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Guest Darrell

NEW ZEALAND MEDAL - 1863 to 1864

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Guest Darrell

About the New Zealand Medal

The New Zealand Medal was instituted in 1869. While it is British, the medal can be described as New Zealand's first indigenous campaign medal. It was awarded for service in the New Zealand Wars of 1845-47 and 1860-66. The Medal was awarded to members of the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and to colonial volunteers.

The veiled head of Queen Victoria is on the obverse of the medal. On the reverse of the medal is the date of the recipient's service in a wreath, with NEW ZEALAND around the top and VIRTUTIS HONOR (honor of velour) around the foot. The suspender of the medal is ornamented with New Zealand fern fronds.

The medal was unusual in having the recipient's dates of service die-struck on the centre of the reverse, though some medals were issued without dates.

About the Ribbon

The ribbon is blue with a central orange stripe.

Clasps and Bars

No clasps or bars were issued for this medal.


The following medal was issued to Ordinary Seaman George Roberts for service on the H.M.S. Harrier during 1863 - 1864. The medal has his name officially impressed along the edge and the dates "1863 to 1864" on the reverse.

As stated on the medal roll, he was issued the medal on 21 Dec 1870. There were 80 medals issued to personnel of the Harrier; 10 to officers, 60 to ratings and 10 to Royal Marines.

The Harrier took part in many major engagements during the second New Zealand (or Maori) War, in fact more than any other ship at that time.

Some note worthy engagements included:

1. Paparoa, 1 August 1863.

2. Rangarari, 20 November 1863.

3. Te Awamutu & Rangiwhia 21-22 February 1864

4. Gate Pa, 29th April 1864

Some events in the life of the Harrier:

- HMS Harrier was a 751 ton displacement, 17 gun Cruiser-class sloop launched on 13 May 1854 from the Pembroke Dockyard.

- From 1854 to 1856 Harrier took part in the Crimean War as part of the naval force in the Baltic Sea.

- Served on the South Atlantic Station before refitting in Portsmouth in 1860.

- Recommissioned on 29 October 1860 for the Australia Station.

- Undertook a punitive action against Fijian natives in 1863.

- Took part in the rescue operations when HMS Orpheus was wrecked in Manukau Harbor, New Zealand and was also grounded but was refloated.

- Undertook operations during Invasion of Waikato and also the Tauranga Campaign in New Zealand, where her captain, Commander Edward Hay, was killed on 30 April 1864 during the storming of Gate Pa and his Coxswain, Samuel Mitchell, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

- Harrier paid off at Portsmouth on 31 March 1865 and was broken up the next year. This date was incidentally the date of his discharge.

George Roberts was born on 24 June 184(?) (Difficult to read in the muster roll) in the Parish of Baldwin Kirk Braddon in the town of Douglas in the County of Isle of Man. At the time of his discharge he was 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall, he had a "Ruddy" complexion, Hazel eyes, dark brown hair and had two tattoos. Man and Woman on right arm and a ship on his left.

The interesting thing about this fellow is not that he served on the Harrier, but which ships he served on before. He joined up at a very early age.

The ships were (with dates of service and / or promotions):

1. Centurion – Boy 2nd Class – 7th March 1859 to 9th September 1859

2. Caradoc – Boy 2nd Class – 10 September 1859

3. Caradoc – Boy 1st Class – 24 June 1860

4. Caradoc – Boy 1st Class – 5th September 1860 to 5th February 1860

5. Orpheus – Boy 1st Class – 6th April 1860 to 30 November 1862

6. Orpheus – Ordinary Seaman – 1st December 1862 – 9th February 1863

7. Harrier – Ordinary Seaman – 10th February 1863 to 31 March 1865

He was on the ship Orpheus when it wrecked in Manukau Harbor. He was only one of 69/256 to be saved from this disaster.

The Wreck of H.M.S. "Orpheus"

H.M.S. "Orpheus," a 21-gun steam-corvette, manned by a crew of 256 officers and men, was totally wrecked on the Manukau bar on the 7th February, 1863, when bound to Onehunga from Sydney to take up duty on the New Zealand Station.

The pilot-station at the heads showed the signal to take the bar, and the "Orpheus" came in under steam and sail before a good westerly breeze. The ship was carrying all plain sail, and her starboard foretopmast studding. sail was set. She was drawing 21 feet. She struck heavily on the western end of the middle bank, which afterwards was proved to have shifted three-quarters of a mile from where it was laid down on Drury's chart; the navigation officers of the "Orpheus," however, had also the "Niger" navigator's sailing-directions. The pilot-station watcher, seeing the ship running into danger, semaphored to her to stand more out to sea, but the warning signal was observed too late.

The ship struck twice, and the engines were ordered full speed astern, but the screw did not work; the way the ship had on sent her firmly into the sand.

The topsails were lowered, and the other sails were clewed up. Great seas were now breaking over the ship, and, after one boat had with difficulty got clear, the crew all took to the yards and rigging. The steamer "Wonga Wonga," bound south from Onehunga, went to the rescue, and approached the wreck as closely as she could. Some of the bluejackets, sliding down the foretopmast-stay, jumped into the sea and were picked up; others who attempted it were drowned.

The one boat which got clear took the news to the pilot-station, but it was night before the tragic story reached H.M.S. "Harrier," lying at Onehunga, twenty miles away, and by that time all was over. The rollers breaking on the bar burst continually over the hull and lower masts. The yards and shrouds were thick with sailors despairingly looking for rescue. About 6 o'clock in the evening Commodore Burnett, who was in the mizzen-rigging, hailed the men, asked them to pray to God, and said he would be the last to leave the ship.

The mainmast was the first to go over the side. As it was falling the men clinging to the yards and rigging gave three heart-rending farewell cheers, which were answered by the men on the other masts, and next moment the gallant sailors were vainly struggling for their lives. The foremast soon followed, and then the mizzenmast gave way and crashed into the surf. The mizzentop fell on Commodore Burnett and partly stunned him, and he was drowned.

Out of the crew of 256 all told, only sixty-nine (including eight officers) were saved.

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Guest Darrell

Three copies of the Navy Medal Rolls entitling Roberts to the New Zealand Medal with 1863 to 1864 reverse.


post-97-018337400 1291496096_thumb.jpg

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Guest Darrell

With this medal and copy of the roll is a Muster Roll at discharge listing not only his personal description, but also the ships he served on as well as rank and dates of service.

First the whole Muster Page (really hard to read anything from this resolution):

post-97-082090700 1291496230_thumb.jpg

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Guest Darrell

A good person over at BMF found his name on the National Archives site. There were an additional 13 pages of information I was able to download today.

It appears he was born on 24 June 1843. So that mystery is solved. He would have been not quite 16 years old when he enlisted.

There was attached a neat little piece of paper where his dad gave approval for him to enlist, and for an additional 10 years past his 18th Birthday. It was written by the Boat Chief for his father as he could not sign his name as is evidence to the fact he put his "X" on the signature spot. I am quite taken by the neat signature of George. If only all good folks wrote that neat back in the day we wouldn't go cross eyed looking at the documents.

Here is the document mentioning his first enlistment date and the ship HASTINGS !! Which was not shown on any paper work previously.

post-97-086767500 1291757564_thumb.jpg

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Guest Darrell

His updated Ship Log service record. A bit more detailed than the one shown further above:

post-97-070298000 1291757643_thumb.jpg

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Guest Darrell

Received these pictures of the Manukau Bar from a fellow member a while back. Rounds out the research very well.

1. The view from Onehunga towards the heads in the far distance:

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Guest Darrell

4. A separate picture from Wikipedia showing the South Head of Manukau Harbour:

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Hallo Darrell,

I stumbled across this site while researching my Great Grandfather Edward Henry Gale who served as a Boy 1st Class on HMS Harrier during 1863-1864 and must have been at Gate Pe as he was awarded a campaign medal. Any information you can let me have would be greatly appreciated.

My email is: r.gale4@kpnplanet.nl

Kind regards,

Bob Gale

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