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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)


page 536

Lieut.-Colonel Thomas McDonnell, writing from Wanganui in 1897, referred to a number of colonial soldiers whom he had recommended for the decoration of the New Zealand Cross, but who had not received it. He said, “I especially recommended the following men: Mr. Northcroft, S. M., of Wanganui, for protecting Economedes (Taranaki Rangers) when mortally wounded in the forest below Tirotiro-moana. Captain Northcroft stuck to his man, defending him till the brave Greek expired, when assistance came up and the body was taken to the Waihi camp and interred. There are numerous other instances where this gallant officer did similar unselfish service. Our fellow-townsman, Mr. McKenna, got the V. C. for exactly similar service in Waikato. Again, Hirtzel: At the fight at Pungarehu, when the order was given to retire, Sergeant Tarrin de Courcey Duff, of the Wanganui Yeomanry Cavalry, fell mortally wounded inside the fence of the fortified pa or village. Hirtzel never hesitated, but sprang over the fence, followed by Captain Northcroft, whilst heavy volleys were being fired into our small band by the strong rebel reinforcements, who came from distant villages farther in the forest to assist the belligerent tribes. Thus Duff was rescued, but Hirtzel got severely wounded in the shoulder. I recommended this brave officer for the Cross for his devotion, but no notice was taken for it. Again, at Turuturu-mokai Redoubt, when attacked by Ngati-Ruanui, Connor of the Army Constabulary, now a messenger in the Government Buildings, formerly a 57th man, was recommended by me for the Cross for his bravery in defending his wounded comrades who were lying helpless at the mercy of the foe, who knew none. Connor and one or two others could have got away, as some did, but they elected to risk death at their posts rather than desert the wounded. A Committee of Parliament some two or three years since investigated this case and did its duty by recommending Connor. No notice was taken of this either. Major Scannell I also recommended for his heroic devotion on the retreat from Te Ngutu, to which many owe their lives. This was also ignored. Private James Shanagan, serious wounded in the act of trying to rescue Major Von Tempsky, is also entitled to the Cross; I would recommend him, but it would be useless. And last, but by no means least, Sir George Grey and Sir Walter Buller, for incidents I well remember before the famous Weraroa pa in 1865. Sir George should receive the Cross and be made Chancellor of the Order. If exception is taken because Sir Walter Buller was a civilian, why, then, did His Honour the late Dr. Featherston get the decoration recommended by General Sir Trevor Chute?”

Of those mentioned by Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell, Captain Northcroft received the New Zealand Cross many years later—in fact, some forty years after the events in which he earned it.