Dictionary of New Zealand Bography logo

Story: Mould, Thomas Rawlings

Page 1: Biography

Mould, Thomas Rawlings


Soldier, engineer

This biography, written by J. A. B. Crawford, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Thomas Rawlings Mould is said to have been born on 31 May 1805; his place of birth and parentage are unknown, as are the details of his marriage, although he is known to have had six daughters. Mould was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 22 September 1826, and over the following 29 years held a variety of posts in England and Ireland. In January 1855 he was commissioned as lieutenant colonel.

Late in December 1855 Mould and his daughters arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. As Commanding Royal Engineer, and from December 1857 inspector of public works in New Zealand, Mould advised the governor and the colonial and provincial governments on a wide range of subjects. In 1856 and 1859 he wrote the first detailed reports on the defences required to protect Auckland, Wellington and Lyttelton from naval attack. In 1859 his professional opinion was sought on a boundary dispute between Canterbury and Otago. During 1860 he reported unfavourably on a proposal to construct a canal between the Manukau and Waitemata harbours.

Mould resumed a more active military career with his commission as colonel in 1858, and his appointment as Governor Thomas Gore Browne's deputy in Auckland province in February 1860. In April 1860, as a result of concern that Waikato Maori might attack Auckland, he worked to improve the city's defences, and the militia was called out for service under his command. In August 1860 he joined Major General Thomas Pratt in Taranaki. Browne had doubts about Pratt's abilities and may have wanted Mould to be given command of the forces in Taranaki. On 6 November 1860 Mould commanded one of the two British columns which defeated a Maori force at Mahoetahi. For his part in this small but very welcome victory he was created CB in 1862.

Mould advocated the use of saps to attack Maori pa and directed their first successful use at Orongomaihangi in October 1860. Between December 1860 and March 1861 he supervised the major sapping operation against a group of pa near the Waitara River, the most important of which were Matarikoriko, Huirangi and Te Arei. Although unlikely to produce decisive results, sapping was an intelligent response to the difficult military problems posed by the modern pa. In the course of the campaign Mould developed a healthy respect for the courage and skilled military engineering of the Maori.

In June 1861 Mould wrote an important memorandum outlining the need for a line of fortifications south of Auckland to protect the city and its surrounding districts. He also proposed that the roads south of Auckland be extended and improved to facilitate the occupation of Waikato. Both proposals were acted on, and Mould himself directed much of the work.

While in Auckland in 1863 Mould, an active member of the Anglican church, skilfully enlarged St Paul's Church in Emily Place. He commanded the militia when it was called out in response to fears of an attack on the city in June and July 1863. In July he joined Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron's staff for the invasion of Waikato. He was involved in most of the major actions of the campaign and oversaw the construction of the roads, bridges and fortifications which were central to British operations. Later he took part in Cameron's Wanganui campaign of 1865. In 1866 Colonel Mould returned to Britain, where in 1867 he was promoted to major general; he retired from the army on full pay in 1872. He died in London on 13 June 1886.

How to cite this page:

J. A. B. Crawford. 'Mould, Thomas Rawlings', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1m56/mould-thomas-rawlings (accessed 30 May 2023)