Topic: Relatives of VC winner at Gate Pa Centenary

Topic type:

Among the offical guests at the unveiling ceremony of the Gate Pa Memorial yesterday were four relatives of Samuel Mitchell, VC, who won his decoration during the Gate Pa battle in 1864. This article appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on Thursday, 30 April 1964, and is reproduced here with their permission.

The relatives were two grand-daughters, Mrs Hazel Kelly, of Hokitika, and Mrs Joan McNeilly, of Tauranga and Mr Frank Mitchell, of Kowhitirangi, Westland and Ronald Mitchell, of Taupo, both grandsons of Samuel Mitchell.

Samuel Mitchell was awarded the VC for resucing his commanding officer, Commander Hay, under heavy fire during the battle.

After the Gate Pa battle, HMS Harrier on which Samuel Mitchell served returned to Sydney, where the investiture by the Governor of New South Wales took place. It is not certain what happened after that regarding Mitchell's kit containing the VC. The kit was lost from the family possessions for many years.

After discharge from the Navy, Samuel Mitchell settled in South Westland, where he raised a family of 11 children. He was subsequently drowned in the Mikonui River in 1894 at the age of 53.

In 1926, Mr Claude Watson, now of Taupo but at that time stationmaster at Ross, Westland, assisted the late Miss Edith Mitchell in recovering the VC for which the sum of £70 was raised largely by public subscription. The medal was then purchased from a collector, Colonel Gascoyne and remained in the possession of Miss Mitchell until her death last year. It was placed in trust in the Hokitika museum by her.

Some years ago it was reported from Vancouver that a 12-year-old boy, Wayne Burton, had found what appeared to be a genuine Victoria Cross among some driftwood.

On the back of the clasp was "S. Mitchell" and the cross bore the date April 29, 1864. Photographs of both VCs were sent to England and studied by the maker who had no hesitation in saying that Mr Mitchell's was the original and the other a counterfeit.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion