Samuel Mitchell VC

b. 08/09/1841 Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire. d. 16/03/1894 Nikonui River, New Zealand.

Samuel Mitchell (1841-1894) was born on 8th September 1841 in Apsley Guise, near Woburn, Bedfordshire. Little is known of his early life prior to his enlisting in the Royal Navy, and by the time of his VC action in April 1864, he had risen to the rank of Captain of the Foretop on the “Harrier”.

Samuel Mitchell VC

On 29th April 1864, during the assault on Te Papa, Tauranga, New Zealand, he entered the Pah alongside Commander Hay. Shortly afterwards, Hay was hit and mortally wounded. Hay insisted that Mitchell leave him behind, but Mitchell ignored the order, and carried him to cover, under heavy Maori fire. Mitchell was recommended for the VC by Commodore Sir William Wiseman, and was gazetted on 26th July 1864. Two months later, on 24th September 1864, he was presented with his VC by the Governor General of New South Wales, Sir John Young at The Domain in Sydney.

Mitchell would settle in New Zealand after his VC action, becoming a gold prospector, though tragically on 16th March 1894, he drowned in the River Nikonui, near Hokitika whilst trying to rescue a friend. He was buried in Ross Cemetery, South Island, New Zealand.

During his lifetime, Mitchell lost his original VC when he was in New Zealand, he had left his medals with his belongings in a guest house in Sydney. When he returned for his belongings, the medals were gone. He was not issued with an official replacement by the War Office. His stolen VC did turn up after his death, and was sold at auction in November 1908 for £50. It is now held by the West Coast Historical Museum, Hokitika, New Zealand. A replica of his medal which it is believed Mitchell had made and wore in later life is in private ownership.