Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fiennes Middleton Colvile & the 43rd Regiment of Foot in New Zealand, Part 1

Image © and courtesy of Michael Hargreave-Mawson
Colonel F.M. Colvile, C.B. [1]

When I asked correspondent Michael Hargreave-Mawson - a keen military historian, author and collector of military CDVs and cabinets - last year if he had a photograph of any soldiers who might have served in the Tauranga area during the New Zealand Wars, I had little idea of the journey of discovery which lay ahead. Mike promptly sent me this image, showing a bearded officer wearing uniform and medals, and with his right arm clearly amputated below the elbow.

This figure is identified on the verso as "H H The Sahabadur of Deccan" but this is clearly fantasy. He is wearing the tunic of an Infantry Colonel, 1868-1881, and the shako on the table beside him carries the green horsehair plume in use by Light Infantry regiments from circa 1871-1874. He is wearing three medals, of which the first is partially hidden under his sash; the second is the Breast Badge of a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath; and the third is the New Zealand Medal (which was first issued in 1869) ... Only one Colonel of Light Infantry in the period between 1871 and 1874 had the CB, the New Zealand Medal and one other ... Fiennes Middleton Colvile served in the New Zealand War of 1864-65 and was present at the engagements at Maketu, Te Ranga, and at various operations in Taranaki.
He also sent an outline of Colvile's military career, extending from his purchase of a commission in the 43rd Regiment in 1850, through service in India and New Zealand in the late 1850s and early to mid-1860s. While records show that he was severely wounded in the right thigh in October 1865, strangely, Mike was unable to find any evidence that Colvile ever lost his right arm [2].

Photo © 2010 Brett Payne
Te Ranga Battle Site, June 21st 1864 [3]
Photo © 2010 Brett Payne

I've read about the New Zealand Wars in Michael King's excellent and very popular The Penguin History of New Zealand, and I pass the Te Ranga Battle Site every time I drive into town. However, not having grown up in this country, the New Zealand Wars didn't feature in my school curriculum. I wasn't familiar with the detail of, or background to, the various actions that took place in the vicinity of Tauranga during the 1860s, and I hadn't come across mention of Colvile. It didn't take long on the net, however, to unearth a trail of his time in New Zealand and several further portraits.

Image © and courtesy of Puke Ariki Museum Image © and courtesy of Puke Ariki Museum
(Left) Major F.M. Colvile, c.Nov 1864-Oct 1865 [4]
(Right) Lieut.-Colonel F.M. Colvile, c.1870-1874 [5]

These two carte de visite portraits, both from the Puke Ariki Museum Heritage Collection, confirm that the subject of Mike's portrait is indeed Lieutenant-Colonel Fiennes Middleton Colvile. To set straight the matter of spelling, several variants of the surname have been encountered in the various records perused, including most commonly "Colville," and occasionally even "Colvill." The form favoured by the family themselves, being used by them in most official records, was "Colvile," which should therefore be preferred.

Image © and courtesy of the Historic Houses Association
Barton House, Barton-on-the-Heath
Image © and courtesy of the Historic Houses Association [6]

Fiennes Colvile was born on 4 April 1832 and grew up in Barton House, still a magnificent Elizabethan manor on a 1200 acre estate at Barton-on-the-Heath, Warwickshire [6]. He was the ninth child, and youngest son, of Captain Frederick Colvile (1792-1872) and his wife Mary Leigh (1796-1871) [7].

Image © The National Archives & courtesy of
1841 Census, Barton-on-the-Heath, Warwickshire [7]

His first military posting appears to have been to India, with the 43rd (Monmouth) Light Infantry Regiment, departing from England in September 1853 for what would become a lengthy sojourn overseas [8]. He would not see his home again for over twelve years. Colvile served in the Indian Mutiny campaign from 1857 until 1859, being present at the capture of Kirwee and Bandah, the regiment having marched some 1300 miles in six months. He also commanded three companies under Brigadier Carpenter in subsequent operations at Bundelkund, twice being mentioned in dispatches [2,9].

Image © and courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library
S.S. Lady Jocelyn at Port Chalmers, 1888 [10]

In late 1863 the 43rd Regiment was ordered to New Zealand to "support the supremacy of Her Majesty." The headquarters of the regiment, including Colvile who was by then a Major, arrived in Auckland on board the clipper S.S. Lady Jocelyn in mid-December [11]. After a brief period of acclimatisation in Otahuhu [12], waiting for the remainder of the regiment to arrive from Rangoon [13], they received orders to proceed to Tauranga, accompanied by soldiers of the 68th Regiment, 3rd Waikato Militia, Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers [14].

Continued in Part 2: Duck Shoot at Maketu


[1] Elliott & Fry (n.d.) Carte de visite portrait of Colonel F.M. Colvile, C.B., taken in the early 1870s by Elliott & Fry, 55 Baker St. W., London, Collection of Michael Hargreave-Mawson.

[2] Hargreave-Mawson, M. (2010) Email Correspondence re. Lieutenant-General Sir Fiennes Middleton Colvile, K.C.B., 8 November 2010.

[3] Digital Photograph of Te Ranga Battle Site Sign, taken by Brett Payne with Kodak DX7590, 2 December 2010.

[4] Hoby, G. (1864-65) Carte de visite portrait of Colonel Fiennes Colville of the 43rd Regiment, by Mr. [George] Hoby, [New Plymouth] Taranaki, New Zealand, Collection of Puke Ariki Museum, Accession No. PHO2008-1657.

[5] Anon (n.d.). Carte de visite head-and-shoulders portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Fiennes Colvile, Collection of Puke Ariki Museum, Accession No. PHO2008-1638.

[6] Anon (2009) Barton House, Historic Houses Association.

[7] Anon (1841) Census of Barton House, Barton-on-the-Heath, Warwickshire, England, 6 June 1841, National Archives Ref. HO107/1131/2/3/1, Courtesy of

[8] Anon (1853) Naval and Military Intelligence, London: The Morning Post, 19 September 1853, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE.

[9] Levinge, R.G.A. (1868) Historical Records of the Forty-Third Regiment, Monmouthshire Light Infantry, London: W. Clowes & Sons, 353p, Google Books.

[10] Photograph of the sailing ship "Lady Jocelyn" at Port Chalmers, dry plate glass negative (6.5" x 8.5") by D.A. de Maus, 1888, Alexander Turnbull Library ID: 1/1-002195-G, Courtesy of Timeframes.

[11] Anon (1863) Arrival of the "Lady Jocelyn" with Troops, From India, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XIX, Issue 1998, p.3, 11 December 1863, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[12] Anon (1863) The Maori Prisoners, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XIX, Issue 2011, p.3, 26 December 1863, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[13] Anon (1864) Letter from the North, Dunedin: Otago Daily Times, Vol 656, p.6, 25 January 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

[14] Anon (1863) The Tauranga Expedition, Auckland: Daily Southern Cross, Vol XX, Issue 2031, p.3, 21 January 1864, Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.


  1. I have a letter written by Major Colvile from 'Camp Tauranga' dated 1864 addressed to his parents 'in dear old Barton' describing his part in the Battle of Te Ranga.
    The medal hidden by the sash is the Indian Mutiny Medal (no bars)

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks very much for posting. How interesting. I would be very keen to see a transcript of the letter, if that would be possible. Nothing like the words from the horse's mouth. Please get in touch by email to

    Regards, Brett


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