Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A soldier of the 57th in NZ

Great-aunt Agnes Stevenson nee Lockhart, widow, married George Menzies in New Zealand on the 1st Sept 1862. He was only a name to me until I found an article in Paperspast telling of his demise during a Maori ambush on the 18th Feb 1869 at Papatupu, north of Wanganui.

To find out more about him, I looked in the 'Discharged in New Zealand' book, written by Hugh and Lyn Hughes for the NZ Society of Genealogists, published in 1988.

George Menzies, Regimental No. 1789, Sergeant, had arrived in NZ with the 57th Regiment on the ship 'Castillian' which left Bombay, India, on the 27th Nov 1860 and that he had been discharged from the Regiment in Auckland to a pension on the 30th Nov 1867. He then became 'attached' to the 2/18th Royal Irish Regiment.

The AJHR had this to say regarding the incident:
Division Armed Constabulary, under Sergeant Menzies, was cut off by Big Kereopa ( a herculean savage of the Nga-Rauru Tribe,) by an ambush-party at a peach-grove on the opposite side of the Waitotara to the Karaka camp. The sergeant and his nine men had obtained permission to cross the river in a canoe in order to gather peaches in a large grove on the north side about 300 yards from the river. The foragers had scarcely reached the peach-grove when they were fired on by a large force of Maoris; the Hawhaus knew that the fruit was a tempting bait, and had laid an ambuscade in the edge of the bush above the grove and about 60 yards from it in the expectation of a visit. The Constabulary men raced for their canoe, but most of those who escaped the first volley were overtaken and tomahawked. No.1 Division, hearing the firing, hurried to the assistance of their comrades, but it was too late to do anything but exchange a few volleys with the enemy. They had killed Sergeant Menzies and six of his men; three only escaped. Tutange struck him on the temple with a manuka paddle which he snatched up from the canoe, and when the sergeant dropped back into the canoe stunned or dead a Maori named Toa-wairere slashed off his left leg with a tomahawk and carried off the leg into the bush, where it was cooked and eaten by Kereopa and some of his comrades. 

Its most perplexing that I cannot find a death certificate for George, not in New Zealand nor in England. Is a dead constable/soldier a forgotten soldier? 
At Wellington archives I searched for a mention of him and found a couple of references, one of which was for an unclaimed medal.
A medal was granted to Her Majesty's forces for service in New Zealand during the years 1845-47 and 1860-66. It was available to survivors and in those of the Royal Navy and was restricted to those men who actually landed.
An extension of the awardees was to men who served in the local forces was granted in 1869 and allowed the next of kin of those killed in action or died from their wounds to make a claim for the medal.
Although the Imperial Regulations did not allow for the medal to be claimed by the next of kin of those who died, there are seveal instances of it being issued to widows and mothers of Royal Naval personnel. 
During the 1960's a number of unclaimed medals were sold by the Ministry of Defence to registered collectors with the recipients name 'Xed' out, and the Ministry stillo holds a small number. Of the 4,457 medals something in the order of 4.400 were issued. 
The rules around the medal awarded changed over time and it is a subject for a website in itself, I've only mentioned a few things here, it's be no means comprehensive. This information came from a folder at National Archives in Wellington.

Another brief mention of him in a list was found in the reception area photocopy box just noting that he was killed. Thats it. I would love to know more.


  1. It would appear that soldiers killed in action during the NZ Wars that their deaths were not registered. For exampe the on on-lime BDM indexes have no registration for von TEMPSKY who was killed on 7 Sep 1868

  2. Good spotting.
    I just heard a comment in the film 'The History Boys' that British soldiers who died in European wars had their bones collected for fertiliser. It wasn't until the WW1 that soldiers who died were commemorated, and then, only because it was better to concentrate on the hero's rather than remember the terribly inefficient use of the young men who died.