A Special Month in History
In honour of those men who lost their lives in the service of this country, the National Army Museum has chosen December, a month of historical military firsts, to open its brand new Medal Repository.
On 18th December 1899, during the Second Anglo-Boer War, New Zealand’s first ever overseas combat action took place against Boer forces in South Africa, and as a result 29 year old Trooper George Roland Bradford was wounded in action. Ten days later he succumbed to his wounds and became the first New Zealand soldier to be killed on foreign soil.
Bradford was one of 71 New Zealanders who lost their lives in combat in the South African War, with a further 159 dying in accidents or as a result of disease. Their stories and the stories of countless other kiwi soldiers are told at the National Army Museum.
Other firsts for December include in 1858, the country’s first Volunteer unit was formed, in 1918 New Zealand troops as part of the Allied Army of Occupation crossed the Rhine into Germany after the end of World War One, in 1950 Kayforce arrived in Korea, and in 1957 the 1st Battalion commenced active service in Malaya.
Given that medals honour and recognise a soldier’s service, and by their very nature tell a very personal story of the recipient, it was decided that this special month in history would be ideal for opening the medal repository. Fittingly, amongst the extensive number of medals on display is George Bradford’s Queen’s South Africa Medal.
The vault-like repository sits adjacent to the museum’s current Valour Alcove and resting place of its collection of Victoria Crosses, New Zealand Crosses and George Crosses. Visitors are able to view any set of donated medals via touch screen technology. On accessing a particular screen, information is then provided as to the exact location of that particular medal or medal group. Visitors are then able to view the medals in their secure resting place.
As part of the construction of the new medal repository new displays have been built covering the United Nations, Afghanistan, the RSA, as well as conflicts in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. This has been an exciting opportunity to display many new artefacts not previously seen on public display, including some from forces opposing the New Zealanders.
Museum Director Col (Rtd) Ray Seymour said, “It is important that the National Army Museum exhibits these treasures and toanga in the most fitting way and that’s what we have achieved with our new Medal Repository.”