New Zealand medals were awarded for two distinctly separate groups of conflicts:
The First War 1845-1847 and The Second War 1860-1866
I created a blog last year focusing on the first war which can be accessed here and in this second blog, my focus is on the second war and the medals issued to the RN and RM. Like those for the earlier war, the medals were issued with multiple revereses, each with embossed dates (or in some cases undated) which refer to the dates of the recipient’s services. A little over 900 medals were awarded to the RN/RM which is about 3 times that of the first war. In this instance 13 ships were involved.
The medal was granted to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines by Admiralty Order June 3, 1869. It was awarded to men who had been under fire and was not given to next of kin. The combination of a larger presence combined with a smaller gap between the time under fire and the granting of the medal to survivors helps explain why relatively speaking, the medals issued for the second war are much more common than those to the first war but given the fact that these medals to the RN and RM number less than 1,000 in total they are far from common.
The most common reverse appearing on medals to the RN and RM is 1863-1864 and it is during this period that some of the larger and more well known incidents occurred.
A summary of the numbers of medals issued together with the ships engaged broken out by each of the reverse types is shown below. It should be noted however that although the table summarizes the correct dates for the ship, some late issued medals were issued with undated reverses and there are instances of incorrectly dated medals, particularly to HMS Eclipse. Overall about 5% of the medals issued fall under either of these two anomalies.
|Reverse Date||Number Issued||Ships|
Of interest to me, is the survival rates of Victorian campaign medals and this series of medals also has a high rate of survival albeit less dramatic than those medals from the first war. Provenance details for more than 30% of the medals is detailed here along with a complete roll of medals issued to the RN and RM.
The second war was a continuation of the first in many respects since the origin was based once again as a result of disputes relating to the land. The earlier conflicts consisted of more open style engagement which suited the British and Colonial troops whoo vastly out numbered the Māori but as the war continued, a more guerrilla style of warfare evolved. The early strategy involved conquering land but this later evolved into a punitive style of war to punish and destroy the native inhabitants and by today’s standards it could be described as a savage and brutal war.
The most well known battle took place on April 29, 1864 at Puktehinahina, a fortification known as GatePā which made extensive use of anti-artillery bunkers and hidden trenches were to lull the enemy into a false sense of security. Many small bunkers were created rather than a smaller number of large ones so casualties would be minimal should one get breached.When the Naval Brigade entered the main earthworks there was much confusion as hundreds of men were trying to force their way through a narrow gap into the maze like interior of the pā. Although some had apparently fled, enough Māori had remained to ensure control of the trenches. The early loss of many of of the British officers created a leaderless situation and that combined with a panicked retreat of those storming the pā from the front, believing that the pā had been reinforced by Māori warriors entering from the rear resulted spelled disaster for the attackers. The British lost 35 killed and 75 wounded, twice the estimated Māori casualties.
Like some of the other mid 19th century campaign medals, this one was well earned and although the British and Colonial forces vastly outnumbered the local warriors by a factor of about five to one, the fighting, often in dense bush was difficult by any definition.