This Assistant Surgeon is the only man to have won both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross
This surgeon won the VC and Iron Cross
As the defeated attackers fled away from the Maori defences at Gate Pa, surprised at the ferocity of the defenders’ counterattack, Assistant Surgeon William Manley made his way in the opposite direction, back into the pa (a Maori fort or fortified settlement). Having attended to the mortally wounded commander of the force, Manley returned to the body-strewn defences to find more wounded.
The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts fought by British and colonial troops against various Maori tribes between 1845 and 1872. 15 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the wars. Initially they were localised land disputes with individual Maori tribes and the colonial New Zealand government. By the 1860s, however, 10,000 British troops were requested by the new governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey. These were to be used to suppress the wider Maori King (Kingitanga) movement and suppress more unified resistance, even though the campaigns remained relatively localised.
In 1863 and 1864 the 68th Durham Light Infantry Regiment and 43rd Regiment of Foot had arrived from Burma and India respectively to reinforce the colonial forces. The commander of all forces in New Zealand, Lieutenant
General Sir Duncan Cameron, had decided to invade the Waikato, south of Auckland, and end the Kingitanga movement. In July 1863 the invasion was launched. Reinforcements were sent to the front as soon as they arrived and swapped their red uniforms for the blue of the New Zealand campaigns. The initial campaign was criticised for lack of progress, as it meandered over the Waikato. By April 1864 Cameron had switched his focus and moved his forces to the Tauranga region on the east coast of North Island. The 43rd Regiment arrived in New Zealand late 1863 followed by the 68th Regiment in January 1864. They were in Tauranga by 21 April. This was just in time to mount an attack on a Maori defensive position that had been built on a neck of land 275 metres (300 yards) wide, flanked by swamp on each side, and built deliberately to confront the government troops: Pukehinahina, or Gate Pa.
Born in Dublin, William Manley joined the army medical staff at the age of 24 in 1855, his mother’s father having also been an army surgeon. He was attached to the Royal Artillery and first served in the Crimea, seeing Sevastopol fall. He continued to serve with the Royal Artillery, and its Fourth Brigade arrived in New Zealand in March 1861. The brigade served in all the actions of the invasion of Waikato in 1863-4, but it brought the most guns to bear at Gate Pa.
Cameron had surrounded the pa with troops on all sides. The colonial forces outnumbered the 230 Maori warriors of the Ngai-te-rangi tribe, who defended the pa, by at least seven to one, their assault force numbering 1,650 men. In addition, the British forces had with them the largest artillery contingent used in the war, consisting of various calibre Armstrong guns, howitzers and mortars.
The artillery was brought up on 28 April, and during the night four batteries were constructed. It was feared that the Maori defenders would evacuate if they saw the batteries being readied, so they were built under cover of darkness. A small-scale, hour-long barrage was discharged on 28 April and was followed with an eight-hour bombardment from dawn on the 29th. During this, 30 tons of shot exploded over or slammed down into the pa, an area only 80 metres (90 yards) long and 18 metres (20 yards) wide.
The bombardment silenced all resistance and created a breach in the two-metre (6.5-feet) wide and high parapet that was ideal for the coming assault. With no sign of life in the pa, the assault was ordered at 4pm.
The frontal assault consisted of 300 men (150 from the naval brigade and 150 from the 43rd Regiment) commanded by Commander
Hay of the Naval brigade and Lieutenantcolonel Booth of the 43rd Regiment. Assistant Surgeon Manley volunteered to go in with
“THERE IS NOT A MORE GALLANT REGIMENT THAN THE 43RD… BUT NOW WHERE WERE ALL THE LAURELS THEY HAD WON IN THE PENINSULA AND INDIA? SOILED AND TRAMPLED IN THE DUST”
Major General Sir James Alexander Bush Fighting (London, 1873)
“THE BATTLE OF GATE PA WAS ARGUABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT BATTLE OF THE NEW ZEALAND WARS, IN TERMS OF BOTH ITS POLITICAL EFFECTS AND ITS WIDER IMPLICATIONS FOR MILITARY TECHNOLOGY”
James Belich The New Zealand Wars And The Victorian Interpretation Of Racial Conflict (Auckland, 2015)
the initial assault. They would charge in, four abreast with bayonets fixed, with another 300 men in reserve. Meanwhile, 700 men from the 68th Regiment would approach from the rear.
The events that followed are still unclear. 15 of the defenders had fallen in the initial bombardment on the 28th, but the remainder had taken shelter in purposely built underground chambers during the sustained bombardment of the 29th. There had been no signs of resistance or life during the long bombardment and Cameron, no doubt, expected that the 200 remaining defenders had been destroyed. When the assault was launched, some Maori resisted with shotgun and mere, the lethal Maori closecombat hand weapon. This resistance was not enough to stop the assault from moving through the network of trenches and reaching the end of the pa. A captain named Greaves reported back to Cameron that the pa was taken and that casualties had been light.
As the 68th Regiment reached the rear of the pa, less than ten minutes after the first assault went in, the remnants of the assault column began running from the breached defences back to the British lines. Of the 300 men who assaulted the pa, one third were casualties with 31 lying dead, including ten officers, and 80 wounded. After Captain Greaves’s report, it seems that the majority of the Maori defenders emerged from their underground shelters largely unscathed (a lesson for the future about the ineffectiveness of sustained bombardment on well-designed trench systems was clearly missed at Gate Pa). The Maori then poured deadly fire into the British forces at close and even point-blank range. During the bombardment and assault, the Maori lost only ten additional casualties. Their leader, Rawiri Puhirake, may have engineered the entire affair, ordering his warriors to stay concealed and not to emerge from their shelters or fire at the British until they were given the command.
Certainly the sudden and fierce resistance caught the British forces by surprise. Such spirited resistance was totally unexpected, and resulted in the entire assault collapsing in panic and being repulsed after they had claimed victory. Some early reports stated that the assault was repulsed before reaching the pa by ferocious fire from the pa’s rifle pits, although this cannot explain Captain Greaves’s report.
In the confusion of the unexpected Maori defence, Manley behaved with uncommon valour. According to his citation in The London Gazette of September 23 1864, “Having volunteered to accompany the storming party into the Pah (sic), he attended on [Commander Edward Hay] when he was carried away, mortally wounded, and then volunteered to return, in order to see if he could find any more wounded.”
Manley’s acts of bravery were witnessed by Commodore Sir William Wiseman, C.B., who commanded one of the Royal Artillery batteries manned by Royal Navy personnel. It was to Wiseman’s position that Hay’s body was brought. From there Manley returned to the pa. He was the last to leave the pa, which is especially notable given the scale and level of humiliation of the British defeat. The 31 killed and 80 wounded was the greatest loss during the New Zealand Wars for the colonial forces. During the whole six-month campaign total British and colonial losses were 44 killed and 119 wounded. Gate Pa represented 70 per cent of those casualties. The deep humiliation felt by the regiments and the forces throughout New Zealand as a whole is reflected in contemporary letters and reports.
Immediately after the defeat, however, it would seem that the Maori also tended to the wounded – one Maori woman, Heni te Kiri-karamu, bringing water to the dying commander of the 43rd Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Booth, and several other ‘bluecoats’.
“THERE HAD BEEN NO SIGNS OF RESISTANCE OR LIFE DURING THE LONG BOMBARDMENT AND CAMERON, NO DOUBT, EXPECTED THAT THE 200 REMAINING DEFENDERS HAD BEEN DESTROYED”
In the same action, Samuel Mitchell, Captain of the foretop of HMS Harrier, was also part of the initial assault force. He too was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying Commander
Hay from the pa, even though he had been ordered to seek safety. Hay lived long enough to ask Wiseman to recognise Mitchell’s bravery. Interestingly, Mitchell’s award was announced in July 1864, but Manley’s took until September, even though both were recommended by Wiseman (presumably at the same time).
During the night of the 29-30th, expecting a renewed assault the following day, the Maori forces evacuated the pa, slipping through the lines of the 68th Regiment and sustaining some casualties before escaping into the surrounding swamps. Cameron returned to Auckland with half the force, leaving Colonel Henry Greer in command.
Manley continued serving in the campaign, seeing the revenge of Gate Pa with the defeat of the Maori at Te Ranga a few kilometres away on 21 June. In that engagement only 13 British were killed, compared with 120 Maori dead, most of whom were bayonetted. Two more Victoria Crosses were awarded for that action. Manley then continued serving under the command of Sir Trevor Chute (who replaced a
“FOR THE BRAVE CONDUCT DURING AN ATTACK ON THE REBEL FORT... WHEN HE RESCUED SEVERAL WOUNDED SOLDIERS”
Plaque dedicated to William Manley in Cheltenham, UK
disgraced Duncan Cameron) in the Taranaki (on the west coast of North Island) in 1865. Manley was mentioned in dispatches and promoted to staff surgeon. He also rescued a drowning sailor. Manley left New Zealand to return to Britain in February 1866 (Chute’s campaign was the last that involved imperial troops).
Meanwhile, in Europe there was growing tension between the Second French Empire of Napoleon III and Prussia, which was leading the growth of German unification under the North German Confederation – especially after the Austro-prussian War in 1866 had established Prussia’s dominance of the German states. In July 1870 French fears of growing German power led to the declaration of war against the Kingdom of Prussia.
At the outbreak of the war, Manley was put in charge of a division of the British Ambulance Corps, which was attached to the 22nd
Division of the Prussian Army. The Prussian crown prince had married Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Victoria, in 1858, cementing close ties between Britain and Prussia. The Prussians mobilised far more quickly than the French had anticipated, and the French were decisively defeated at the Battle of Sedan in September and the fall of Metz in October.
The war continued under a new government, declared after Napoleon III was captured at Sedan. Campaigns continued in the Loire, north and northeast. Resistance and campaigning continued until Paris, besieged following the Battle of Sedan in September, fell in late January 1871.
The 22nd Division was made up of recruits mainly from Thuringia (some were from the Electorate of Hesse) and participated in most of the major engagements of the war, including the opening battle of Wörth, Sedan, the Siege of Paris and the Loire campaign. Manley and the Ambulance Corps were present throughout the war and his citation explicitly mentions his actions in caring for the wounded of the 22nd Division at engagements during the Loire campaign, at Chateauneuf and Bretoncelle, and at the battles of Orleans and Cravant, which took place in December.
For these actions he was awarded the Iron Cross (second class) on the recommendation of Frederick, Crown Prince of Prussia. Frederick commanded III Army and was praised for his leadership and care for the wounded, visiting them on several occasions. His recognition of Manley’s actions was entirely in keeping with such care and concern. Manley also cared for the French wounded during and after the Siege of Paris.
Manley’s career continued on into the
Second Afghan War when he was present for the occupation of Kandahar in 1880, then in the Anglo-egyptian war in 1882, where he was present at the battle of Tel-el-kebir. He retired in 1884 an honorary surgeon general. William Manley remains the only man to have been awarded the highest award for valour in both Britain and Prussia, the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross, in both instances for showing the utmost bravery in his care for the wounded on either side of the globe.
Manley in later life. Note the Victoria Cross and, below it, suspended on a ribbon, the Iron Cross (second class)
Photo of a Maori chief, dated around 1860-1879, holding a mere. These hand-to-hand weapons were deadly in the restricted confines of the pa’s trenches
ABOVE: Based on a sketch by Lieutenant Robley. The Maori’s evacuation of the pa on 29 April allowed sketches to be made in the following days, recording the shelters where the warriors withstood the bombardment
A fanciful and highly inaccurate artist’s impression of the assault on Gate Pa. In reality the assaulting troops were taken unawares by concealed defenders after the attackers had completely infiltrated the fortification
The Siege of Paris (1870) by Meissonier shows the French spirit of resistance even though it was futile in the face of Prussian brilliance