Hardham wins Victoria Cross in South Africa

28 January 1901

William Hardham (Alexander Turnbull Library, PA1-q-162-73)

Wellington blacksmith William Hardham served in South Africa with the fourth New Zealand contingent. He was the only New Zealander awarded a Victoria Cross during the South African War.

The citation for his award, which appeared in the London Gazette on 4 October 1901, described his actions:

On the 28th January, 1901, near Naauwpoort, this non-commissioned officer was with a section which was extended and hotly engaged with a party of about twenty Boers.

Just before the force commenced to retire, Trooper McCrae was wounded and his horse killed. Farrier-Major Hardham at once went, under a heavy fire, to his assistance, dismounted, and placed him on his own horse, and ran alongside until he had guided him to a place of safety.

During the First World War, Hardham served as a captain in the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Egypt and at Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded in 1915. After recovering, he re-enlisted and returned to active service in Palestine in 1918.

A stalwart of the Petone rugby club, Hardham played more than 50 matches for Wellington. The ‘fast dashing forward, full of go from kick-off to cease play’ played in Wellington’s successful 1904 challenge against Auckland for the new Ranfurly Shield. Hardham later became heavily involved in rugby administration in Wellington and is remembered in the name of a club rugby trophy that is still contested.

William Hardham contracted malaria while serving in the Middle East. He died in Wellington on 13 April 1928, aged 51, and is buried in Karori Soldiers’ Cemetery.