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Ayre, William Gordon James, 1826-1896 (Fleet Surgeon)



  • Existence: 1826 - 1896


William Gordon James Ayre (1826-1896) was appointed a surgeon to the navy in 1851, and served as assistant surgeon on HMS Penelope in the suppression of the slave trade on the west coast of Africa in 1852. During the Crimean War, he served on HMS Recruit in the Black Sea in 1855, and later in the expedition to Kertch and operations in the Sea of Azoff. His was promoted to staff surgeon in 1860, and fleet surgeon in 1872. He retired in 1873, with a pension from Greenwich Hospital, and died at Cheltenham on 9 June 1896. Ayre's journal describes his service as a surgeon aboard HMS Harrier, a corvette of seventeen guns. The Harrier was commissioned at Portsmouth for the Australia station on 29 October 1860. The ship sailed on 17 December, arriving at Sydney in May 1861. Thereafter, the Harrier was stationed at Auckland, apart from visits to Sydney to revictual and carry out repairs. The ship's crew, including her surgeon, formed part of the naval brigade which took part in the Waikato river campaign of 1863. In the following year, Ayre, along with the ship's crew, took part in the Tauranga campaign, including the disastrous assault on the Maori defensive position of Gate Pa on 26-29 April, and the later Maori defeat at Te Ranga on 21 June. After returning to Sydney to refit in July 1864, the Harrier sailed back to Auckland in November to take on board invalids for the passage home. The ship arrived in Portsmouth, via Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands, on 13 March 1865.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


William Ayres: Journal of Maori Wars [also called the New Zealand Wars or Ngā pakanga o Aotearoa]

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9538
Scope and Contents A handwritten journal with several sketches and pasted-in newspaper cuttings, providing a detailed account of the principal events during the cruise of HMS Harrier, 28 November 1860 - 17 March 1865, 189 pages. The account includes a detailed description of the main events of the Waikato river campaign of 1863, including the Battle of Rangiriri of 20 November 1863, in which Ayre himself took part. The journal is unsigned, and was evidently written up after the events it describes. The author...
Dates: 1860-1865
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