|LEFT: an illustration of the |
complete medal entitlement
of Henry Harris
New Zealand 1845-66, reverse dated 1863-64 (T. Goldsmith, Boy 1cl., H.M.S. Esk)
Thomas Goldsmith was born in Alverstoke Hampshire on Sept 11, 1844.
He was the son of Thomas and Fanny and in the 1851 Census he appears
in Hampshire living with his widowed mother and younger brother George.
He entered the navy in January 1859 as a Boy 2nd cl on HMS Victory
which was stationed in Portsmouth. After serving for a brief period on
HMS Archer, he served on HMS Falcon for 2 years then joined the Esk
on Oct 7, 1862.
HMS Falcon served as part of the West Africa Squadron off Africa
from 1859 to 1862. Her ship’s company participated in the attack on
the king of Baddiboo on the Gambia River, and the ship bombarded
Saba and captured the town on 21 February 1862. The ships crew
suffered 6 killed and 15 wounded. Later she served in NZ including
the attack on Gate Pā and a dozen Marines were awarded the medal
with the 1864 reverse. It is possible that Goldsmith reunited with
some of his old shipmates, almost 12,000 miles from home.
Goldsmith was to serve on Esk for 5 years and rose through the ranks
from Boy to OS to AB. During his time on Esk, the ship’s company was
involved in several conflicts including Rangiriri in Nov. 1863,
Te Awamutu & Rangiawhia in February 1864 and most notably
Pukehinahina (Gate Pā) in April 1864. At the time, Esk was commanded
by Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, who lost his life at Gate Pā.
The city of Hamilton NZ is named after him.
Gate Pā was the single most devastating defeat suffered by the British military in the New Zealand wars: 31 killed
and 80 wounded and of those 11 killed and 22 wounded were part of the Naval Brigade. Samuel Mitchell from HMS
Harrier was awarded the VC for his actions that day in bringing out mortally wounded Commander Hay.
At first light on April 29 an intense barrage began using guns from the ESK; the sailors bombarded the closest part
of the pā. It was said to have been the heaviest artillery bombardment of the New Zealand Wars. At 4pm, after nine
hours and with a breach in the pekerangi or palisade having been made, Cameron gave the order to attack. Led by their
officers, the men swarmed into the trenches, and began to drive out the defenders. But Greer’s men were at the exits,
and the Māori’s poured back into the trenches. The soldiers and sailors now in the pā believed this rush to be
reinforcements. Without the leadership of their officers, they fled the pā, still held by Māori’s
During the night, out of ammunition and without the supplies to withstand a long siege, Māori quietly abandoned the
pā which had served their purpose. They took their wounded along with British muskets and disappeared. At 5am on
April 30th, a sailor from Harrier crept up to the pā and found it deserted. The dead and wounded were then carried
from the battlefield. There was considerable outrage that 230 Māori could have defeated a force of 1,689 soldiers
HMS Esk launched in 1854, had a relatively short life but medals were awarded for service in the Crimea, Second
China War and New Zealand. She was paid off in Portsmouth in 1867 and eventually broken up in 1870.
A total of 481 medals with the 1863-64 reverse were issued and of those, 119 were awarded to men from HMS Esk
Following this, he served on HMS Excellent the Gunnery school located at Portsmouth and then HMS Scorpion, which
was part of the Channel fleet. During this time, he married Henrietta Taylor on 27 Dec 1868. HMS Scorpion was an
ironclad turret ship built by John Laird Sons & Company, at Birkenhead. She was one of two sister ships secretly
ordered from the Laird shipyard in 1862 by the Confederate States of America. To conceal her true ownership, all
concerned endorsed the fiction that she was being constructed as the Egyptian warship El Tousson. She was to have
been named North Carolina upon delivery to the Confederates. The British government seized the pair of ironclads
in October 1863, a few months after their launch and before they could be completed.
He next served back on Excellent, then Volage, which circumnavigated the world.
The squadron sailed from England on 3 December 1870 and called at Madeira, Brazil, the Cape of Good Hope, and the
East Indies, before crossing the Pacific Ocean and returning to England at the end of 1872
He then went back to Excellent. Following his departure from Excellent to the Duke of Wellington he was rated
as Assistant Cook. He then spent 6 years on a variety of ships mostly for a short period but while serving on
HMS Dromedary in 1873-74, he earned an Ashantee Medal.
Thomas left the RN in October 1879 and was noted as invalided. His conduct while serving as a cook was noted
primarily as exemplary and prior to that as very good. He served over 17 years following aged 18 and his service
record indicates a traced medal (and pension)
I have found no record of him in any later census records (so far)