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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Heaphy, Major Charles

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Heaphy, Major Charles, V.C., the only colonist on whom the Victoria Cross was conferred for gallantry during the Maori war troubles in New Zealand, was the son of Thomas Heaphy, water-colour painter, who founded the Old Watercolour Society and the Society of British Artists, and as a young man studied at the Royal Academy, where, before he was seventeen, he gained both a bronze and silver medal. Having accepted a position as draughtsman to the New Zealand Company, he left England for that colony in the ship Tory in May 1839. During the first ten or twelve years after his arrival, he employed his spare time in studying, surveying, and exploring the country, eventually settling in Auckland, where he married a daughter of the Rev. J. F. Churton, colonial chaplain. In 1852 he was located at the Coromandel goldfields, and in 1855 was appointed district surveyor at Mahurangi. At the commencement of the volunteer movement in 1859, he joined the Auckland City Company, and rose to be lieutenant, being afterwards elected captain of No. 3 (Parnell) company Auckland Rifle Volunteers. When the first volunteers were marched from Auckland to the front, in July 1863, Lieutenant Heaphy was with the detachment which erected St. John's Redoubt at Papatoitoi, and in Nov. he was attached to the flying column as guide. Captain Heaphy was with Colonel Sir H. Havelock, V.C., on Feb. 11th, 1864, reconnoitring the country near Waiari, in the Waikato, when a party of the 40th regiment, who were bathing, were fired upon. A number of soldiers from the adjoining camp appeared on the scene as quickly as possible, but in some disorder, and Colonel Havelock placed Captain Heaphy in charge of the detachment. A soldier was seen lying near the edge of the creek, wounded and bleeding to death, an artery having been severed. Captain Heaphy, having some knowledge of surgery, volunteered to go to his assistance, and having reached him, was engaged in taking up the artery when he was fired at by a body of natives, who were concealed in the farm close by. He was struck and slightly wounded in three places, but nevertheless succeeded in completing his work of humanity and, with the assistance of some soldiers, carrying off the man. For this brave action he received the New Zealand medal and the rank of major in the New Zealand Militia, and was recommended for the Victoria Cross. The warrant at that time did not, however, permit of its being awarded to any but regulars, and it was not until after considerable delay and special legislation in the Imperial Parliament that it was awarded to him in 1867. On the termination of the war in the Waikato, he held office as Chief Surveyor of Auckland. From 1869 to 1872 he represented Parnell in the House of Representatives, and in the latter year was appointed Commissioner of Native Reserves and a trustee under the Native Lands Frauds Prevention Act. In 1877 he was further appointed Commissioner of Annuities, and shortly after received a judgeship in the Native Lands Court. At the end of 1880, finding his health failing, he applied for his pension, which was granted in 1881; and in very feeble health he left Wellington for Brisbane, Queensland, to try the effect of a warmer climate. He gradually sank, however, and died in Brisbane on August 3rd, 1881. He was the author of "Narrative of a Residence in Various Parts of New Zealand" (1842).