National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Worn With Pride

Medal Group Tells a Heroic and Daring Story

Maj Gen Sandy Thomas’ medal group

Maj Gen Sandy Thomas’ medal group

The medal group of one of New Zealand’s last surviving World War II soldiers has recently been donated to the National Army Museum in Waiouru.

Major General Walter Babington ‘Sandy’ Thomas CB, DSO, MC and bar, ED, Silver Star (USA) is most well known for his heroic and daring exploits during World War II which saw him receive several gallantry awards including a Military Cross (MC) and a Distinguished Service Order (DSO).



The Costly Battle of the Landing

Private Frank Moore from the Sir George Grey Collections, Auckland Libraries

Private Frank Moore from the Sir George Grey Collections, Auckland Libraries

Private Frank Henry Moore (10/456) of the Wellington infantry Battalion was killed in action at Gallipoli on 29 April 1915.

Frank, a local lad from Mangaweka, enlisted at 21 and arrived in Egypt in December 1914. After training the Wellington Infantry Battalion landed at Gallipoli late in the evening of 25 April 1915. 

When the day dawned on the 26th, heavy Turkish shrapnel fire started. It stopped at midday due to British Naval guns pounding the hills but Turkish sniping continued throughout the day. Small Turkish patrols would crawl through the scrub and the Kiwis would take pot shots at them, giving a cheer if any were hit.

On the 27th, Frank Moore and the rest of the Wellington Battalion would experience their first taste of serious action when they had to clamber up towards Russell’s Top under heavy fire and later carry out a bayonet charge towards the Turkish lines.

On 29 April when the ‘Battle of the Landing’ was effectively over, Turkish snipers were hitting their targets and at some stage during the day, Frank Moore was shot and killed along with a further 22 Wellington men. The first four days of fighting had proved extremely costly for the Anzacs.


Killed in Action Gallipoli

Private Reginald Murray's KGV Memorial Plaque

Private Reginald Murray’s KGV Memorial Plaque

8/1293 Private Reginald George Murray, a 26 year old painter from Otaki, enlisted with his brother Lindsay and served with the Otago Infantry Battalion in World War I. Reginald was tragically killed at Gallipoli after surviving the landing and first few days on the Peninsula.

On 25 April 1915, the Otago Battalion went ashore at Anzac Cove around 2.30pm and by 4.00pm were all on the beach and made their way to ‘dig-in’ on Plugge’s Plateau, coming under heavy Turkish fire throughout the afternoon. For the next few days, the Otago boys resolutely held their position. 

On 28 April, a party was organised to bury 50 Australians lying on the beach in the vicinity of Fisherman’s Hut. Reginald Murray was instructed to go and fetch water and while he was carrying the water, possibly to the burial party, he was shot and killed by a Turkish sniper.


Ngarimu VC

Lieutenant Ngarimu received the Victoria Cross for his inspirational conduct during the breakthrough at Tebaga Gap in the latter stages of the North African Campaign.

On 26 March 1943 he led his platoon in an attack on one of the lower hills of Point 209. Two machine-gun posts were destroyed as the Maori troops swept on to the crest. They then repelled a fierce German counter-attack. Although wounded in the leg and shoulder, Ngarimu would not leave his men. Close quarter fighting raged during the night as the Germans attempted to push his depleted platoon off the hill. At one point Ngarimu resorted to throwing stones to supplement his submachine-gun in driving back an attack. He also led a counter-attack to reclaim some overrun positions.

The following morning, the Germans launched another attack and Ngarimu was there again, standing to meet them, firing his submachine-gun from the hip until he was killed. His posthumous Victoria Cross was presented to his family in an official ceremony at Ruatoria on 6 October 1943. He is commemorated by a scholarship.

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The Naked Escape

The story of George Crosswell’s remarkable escape naked across the Kaingaroa Plain during the New Zealand Wars provided the National Army Museum’s Director, Jeanette Richardson with pertinent information for her family tree as George Crosswell is her great, great Grandfather.

On 7 June 1869 Constabulary history was made at Opepe, during the campaign against Te Kooti. George Crosswell along with other militiamen, were attacked by the Haushaus, an advance party of Te Kooti’s followers. The careless detachment of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry numbered fourteen in total, nine of which were killed and the Hauahaus captured all their arms and horses.

George escaped 40 miles naked across the Kaingaroa Plain to raise the alarm having being caught out naked whilst drying his clothes at his party’s Cavalry Campsite at Opepe. George’s two New Zealand crosses are on display at the museum’s Medal Repository.

Learn the Full Story behind George Crosswell’s naked escape.

Bailey Bridges of the Italian Campaign

By Liz Mildon, Assistant Curator Heraldry

The Italian campaign, which for the 2nd New Zealand Division began in October 1943, was a campaign that between 1943 and 1945 would involve the Allies in the construction of over 2,500 Bailey bridges.   The German army, as they retreated, did a thorough job of destroying the bridges over the many rivers and canals which the advancing Allied troops would then have to negotiate as they advanced up the north east side of Italian peninsular, towards their final destination of Trieste. 

Between April 9 and April 16 1945 they crossed the Senio, Santerno and Sillaro rivers, and it was during this time that the actions of Driver John Graham Lee would result in him being awarded the United States Bronze Star, an award issued “For heroic or meritorious achievement of service in connection with operations against an opposing armed force”.

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Distinguished Soldier Colonel Sir Stephen Allen

Colonel Sir Stephen Allen was a couargeous and inspirational leader who was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Conduct Order) and Bar for his efforts at Passchendaele and later the Somme during World War I.

Col Sir Allen’s family recently decided to donate his medals following a visit to the Museum’s new Medal Repository by his granddaughter, Rebecca, who was so impressed she recommended to the rest of the family that the National Army Museum should become home for their treasures.

Read Stephen Allen’s Story

Right Reverend Edward Norman KBE DSO MC

Edward Kinsella Norman was born in Napier in 1916. His theological education at Auckland University was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. He, with so many others, went to war to fight against Hitler’s doctrine.

In January of 1944, Edward was awarded the Military Cross (MC) personally by General Freyberg in the Volturno Valley, Italy. That July, the pious 28 year old also won the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) for the storming and capture of Monte Lignano.

A citation about him states that “It is largely due to his personal leadership that the enemy were defeated”.

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Father Ted

For many New Zealanders, the iconic image of the blossoming Pohutukawa tree evokes memories of summers past; the beach, barbeques and Christmas time. This must have seemed like a distant memory to Chaplain 2nd Class Edward Forsman, whilst he sat in the sticky heat of a German Afrika Korps Prisoner of War Camp in 1941. Despite his less than peaceful surrounds in captivity, and amidst the sounds of shot and shell, Forsman composed a beautiful Christmas carol called “A Pohutukawa Carol” – a poem/hymn that reflected on the peace and tranquility that had abounded in his Grandfather’s beach farm in Northland, New Zealand.

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Lieutenant Colonel Lizzie ‘Ida’ Grace Willis

by Adam Moriarty, Assistant Curator Heraldry

Ida Willis grew up in Johnsonville in Wellington in the last decades of the 19th century. Although this was long ago, her early years might be recognisable to any one of us today. All that would change however, in August 1914.

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James Alexander McLean Roy, MC and Bar (1893-1971)

by Adam Moriarty, Assistant Curator Heraldry

The Western Front was the site of New Zealand’s most costly military effort in terms of lives lost. 103,000 Kiwi men fought face to face and in such awful conditions that there was, sadly, a great deal of occasion for self sacrifice and supreme heroism. James Roy’s story is just one of many – his citations show the remarkable acts of bravery he showed in the face of the enemy;

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John Denvir – Soldier, POW, Partisan Leader

by Adam Moriarty, Assistant Curator Heraldry

John had been married for under 6 years to his wife Edna when he departed for Egypt with the 1st Echelon 20 Battalion in January 1940. Then a store man in Christchurch neither he nor his wife yet knew the brave, freedom-fighter he would become in the course of just 5 years.

John’s story is one full of charm and charcter which we will always remember through his distinct medal group which forms part of a special display in the museum’s new Medal Repository. John Denvir seemed to impress whomever he encountered. He quickly made his way through various ranks for his distinguished actions and natural leadership qualities.

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Decoding Photos

The National Army Museum Heraldry collection consists not just of medals and trophies, but also the heraldic items found on uniforms such as rank insignia, cap badges, buttons, service chevrons and unit patches.

Visitors to the museum regularly ask how they can learn more about their ancestor from old photos – these identifying heraldic features can shed some light and open doors to further research.

Wound Badge

When you study your old family portraits you may see a light coloured bar on the lower left sleeve of their uniform, this two inch stripe of gold Russian Braid No. 1 is the distinct insignia of the wound stripe.

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New Zealand Medal

The New Zealand Medal was instituted on 1 March 1869 for service in the Colony by both Imperial and Colonial Troops during the New Zealand Wars of 1845-47 and 1861-66. The Colonial soldier had to prove he had faced enemy fire or have performed some distinguished service in order to qualify for the medal, whereas the Imperial soldier was awarded the medal if he had merely served in New Zealand.

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Augustus ‘August’ Karl Frederick Koch

Augustus Karl Frederick Koch was born in Berlin, Germany in 1834 and studied at the Royal Academy. In his teens he was engaged at the barricades in Berlin in the rising of 1848. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Berlin University and studied art under Eduard Mandel (the portrait painter and engraver) and made caricatures for Kladderadatsch.

In the interest of his health, Koch went to sea and became second officer on an East India trader. Being in Auckland when the Austrian frigate Novarra arrived (1858), he was attached to H Ferdinaud Von Hochstetter’s staff (Franz Julius Von Haast also accompanied Hochstetter), as an artist. He was involved in various expeditions around the Auckland areas and he produced the first large map of Auckland. Most of his drawings are in a museum in Vienna.

After the expeditions, he worked for the Government, surveying and mapping the greater Auckland area. He was also involved in photography and introduced the process of printing from negatives. He then moved to Napier as the first Chief Draughtsman and prepared a large number of maps of the province including the first original plan of Napier. He would later produce lithographed maps of the area and sell them commercially.

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Lieutenant Colonel J W Moodie, DSO, ED

Lieutenant Colonel ‘Jack’ Moodie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his leadership during the Battle of Kapyong in the Korean War. Throughout the battle the 16 Field Regiment supported Australian and Canadian troops and played a vital part in bringing the attack to a standstill. In doing so the regiment suffered its first battle casualty and was awarded a South Korean Presidential Citation in recognition for their resoluteness during the engagement.

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Private George Clampitt


On the afternoon of the 24th January 1865 near Nukumaru, South Taranaki, Private George Clampitt in company with three other men from the 2nd Battalion, 18th (The Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot and their Company Commander, Captain Hugh Shaw, rescued a wounded comrade, Pte Connolly, whilst under fire from the enemy, Pte Clampitt carried the wounded comrade on his back to safety whilst the others provided covering fire for their withdrawal. For this act Pte Clampitt was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) (PRO WO 32/7369) and Captain Hugh Shaw was awarded the Victoria Cross.

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