Charles Heaphy ( 1820 - 1881)

English-born New Zealand explorer and recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), He was the first soldier of the New Zealand armed forces to be awarded the VC. He was also a noted artist of the colonial period who created watercolours and sketches of early settler life in New Zealand.

Heaphy joined the New Zealand Company in 1839 and arrived in New Zealand later that year and was commissioned to make a visual record of the company’s work which was used to promote the country to potential English migrants. Much of the next two and half years was spent travelling around New Zealand and executing paintings of the land and its inhabitants. When his contract with the company ended in 1842, he lived in Nelson for several years and explored large parts of the West Coast. He later moved north to Auckland to take up employment as a surveyor.

During the invasion of the Waikato, his militia unit was mobilised and it was his conduct at Paterangi, where he rescued British soldiers under fire, that saw him awarded the VC. As well as being the first soldier of the New Zealand armed forces to receive the VC, he was the first recipient from any militia force. After his military service ended, Heaphy served a term as Member of Parliament for Parnell. From 1870 to 1881, he held a variety of civil service positions. In his later years, his health declined and he retired from public service in May 1881. He moved to Queensland, in Australia, seeking a better climate in which to recover his health but died a few months after his arrival. He is buried at Toowong Cemetery in Brisbane.

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