b. 02/03/1842 Fulham, West London. d. 27/04/1866 Otahuhu, New Zealand.
John Thornton Down (1842-1866) was born in Fulham, West London on 2nd March 1842. He enlisted with the 57th Regiment of Foot (later Middlesex Regiment) and was soon posted to New Zealand to participate in the Maori Wars.
He was just twenty-one years old when he was involved in the incident which would lead to him receiving the highest award for gallantry. On 2nd October 1863, at Poutoko, one of their comrades was hit and wounded, and was lying in an exposed and open position. At this point, both Ensign Down and Drummer Dudley Stagpoole volunteered to try and rescue the man. He was lying about 50 yards from the bush, and although the enemy kept up a heavy fire from the bush at short range, both men managed to get to the man and carry him to safety.
Down alongside Stagpoole was recommended for, and awarded the VC on 22nd September 1864, and he was presented with his medal later that year by the GOC New Zealand, Sir D Cameron in Auckland. Sadly, Down’s life would be tragically cut short. He died less than two years after his VC award from a fever at Camp Otahuhu and was buried in Holy Trinity Memorial Park, Otahuhu, on the outskirts of Auckland. He is also remembered on a memorial tablet in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. His medals are not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: OTAHUHU OLD CEMETERY, OTAHUHU, NEW ZEALAND. BLOCK B, PLOT 24
St Paul's Cathedral (Picture: Thomas Stewart)