Henry Coutts was one of four colonial soldiers to receive a woollen scarf knitted by Queen Victoria in recognition of an act of gallantry. Born on 14 November 1866 at Coutts Island in Canterbury, he farmed at Ngaere in Taranaki before joining No. 1 Company of the First Contingent. While in South Africa he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
At Koornspruit on 31 March 1900, Coutts risked his own life to rescue a wounded non-commissioned officer of the Burmese Mounted Infantry. Although the officer died after being brought to the aid station, Coutts was awarded one of the Queen’s Scarves. Under the orders of King Edward VII, this award was later accompanied by a gold star and clasp.
Upon returning to New Zealand, Coutts enlisted once more as a Captain and Quartermaster in the Seventh Contingent. After the war he served as a Captain in the New Zealand Militia and worked as a government valuer. Despite his age he served during the First World War in Britain with the Auckland-Wellington Infantry Training Regiment as Lance Corporal (Acting Sergeant).
Coutts presented his scarf to the New Zealand government in 1913. It was displayed in the General Assembly Library for many years before being gifted to the National Army Museum in the 1980s.
After his military career Coutts continued to farm in the Taranaki region. He died in Wellington in 1944 and was buried in Auckland’s Waikumete Cemetery.
By Simon Daisley