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© Linda Gant 2006-2010
North Somerset, England


 
 
 

Henry James George Gant 1844 - 1918

 

Henry James George Gant was born in 1844 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, the son of Henry Denny Gant (1813-1868) and Eliza Collins. Henry Denny and Eliza immigrated to Australia in 1853 with their five children. Henry James George had a checkered history in Australia, getting himself into trouble more than once. He took over the running of his father's Jewellery business after he died in 1868 - the shop caught fire in suspicious circumstances the following year. He later worked as a medical galvanist in Victoria, Australia.

In 1900 it was alleged that the Victoria Cross he had claimed to have been awarded during the New Zealand Wars in 1864, was in fact a lie as no such medal had been awarded to him, and he hadn't even fought in the war.

Transcriptions of the newspaper reports of the two events are below.

1869

INQUEST AFTER A FIRE IN GEELONG


An inquiry into the circumstances attending the recent fire in Geelong was held there on Monday, before Dr. F. Shaw, coroner ; Mr. Sub-inspector McNamara attending on behalf of the police, Mr. Speed on behalf of Mr. Henry Gant, and Mr McCormick for the National Insurance Company. Henry Gant stated he was a jeweller in Market-square. Remembered the 22nd. There was a fire that night. Discovered it about a quarter to 1. Was awoke by a tremendous noise of something falling and breaking in the shop. The house was a two-storeyed one, built of stone and brick, the partitions below stairs being composed of boards and canvas. Upstairs they were lath and plaster. The shop was closed that night at 9 o'clock. The boy (James Smith) and witness were at work till half-past 10. Mrs Gant and her mother were at church. When they came back Mrs. Gant sent the boy to bed. He left a quarter of an hour before witness. No one was behind the counter after he left, The shop was lit with gas, one jet being above the working-board, and the other over the glass case on the counter. No light was in the window after the shop closed. Witness put the jets out. There was a main cock next the meter, hut witness never turned it off, as he had no key for it. He kept wrapping paper and a lot of boxes containing tools, &c, under the counter. One box contained two cups with diluted sulphuric acid, used in cleaning.

Looked round to see that all was safe before retiring. There were shelves round the counter containing clocks and scents. There was only one small feeding tin of oil on one of the shelves. There was only one box of matches in the shop. Was the last to leave the shop. On opening the bedroom-door there was a great rush of smoke and heat. Told Mrs. Gant to get up, and warned a young lady who slept in the house. Packed up a box containing books and papers, and another containing jobs, and came down together. On waking up the boy saw the reflection of fire under the doorway. Broke the shop-door open and tried to get things out, but the flames burst out close to the door, and witness only succeeded in saving two clocks. Tho fire was from the front to the end of the counter one white flame. Went round into tho yarri broke into the room, and saved some furniture. Could not in any way account for the origin of the fire. The property was worth, as near as h could get at it, £1,057 18s, 3d, The jewellery and clocks amounted to £329. The heavier tools consisted of two lathes/ two mills or rollers, and two draw-benches for drawing wire, the whole valued at £529. Had effected an insurance of £500 on stock and furniture. Had been in business two.years last October. There were two policies of insurance, one taken out in July last and the other in September. £78 8s. 0d. worth of jewellery and two pairs of rollers had been removed since last insurance - some in October and about £43 worth about a fortnight since. Raised money on the jewellery from Mr. Stone. Got an _____ on new stock on Wednesday week. Never gave any persons any orders to search the debris of the fire. Told a man so engaged where the most valuable property ought to be found. In the presence of the sergeant and witness the articles produced, consisting of gold and silver brooches and pins, were found. Did not two days previous to the fire try to obtain a loan of £300.

Wanted to give a bill of sale over his things for £300, a month previously, to Mr. Crawcour, as an action had been instituted against him, and he wished to protect his creditors, his family, and himself. Supplied Crawcour with a list of his property. He did not come to inspect it, but declined to interfere unless the stock was brought into his place. Only received £35 from Stone for jewellery, valued at £78 8s. Gd. Hannah Maria Gant, the wife of last witness, Miss Jeffrey, the young lady who lodged with them, and James Smith, the apprentice, gave corroborative evidence. Josiah Covill, the next-door neighbour to Gant, having given some unimportant testimony, Isaac Crawcour, pawnbroker, corroborated Gant'a statement as to _____ to raise a loan of £300 on his stock and furniture, but stated to have refused to advance more than £150 for it. The principle quantity of the jewellery was washed gold ____ man named Cook. (It) was for four months previous to the _____ of August in the employ of Mr _____ valued the stock at £100, and the tools and machinery at another £100. He, however, admitted that he had an action pending against Gant. The remainder of tho evidence was unimportant, and the inquiry, after lasting five hours, terminated by the jury return in« an open verdict to the effect that a fire did occur, but how it occurred there was no evidence to show.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954) Wednesday 1 December 1869

October 1900

THE STORY OF A VICTORIA CROSS. IS IT AN IMPOSTURE?

Some weeks ago there was published in the Melbourne Argus an account of a gathering of old soldiers at Fitzroy, at which special honour was done to two of the company who were represented as "Victoria Cross heroes. These were Lieutenant H. J. G. Gant, 70th R.S., and Sergeant-major D. S. Lilly, 64th Regiment. The chairman of the meeting (Major J. C. Dempsty) "thus described the circumstances under which ."Lieutenant" Gant was alleged to have obtained the prized distinction of the V.C. : "He was one of the first six who volunteered for the New Zealand war from the Geelong Volunteer Artillery. He joined Colonel Pitt's Waikato Militia, which left in the Star of India, which was the first ship to leave Victoria with volunteers to fight under the flag of the British Empire in 1 63. The act by which he won the Victoria Cross was a daring one. He left camp with a little company, including two young officers. The party were met by an overwhelming number of the enemy. The two officers were discovered behind a clump of scrub and supplejack, where Lieutenant Gant had pluckily drawn them out of danger. He had then drawn the enemy off, afterwards working his way through an almost impenetrable bush with his little band. The road was blocked by the enemy, whom he kept at bay until nearing the camp, when the firing was heard, and a relief party sent to their assistance." This circumstantial narrative of the daring exploit by which '"Lieutenant" Gant is said to have gained the Victoria Cross attracted the attention of some old soldiers who were through the Maori war, bm, strangely enough, had never heard of this particular incident, and their curiosity respecting the matter led to their making certain inquiries on the subject. It was natural that they should turn for information to Mr Bartlett Provo, of this city, until lately sergeant in the Dunedin City Guards, for he was an old member of the Geelong Volunteer Artillery, and he was one of the six who volunteered from Geelong for New Zealand in 1863, and came to this colony in the Star of India. With him, therefore, Lieutenanc-colonel Rashleiga, who was in command of the Geelong Artillery almost from its formation, recently communicated on the subject. Now, it is quite true that a volunteer called Gant came to New Zealand in the vessel named, but Mr Provo is quite clear in his own mind that if the " Lieutenant " Gant, who was recently honoured in Melbourne, be identical with that Gant, then it was impossible for him to have obtained the Victoria Cross, for that indvidual was discharged from the force in 1863 as unfit for duty, and saw no action at all. Moreover, the Gant who, with Mr Provo and four others from Geelong, came to New Zealand in the Star of India was not a lieutenant, nor was he a member of the Geelong Artillery.

Mr Provo has not relied on his own recollection entirely in this matter. He forwarded to the Defence department in Wellington the letters he had received from Melbourne, and requested that the records might be searched to see if they would throw any light on the subject. To this letter he has received the following reply irom Sir Arthur Douglas, U rider-secretary for Defence: -

In reply to your letter of the 17th inst., I have the honour to inform you that the name of Gant does not appear in either of the nominal roll books of the Ist, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Regiments of Waikato Militia, who served through the Native war in this colony during the years 1863 to 1866.

It, however, does not follow that the person named did not actually serve, but from previous known cases it appears that the names were not entered in the roll books, where a man only served for a short period.

However, no person of the name served as a lieutenant in either of the regiments, neither did any person of that name receive the New Zealand war medal or the free grant of land, and, so far as is known, Major Heaphy was the only colonial officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The letter from the department, it will be seen, bears out Mr Provo's recollection relative to Gant's service, and absolutely disposes of any suggestion that there might have been a Lieutenant Gant in the Waikato Militia besides the Gant known to Mr Provo.

Beyond all this, however, there is the fairly conclusive answer to "Lieutenant" Gant's claim to have won the Victoria Cross that no such name appears in the official lists of the recipients of that distinction.

Source: Otago Witness, Issue 2431, 17 October 1900, Page 45
(The Witness began in Dunedin in January 1851 as a four page, fortnightly newspaper. It became a weekly in August that year. At this time illustrated weekly newspapers were a popular and important form of publication in New Zealand and the paper continued to be published until 1932.)
Records online at http://www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/


 


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