Wil­liam Man­ley

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


Ma­jor Gen­eral Sir James Alexan­der Bush Fight­ing (Lon­don, 1873)


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’.


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


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

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