How Did It Start?
In 1840, British troops were doing what they usually did, which was hang around a country that was not their own. Specifically New Zealand and, specifically, the town of Kororareka. It was a place of brothels, grog-holes and gambling dens, and was filled with people bereft of scruples and/or one or more limbs who spent their days having comical bar fights.
The British went ahead and hoisted the Union Jack over the town, figuring nobody would mind. Who doesn't love the British flag?
Meet Hone Heke, a chief of some of the natives. He rode into town and chopped down the flagpole, apparently figuring they wouldn't actually be ruled by the British as long as the flag wasn't there. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
What Happened Next?
What followed was a display of splendid idiocy. The garrison instantly erected a new flagpole, which Heke chopped down just as swiftly, and a third replaced it, only to be felled again. Then a fourth was erected, and was reinforced with iron and had an armed guard, all presumably smirking away. We like to imagine all of this taking place in the course of one lunch hour.
Back in England, the House of Commons decided that Heke and his people had no right to chop down flagpoles and live unmolested in their own country, and declared that lessons needed to be taught. Helpful missionaries carried this information to Heke, who was less than impressed.
On March 11, 1845, Heke and his tribe descended into the town with unprecedented savagery, butchering townsfolk indiscriminately. British troops tried to dig themselves in around their barracks, but probably ought to have been shooting as they were swiftly overwhelmed. As a final "fuck you," Heke chopped down that damned flagpole again.
The war dragged on for 10 bloody months. The British managed to quash Heke's rebellion over time, but the war can only really be called a scoreless draw.