Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Jackson Carey (1822–1872)

by Chris McConville

This article was published:

George Jackson Carey (1822-1872), soldier and administrator, was born on 5 October 1822 at Rozel in Jersey, Channel Islands, son of Thomas Carey and his second wife Barbara, daughter of Colonel George Jackson. He was educated at Elizabeth College, St Peter Port, Guernsey, and entered the army in 1845 serving with distinction in the mounted rifles in the Kaffir wars of 1846-47 and 1850-52. He later became colonel of the 18th Regiment and acting governor of the Isle of Wight in 1862. In August 1863 in the Norwood he arrived in New Zealand as second-in-command of the regiment. He was sent by General Cameron to establish a line of blockhouses between the Thames and the Waikato Rivers. In these operations he was constantly mentioned in dispatches and was promoted brigadier-general, second-in-command of all troops in New Zealand.

Discovering that a large force of Maoris had penetrated this cordon and entrenched themselves at Orakau, Carey acted immediately and after a night reconnaissance decided to take the pa by force. In a three-day siege his forces overran the Maori position and in so doing disrupted Maori maraudings in the area. In 1865 he was appointed C.B. for this operation and on 27 May William Thompson, the Maori 'king maker', and all the Waikato tribes surrendered to Carey, an event 'of more significance than the taking of many abandoned pahs'.

Carey was then appointed to command the forces in Australia and took up residence in Melbourne. On the recall of Sir Charles Darling he became acting governor, holding the position from May to August 1866. The constitutional crisis which led to his appointment meant that his actions became the subject of close scrutiny and discussion. He managed to remain aloof from domestic political conflicts, while at the same time presenting to the British government an explanation of the attempts of the ministers to gain exclusive control of public finance by the assembly.

During his stay in the colony Carey showed much interest in the volunteer forces, and on his return to England in 1867 was given command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade at Aldershot. In 1871 he was promoted to the command of the Northern District of England, holding this post until his death. In February 1861 he had married Hester Olivia, only daughter of William Gordon Thompson of Clifton Gardens, Hyde Park, London: they had four children. He died on 12 June 1872 at Whalley Range, Manchester, and was buried in the family vault in Candie cemetery, St Peter Port, Guernsey. His widow was granted apartments by Queen Victoria in Hampton Court Palace.

Carey was a man of unusual military ability and his governorship in Victoria was notable for the general level of efficiency he maintained. His bravery under fire at Orakau, and the gratitude shown by the legislature of Victoria in commending him to the British government for some recognition, bear testimony to his personal character.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Gorton, Some Home Truths re the Maori Wars, 1863 to 1869 (Lond, 1901)
  • G. C. M. Gretton, The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment from 1684 to 1902 (Edinb, 1911)
  • J. Cowan, History of the New Zealand Wars, vols 1-2 (Wellington, 1922)
  • A. J. Harrop, England and the Maori Wars (Lond, 1937)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 31 May, 2 June 1866, 26 July 1872
  • CO 309/78-80.

Citation details

Chris McConville, 'Carey, George Jackson (1822–1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

George Jackson Carey (1822-1872), by Frederick Grosse, 1866

George Jackson Carey (1822-1872), by Frederick Grosse, 1866

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN19/05/66/1 [with Sir William Saltonstall Wiseman, right]

Life Summary [details]


5 October, 1822
Jersey, Channel Islands


12 June, 1872 (aged 49)
Manchester, Greater Manchester, England

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