Antonio Rodriguez de Sardinha arrived in New Zealand from Madeira, Portugal, in the service of the Mace family. Upon arriving in New Zealand in 1852, he settled in Ōmata and later joined the Taranaki Mounted Volunteers during the Taranaki Wars. He was a talented trooper and was often congratulated by his superiors, including Colonel Henry Warre, for his military abilities.
For his actions in 1863 and 1864 at the respective engagements in Poutoko and Kaitake, Rodriguez was awarded the New Zealand Cross. Two other soldiers, Dudley Stagpoole and John Thornton Down of the 57th Regiment, were awarded the Victoria Cross for helping Rodriguez rescue two wounded soldiers on the Poutoko battlefield. It was disheartening that Rodriguez, a trooper of noted talent and bravery, was not recognised for his actions in the same way as Stagpoole and Down. As a member of a colonial corps rather than an Imperial regiment, Rodriguez could only ever achieve a New Zealand Cross, which was introduced in 1869 in order to recognise the bravery of colonial soldiers who did not qualify for the Victoria Cross. Rodriguez was finally awarded his New Zealand Cross, alongside Captain Frank Mace, his childhood friend, in New Plymouth in 1877.
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