Unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Services 

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First Australian Unit to fight

Her Majesty's Victorian Ship VICTORIA 1860 provided a landing party (see below) at Taranaki New Zealand.

They served under Commodore Seymour of the Imperial Naval Brigade.

As they were officially placed under the Articles of War they became the first Australians (albeit colonial Australian) who served in an organised, official military action in the face of the enemy. Other Australians (approx 2,000) who fought in NZ were in non-Australian units.

They took part in several actions, including Kairau and Matarikoriko where the 2 officers were Mentioned in Despatches.  

All would have been entitled to the New Zealand Medal (see photo) but records show only about 10 being awarded. Presumably the others were not claimed.








for reverse

In his book "Medals to Australia" 3rd edition, R D Williams says "On several occasions shore parties were sent from the ship under command of Lt G Woods and Midshipman W Horn, both of whom were later Mentioned in the Despatches from Major General Pratt to the War Office, London. Captain W H Norman was also mentioned in Despatches.  The Victoria landed at New Plymouth, New Zealand on 30 April 1860 and discharged 4 Officers, 8 Sergeants, 2 Buglers and 120 Rank and file of Her Majesty's 40th Regiment of Foot (many of whom had previously fought at the Eureka Stockade). The sailors from Victoria fought with the British Naval Brigade in several battles and can justly claim to be the first official Australian force to engage in war overseas.

Of the 10 medals awarded to men from HMVS Victoria, 7 were Type 1 dated 1860/61 and 3 were type 3, undated. 

Rank or Rating Name  
Lieutenant George Austin Woods (Mid)
Midshipman William Horn (MiD)
Gunner's Mate Moses Luther
Captain Fore Top James Ovenden
Captain Main Top Ambrose Kensington
Quartermaster Samuel Long
Quartermaster Robert Linton
Leading Seaman John Taylor
Able Seaman Rees Edmonds
Able Seaman William Jones No. 1
Able Seaman David Smith
Able Seaman James Hawkins
Able Seaman Andrew Dunn
Able Seaman Thomas Dudley
Able Seaman John Schrader
Able Seaman Joseph Collingwood
Able Seaman Edward John Locke
Able Seaman Peter Hood
Able Seaman James Steward
Able Seaman George Brett
Able Seaman John White
Able Seaman Alexander Lawson
Able Seaman John Hay
Able Seaman Harry Ford
Able Seaman Benjamin Rees
Able Seaman George Morey
Trimmer Robert Parkes
Trimmer Edward Ashwell
Trimmer Thomas McIntyre
Trimmer Mark Davis
Trimmer John McMinn
Ordinary Seaman William Gibbond
Ordinary Seaman Arthur Stroud
Ordinary Seaman James Cromarty
Ordinary Seaman Patrick Bonfield
Drummer Cuthbert Graham
Cooks Mate William Jones No. 2
Boy (1st Class) William Horseley

First Australians to die in Military Service

  • Memorial in the churchyard of St John's, Dury New Zealand. It commemorates the service of the first Australians known to have fallen in military service during a foreign war.


  • They served with the 1st Waikato Regiment and the 2 Officers, 1 Corporal and 5 Privates "fell fighting against the rebel natives at Mauku, 23rd October 1863. 

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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces