Topic: Charles Pye (1820-1876)

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The origins of the name 'Pyes Pa' in Tauranga can be traced back to Victoria Cross recipient Charles Pye.

Charles Pye (1820-1876)Charles Pye was christened at St Mary's church, Castle Church in Staffordshire, England on 24 September 1820. 

He became a soldier. In Calcutta on 3 January 1857 he married another soldier's widow, Mary Ann Farrell (nee Casey). 

During the Indian Mutiny Pye served as a sergeant-major in the 53rd Regiment of Foot and was awarded a VC. The London Gazette records the details:

For steadiness and fearless conduct under fire at Lucknow, on the 17th of November, 1857, when bringing up ammunition to the Mess House, and on every occasion when the Regiment has been engaged. Elected by the non-commissioned officers of the Regiment.

New Zealand and the Victoria Cross records:

Sergeant-Major Charles Pye, 53rd Regiment of Foot

Date of action: 17 November 1857 (Lucknow, India) 
Date of award: 24 December 1858

Charles Pye won a VC for his bravery in bringing up ammunition under fire during the Indian Mutiny. He emigrated to New Zealand with his family in August 1862. Pye was a captain in the Colonial Defence Force cavalry during the New Zealand Wars. The farming locality of Pyes Pa, south of Tauranga, is named after him.

Pye rose to the rank of lieutenant in 1861 before retiring. He arrived in New Zealand with his wife Mary Ann and daughter in August 1862. He was appointed Captain of the Auckland Militia in July 1863 and the following year as Captain of the Colonial Defence Force.

During the New Zealand Wars Pye took part in the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga in Tauranga in 1865.

In 1995 Tauranga historian Jinty Rorke wrote:

Pyes Pa (5 June 1995) Pye’s Pa Road, which leads to Pye’s Pa settlement, is a curious mixture of English and Māori words. There is still some mystery about the name. As far as can be ascertained Captain Charles Pye V.C. was with the Flying Column of troops at the time of the land wars. Pye won his Victoria Cross in what seems a curious way. During the Indian Mutiny his regiment fought so valiantly that the soldiers were allowed to choose by ballot a representative from each of four ranks to receive the award on behalf of his colleagues. So Pye won the V.C. not through an individual act of bravery, but by the popular choice of his comrades in arms. After the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga troops under the command of Captain Pye fortified an old pa site, which perhaps because of the alliteration became known as Pye’s Pa. Pye, who had arrived in New Zealand with his wife and daughter in 1863, did not remain in the Tauranga district. Just what happened to the family subsequently is the mystery. A published list of V.C. holders gives Pye’s place of death as Enfield, Middlesex, England, but it seems certain from an application for a war medal, that he was alive and in New Zealand at that time. I have not yet, however, been successful in tracing his death, either here or in Australia. A descendant is now living in Tauranga, but even she has not got that information.

Charles Pye died in Australia on 12 July 1876. His VC is held by the Auckland War Memorial Museum.


  • Victoria Cross
  • Gwalior Campaign Star ( 1843 )
    • Maharajpoor Star
  • Sutlej Medal ( 1845-46 )
    • Reverse: "Moodkee 1845"
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Ferozeshuhur" - "Aliwal" - "Sobraon"
  • Punjab Medal ( 1848-49 )
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Relief of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"
  • New Zealand Medal ( 1860-66 )



Cenotaph Database (Auckland War Memorial Museum).

Find A Grave.

Known graves of holders of the Victoria Cross in Victoria.

New Zealand and the Victoria Cross (Page 3 – Victoria Cross winners with NZ connection).

The London Gazette 24 December 1858 (Issue:22212, p. 5513).

The Victoria Crosses awarded to Sergeant-Major Charles Pye & Private James Crichton have been donated to the Auckland Museum, New Zealand (June 2001)

Western Bay of Plenty Street Names by Jinty Rorke (p. 32).

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Charles Pye (1820-1876)

First Names:Charles
Last Name:Pye
Date of Birth:September 1820
Place of Birth:Forebridge, Staffordshire
Country of birth:England
Date of death:12 July 1876
Place of death:Kirkstall, Victoria, Australia
Place of burial:Tower Hill cemetery, Koroit, Australia
Date of Arrival:August 1862
Spouses name:Mary Ann Casey
Spouses date of birth:1820
Spouses date of death:31 December 1901
Spouses place of burial:Mangere Lawn Cemetery, New Zealand
Date of marriage:3 January 1857
Place of marriage:St Peter's, Fort William, Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Fathers name:Thomas Pye
Fathers date of birth:1797
Fathers date of death:1880
Mothers name:Alice Hall
Mothers date of birth:1798
Mothers date of death:1835
Military Service:Indian Mutiny (1857-1858) and New Zealand Wars