Samuel Austin was born in Northern Ireland in 1829. After joining the British Army he was sent to New Zealand with the 65th Regiment in 1846. He served through the early New Zealand Wars in Northland before taking his discharge from the Army as a Sergeant. He settled in Whanganui and took up farming in 1859.
When war began again in the 1860s, Austin joined the Wanganui Volunteer Contingent and fought with them against the Hauhau in the Taranaki. He also served with Kepa Te Rangihiwinui’s (Major Kemp’s) Native Contingent as Quartermaster Sergeant. He was present during most of the battles fought against Tītokowaru during the Taranaki Wars.
On 7 January 1866, at the battle of Pūtahi pā, Sergeant Austin ran to the rescue of his wounded commander, Major Thomas McDonnell, supported him through much of the action and carried him off the field under heavy fire. His actions were seen by General Chute who publicly thanked him and recommended him for the New Zealand Cross.
On 18 October 1866, Austin again showed great bravery in saving the brother of Major McDonnell, Captain William McDonnell, severely wounded at Popoia. This action reinforced his claim to a New Zealand Cross and the medal was finally awarded on 12 September 1873.
Austin took his final discharge from the Army in 1870 and settled again in Whanganui where he lived the rest of his working life as a farmer. Samuel Austin, one of the twenty three holders of one of the world’s rarest gallantry decorations, the New Zealand Cross, died in Whanganui in 1903, aged 74.