 he served with distinction in the Crimea, receiving the fourth class of the Mejidie. In 1861 he went to New Zealand as military secretary to Sir Duncan Alexander Cameron then in command of the English forces engaged in the Maori war. In the succeeding year he resigned his position in the army in order to buy and farm a run in Hawke's Bay. During 1865 the natives were in active revolt in this district. Whitmore, who complied with a request to take command of the Hawke's Bay militia on the east coast, decisively defeated the Maoris at Omaranui (October 1866), and thus secured peace for eighteen months. In June 1868 the war started again on the west coast, and in July Whitmore was sent in pursuit of an active minor chief called Te Kooti, at the head of the volunteers and a detachment of armed constabulary. He overtook the enemy at Ruakiture on 8 Aug., and an indecisive engagement followed. Te Kooti, although wounded in the foot, escaped, and Whitmore was obliged to fall back in order to procure supplies.

Shortly afterwards, on the west coast, Whitmore served under Colonel McDonnell, an officer who was his junior, in order to restore his prestige after defeat. On McDonnell's withdrawal on leave of absence, Whitmore assumed the command, and on 5 Nov. 1868 was defeated by Titokowaru at Moturoa. Summoned straightway to the east coast to oppose Te Kooti, who, after some fresh successes, had fortified himself in a pa on the crest of a hill called Ngatapa, Whitmore joined forces with the friendly natives and invested the pa, which after five days' siege fell on 3 January 1869; 136 Hau-Haus were killed, but Te Kooti escaped. This was the last important engagement fought in New Zealand. Whitmore left Ropata, the leader of the friendly Maoris, to deal with Te Kooti, and returned to Wanganui to pursue Titokowaru. He succeeded in chasing the enemy northwards out of the disputed territories until they took refuge in the interior, where, as they were now powerless, he left them alone. Then, sent against Te Kooti, who had started another insurrection in the Uriwera district, he seemed on the point of victory when the Stafford ministry fell, and the new premier, Fox, removed him from his command. Whitmore published an account of ‘The Last Maori War in New Zealand’ (1902); he stated that he retired through illness.

From 1863 Whitmore sat on the legislative council, where he supported Sir Edward William Stafford and the war policy. In 1870 he protested against the immigration and public works bill. From 18 October 1877 to October 1879 he was colonial secretary and defence minister under Sir George Grey. In 1879 he went to Taranaki with Grey and the governor to deal with the disturbance created by Te Whiti. On 16 Aug. 1874 he became a member of the Stout-Vogel cabinet without a portfolio, but, owing to jealousy between the provinces of Auckland and Canterbury, the government was defeated at the end of a fortnight. On 5 Sept. Stout and Vogel returned to power and Whitmore was created commandant of the colonial forces and commissioner of the armed constabulary, with the rank of major-general. This was the first time the honour had been conferred in New Zealand on an officer of the colonial troops. He was created C.M.G. in 1869, K.C.M.G. in 1882. He visited England in 1902 in order to publish his book on the Maori war. He returned to New Zealand in February 1903. He died at The Blue Cottage, Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, on 16 March 1903, and was buried in Napier Cemetery. In 1865 he married Isabella, daughter of William Smith of Roxeth, near Rugby, England. He left no issue.

[W. Pember Reeves's The Long White Cloud; Rusden's New Zealand; Mennell's Australas. Biog.; Gisborne, New Zealand Rulers, 1887 (with portrait); Whitmore, Last Maori War; New Zealand Times, Wellington Evening Post, and Christchurch Press, 17 March 1903.]

A. B. W.