Bravery medal recipients’ stories told
By Rodger [Roger] Moroney
Napier historian and author Brian Kieran has produced a unique and remarkably-researched book which he says is long overdue-given it is focused on the New Zealand Cross, recognised as the rarest bravery award in the world.
He has spent the past six years researching the stories of the 23 recipients of the medal and hundreds of hours putting it all together in what will be seen as a crucial part of the country’s colourful history of the New Zealand Wars between 1860 to 1872.
And as Mr Kieran pointed out, there is a strong ﬂavour of Hawkes’ Bay within the book, titled The New Zealand Cross, which features hundreds of rare photographs and colour plates and has been produced as a limited edition.
“Two New Zealand crosses were presented in Clive Square,” he said, although despite his extensive and painstaking research he had been unable to come up with any acknowledgement of the events of May 24, 1872 in printed or early photographic form.
“Someone out there may have something and if they do I would be very interested to hear from them.”
Mr Kieran, who also wrote The Military Heritage Streets of Napier and Corunna 1809 said he was surprised no one had previously delved into and put into print the unique story of the New Zealand Cross.
“It was a remarkable story waiting to be told,” was how he put it.
The medals were awarded during the New Zealand Wars, which is covered in great detail.
They were produced as the Victoria Cross for bravery was not available to be awarded to “colonials” in their service within the militia and armed constabularies of the time.
Napier was one of the crucial garrison times of the era with extensive barracks on Bluff Hill housing imperial regiments.
A local man, armed constabulary Sub-Inspector and Captain George Preece was one of those who received the award and it is now held by MTG Hawke’s Bay.
It was noted that Captain Preece’s behaviour during the first attack on Ngatapa was such that it caught the attention of Major Rapata, who recommended him for the award.
He, along with the other 22 recipients, are proﬁled in the second part of the book which also includes sections on how the award initially came about, the New Zealand Wars and the aftermath of the wars.
Among them were three Maori – Henare Ahururu for conspicuous bravery at Moturoa in 1868, Te Rangihiwinui Kepa and Ropata Wahawaha for action against Te Kooto at Ngatapa in 1869.
British-born Mr Kieran has been researching and writing since retiring from an extensive international business career in 1999.
He moved to New Zealand and settled in Napier, gaining residency in 2010.
He said it was important to spend whatever time it took to get the compete story told, and that six years wasn’t “too bad”.
Mr Kieran, who spent hundreds of hours poring over documents and archives across the country, paid tribute to wife Ros for her assistance in research and “her patience for the time I spent away”.
Mr Kieran will be signing copies of his book at Copyworld, where it is on sale, in Napier at noon this Thursday.
“Two New Zealand crosses were presented in Clive Square.” Brian Kieran, Napier historian and author
Photo caption – HISTORICAL RESEARCH: Brian Kieran and his wife Ros in Clive Square which played a significant part in the colourful story of the rare New Zealand Cross.
PHOTO/ PAUL TAYLOR