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New Zealand Cross

The New Zealand Cross was introduced during the Land Wars in New Zealand between 1845 and 1872.

The wars were basically fought between the natives of New Zealand, the Māori, and European settlers, known as the Pakeha, who were assisted by British or Imperial troops.

Many acts of bravery, gallantry and devotion to duty were recorded among the local militia, armed constabulary and volunteers, but only the Imperial troops were eligible for the highest British recognition of valour, the Victoria Cross.

Recognising the inequality of this, the Governor of New Zealand of the time, Sir George Bowen, announced a new medal of equivalent rank to the VC.

He was widely criticised in England, accused of usurping the prerogative of Queen Victoria, but she eventually ratified his action and the New Zealand Cross, introduced on March 10 1869, continued to be awarded through to 1881.

Only 23 New Zealand Crosses were awarded, making it one of the rarest medals recognising bravery in the world, and it has rarely been sold. The cross was awarded retrospectively for some actions that had taken place before it was instituted.

It has the form of a silver Maltese cross with a gold star on each arm. The words New Zealand, in gold, are encircled by a laurel wreath in the centre. The cross is surmounted by a gold crown. A crimson ribbon passes through a silver bar with small gold laurel leaves.

In 1999 Queen Elizabeth 11 instituted a second New Zealand Cross (with a blue ribbon). It is awarded to military and civilians alike for acts of bravery in dangerous situations but is not considered equivalent to the VC. 

Recipients of the original New Zealand Cross were: