DOWN, John Thornton
Ensign in the 57th Regiment (later The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own)), British Army
(NOTE: This is a joint citation with Drummer Stagpoole) THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the under-mentioned Officers and Drummer of Her Majesty's Army, whose claims to the same have been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, on account of Acts of Bravery performed by them in New Zealand, as stated against their names. For their conduct at Poutoko, on the 2nd October, in rescuing a wounded comrade from the rebel Maories. They succeeded in bringing in the wounded man, who was lying at about fifty yards from the bush,.although the enemy kept up a very heavy fire from the bush at short range, and also from behind fallen logs close at hand. The man had been wounded during an engagement with the rebel natives, and Ensign Down, and Drummer Stagpoole, responded to the call of the Officer commanding the detachment of the Regiment of volunteers to bring him in. The Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field has already been conferred on Drummer Stagpoole, for the energy and devotion which he displayed on the 25th September, 1863, at the affair near Kaipakopako, in having, though wounded in the head, twice volunteered arid brought in wounded men. His Victoria Cross is not publicly held.
Born: 2 March 1842, Fulham, London, England
Died: 27 April 1866, of fever at Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand
Buried: Otahuhu (Holy Trinity) Cemetery, Auckland, New Zealand
Ensign John Down won the Victoria Cross in the same action as Dudley Stagpoole. The citation states that his Victoria Cross was bestowed for rescuing "a wounded comrade from the rebel Maories (sic). They succeeded in bringing in the wounded man, who was lying at about fifty yards from the bush, although the enemy kept up a very heavy fire from the bush at short range, and also from behind fallen logs close at hand".
At least one local report describes Ensign Down fending off an armed warrior who burst out of the bushes as the soldiers were attempting to rescue their injured comrade.
Dudley described Ensign Down as a young soldier, recently arrived in the colony, who “had tremendous courage and was cool” in battle.
Both soldiers received their medal on parade in Wanganui
New Zealand in 1864.
Sadly, John Thornton Down died of typhoid fever at Otahuhu Camp Auckland, New Zealand in 1866 and never returned home to England. He is buried in the Otahuhu (Holy Trinity) cemetery. He is remembered by a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral erected to officers of the 57th Regiment who died during the New Zealand campaign.