Victoria Cross in care of ex-soldier

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Caring for the Victoria Cross (VC) won by Royal Navy midshipman Duncan Gordon Boyes and the vest he wore aboard ship is a sacred trust for Dunedin man Charlie Boyes.

Held at one time in the small museum at Kensington Army Hall, the vest and VC were handed to Mr Boyes for safekeeping more than 35 years ago, when he stepped down after serving as a territorial soldier for 19 years.

While they share a surname, Mr Boyes is unsure whether there is a direct family connection to Duncan Boyes, who is buried in the Southern Cemetery.

“I can’t find a direct link with him in our family tree, but it would be very interesting to find out about the family in this area.”

Born in the 1840s, Duncan Gordon Boyes served as a midshipman on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Euryalus, and won the VC for taking heroic action during a battle in Japan in 1864.

When the soldier carrying the regimental colours (flag) was killed, Boyes picked it up and continued the charge in the face of heavy fire.

Suffering fits of depression, due to what might now be recognised as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), Boyes was dismissed from the Royal Navy and came to New Zealand with plans to work on his brother’s farm near Queenstown.

Instead, he stayed at Dunedin’s original Criterion Hotel and, sadly, took his own life in 1869, aged 22.

He was buried with full military honours in the Southern Cemetery and his remains were later shifted to the Andersons Bay Cemetery.