Medal, awarded to W.H. Russell at the 1932 Otago District Brass Band Competition...


Medal, awarded to W.H. Russell at the 1932 Otago District Brass Band Competition

About this object

Medal; awarded to William Henry (Billy) Russell for coming second in the 'own choice' section at the Otago District Brass Band Competition at Dunedin on 23 January 1932. Billy played cornet in the Mataura Town Band and was aged 12 when he won this medal. We have a great photograph of the Mataura Town Band celebrating its success at the above competition. 1932 was a good year for Billy as he was also Dux of Mataura School that year.

Billy was born in Manchester, England and came to New Zealand in 1925 as a 5 year old when his father John immigrated to take up a job (as a paper colourer) at the Mataura Paper Mill. After attending Mataura School and Gore High School Billy worked as a clerk at the Mataura Paper Mill. Like so many of his generation, Billy fought in World War Two. He joined the RNZAF, gained his wings and flew Spitfires. The odds caught up with him on his 39th sortie when he was shot down over France on 10 August 1941, losing his left arm at a point above the elbow.

The amputation occurred in a German-run hospital at St. Omer, where the R.A.F ace, Sir Douglas Bader was also recuperating after a crash. Bader escaped from the hospital by tying together a number of sheets. Initially the 'rope' would not reach the ground so, with the help of another patient, he slid the sheet from under Billy who was still comatose following his amputation. Bader then moved Billy's bed to the window to act as an anchor.

Billy was a prisoner-of-war in Dulag Luft and Stalag VIII b until October 1943 when he was medically repatriated. Back in England, he was fitted with an artificial limb and re-trained as a non-combat pilot before dying, aged 25, in an aircraft crash over Wales on 28 February 1945. He is buried in Chester (Blacon) Cemetery, Cheshire, England. Billy’s parents were devastated by his death and returned to Britain after the war. Marilyn Worsley (Billy's niece) inherited his medals and generously donated them to us, so that we could share his remarkable story.


unknown maker

Maker Role


Date Made


Place Made

New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Dunedin

Medium and Materials

processed materials, metal silver alloy
procesesd materials, metal, gold alloy
organic, vegetal, cotton

Inscription and Marks

The following is engraved on the back: ' O.D.B.B.C / Dunedin 23.1.1932 / OWN CHOICE SOLO / 2ND'.


Medal: h 4mm x d 30mm
Ribbon and clasp: l 50 mm x w 35 mm
Combined: l 85 mm x w 35 mm

Subject and Association Keywords

mataura school

Credit Line

From the collection of the Mataura and Districts Historical Society Incorporated

Object Type


Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

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