Only two New Zealand medals are older than the UFBA Valour medal: the 1869 New Zealand Medal and the New Zealand Cross for service and gallantry during the New Zealand Land Wars. These are no longer awarded.
Conceived in 1880, the Valour medal has now been awarded four times: 2014, 1908, 1891 and 1882. There have been more nominations, but others have been unsuccessful. The actions, though brave and selfless, have failed to meet the test.
Applicants must exhibit “exceptional personal courage while saving, or attempting to save, human life and, in doing so, they may have placed their own life in danger.”
The latest Valour Medal was awarded to Senior Firefighter Scott Shadbolt for his exceptional bravery saving human life in the immediate aftermath of the devastating Canterbury earthquake in February 2011. Read more here.
The only other Valour Medals awarded by the UFBA are:
1908 A. Ashworth
A fire broke out at a coal mine at Alexandra, blocking workers only escape route through a shaft.
Locals helped to fight the fire, forming a bucket brigade and diverting a stream. Several attempted to go down the shaft, but it was too hot and smoky. Eventually the fire subsided when the stream flowed into the mine-head.
Ashworth cleared the fire at the foot of the shaft, braved the heat, smoke and gases to find and rescue the miners. He had to be revived as a result of the fumes.
“The men had been lying together in water for some hours with just their nose and mouths above the water.” Otago Witness 18 July 1906
1891 T. Thompson
Thompson rushed to a neighbouring cottage on fire in Wanganui. He managed to rescue two boys from the bedroom. Hearing that a girl was still inside, he went back with a hatchet to cut into the room until he was told they were all safe.
“We cannot speak too highly of Thompson’s conduct; he acted with the coolness essential to success in dangerous deeds of this character, and displayed real courage... But for him the children must have been burned to death, as a few minutes later any approach to the building was impossible.” Wanganui Herald 25 March 1890
1882 J. Robb
Awakened by noise one morning in Dunedin, Robb found the house opposite on fire. He managed to rescue a woman from the bedroom, returning with a bucket of water to throw to see through the smoke. He found a child, took them outside, but they had already died.
Robb went on to find a man in bed. “Seeing that he was dead, and having got the fire under control, he did not move the body, nor would he allow others to do so,”* protecting the crime scene of the intended murder of the family.
*Otago Daily Times 15 March 1880
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