Long-time UK soldier became farmer in NZ

MATTHEW GRAY
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013

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Thousands of Queen Victoria's loyal subjects turned out at the Auckland Domain in 1900 to celebrate their monarch's 81st birthday.

Among them were old medal-wearing soldiers, including many who'd fought in the land wars against Maori during the half century prior.

They lined up with their modern day counterparts for the firing of a royal salute in front of dignitaries and an admiring public.

James Quedley was of the more seasoned of their number having served 21 years and 302 days with the British army as a younger man.

The 73 year-old was born as James Quartley in Somerset, England and was baptised in 1828.

His father was an agricultural labourer and the family lived in a cottage adjoining the farm where its patriarch worked.

The boy had his sights set on a military career from an early age and enlisted with the 55th Foot Regiment at Devonport in the UK when he was just 17.

It was a decision that took him to far flung corners of the globe as Private Quedley - the name he assumed on becoming a soldier.

He fought throughout the vicious and bloody Crimean War as part of the British, French, Turkish and Sardinian alliance against Russia between 1853 and 1856.

Religious differences and strategic positioning in the Middle East were at the centre of the bloody conflict in which more than 500,000 people died.

Quedley distinguished himself on a number of occasions through good conduct and received a number of badges and medals.

He first visited New Zealand as a member of the 14 Foot Regiment that arrived from Ireland in November 1860 and spent the next six years engaged in fighting around the Taranaki and Waikato regions. With him was his wife Mary and their children.

Quedley was shipped to Melbourne where he transferred to yet another regiment a few months before being deemed medically unfit for further service and was discharged.

He returned to his family in New Zealand and eventually settled in Auckland where, on a military pension, he qualified for a land grant of 50 acres in the Pakuranga and East Tamaki area.

He was living in Howick when Mary died in 1906 and was buried at Waikumete cemetery.

Quedley joined her there in 1918. His medals and uniform were donated to the Auckland War Memorial Museum by a son in the years that followed.

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- Western Leader

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