Antonio Rodriguez de Sardinha NZC

b. 1832 Madeira, Portugal.  d. 12/05/1905 New Plymouth, New Zealand.

DATE OF NZC ACTION: 02/10/1863 and 11/03/1864 Poutoko and Kaitake, New Zealand.

Antonio Rodrigues da Sardinha NZC

Rodriguez was born in 1832 in Portugal and was a servant to the Mace family. He travelled with the Mace family to New Zealand in 1852 and took up arms at the outbreak of war. Rodriguez first joined the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers before transferring to the Taranaki Mounted Volunteers under the command of Captain Francis Joseph Mace.

He was remembered as showing “great dash and bravery” while enlisted with the Mounted Volunteers. Most notably for assisting and carrying wounded men from the field on the back of his horse. His obituary in the Taranaki Herald in 1865 described him as a “dashing horseman”, a “gallant trooper” and “always a pleasure to see him astride his well-kept charger”.

The Garrison order book mentions Rodriguez on one occasion on 12 March 1864 after the skirmish in Kaitake where he put his life at risk to save wounded men. His actions were highly commended by Lieutenant Colonel Henry James Warre C.B., who conveyed his “best and heartfelt thanks” to Rodriguez for his repeated acts of gallantry. However, to the disappointment of many, Rodriguez was never awarded the Victoria Cross, as it was an award reserved for Imperial Troops. His brave conduct was later recognised in 1877, when he was presented with a New Zealand Cross – one of the rarest military decorations in the world.

Since 1877, Rodriguez’s New Zealand Cross has travelled from New Zealand, to London and then to the United States of America. In 1907 the medal was infamously sold in London to an Irish military collector. It then passed through a number of dealers before it was bought by the American collector Lester Watson for £96. It has since been gifted to the University of Cambridge in America and is stored at the University’s Fitzwilliam Museum in England.