Lieutenant Colonel HENRY PARKE AIREY CMG, DSO (1842–1911)
Henry Parke Airey was born in England and educated there, at Marlborough College and the East India Company Military Seminary. After graduating in 1859 he went to India, serving on the northwestern frontier for six years before being promoted to lieutenant.
Airey arrived in Sydney in August 1866 after retiring from the army, but when a third battery was added to the colony’s permanent artillery he returned to military life, obtaining a lieutenancy. On 1 August 1871, ‘A’ Battery, NSW Artillery was formed, and Airey was appointed its Captain. ‘A’ Battery was garrisoned at Dawes Point.
In 1885 the NSW Contingent left for Sudan, with Airey serving as aide-de-camp to General Sir Arthur Fremantle, the Governor of Suakin. After they returned to Australia Airey applied for captaincy with the NSW Field Battery. The commanding officer, Lt.-Col. W. Spalding, refused to recommend him, saying that Airey had "displayed a want of zeal and energy" in carrying out his duties as a field battery officer on active service. However later that year a court enquiry exonerated Airey, and he was promoted to captain.
In 1886 Airey volunteered as a special service officer in the Third Burmese War. Severely wounded on the expedition, he was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for “coolness under fire and marked gallantry”. Airey was the first Australian solider to be awarded the decoration, and he was thanked by the Viceroy of India. After returning to duty with the NSW Artillery he was promoted to the rank of major in 1893.
After a stint training in India Airey was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1895, and was appointed an honorary aide-de-camp to Henry Brand, Governor of NSW in November 1896.
In 1900 Airey left for South Africa in command of the NSW Citizens’ Bushmen, to participate in the Boer War. He returned home in January 1902 with a reputation for being a “dashing officer” and an “intrepid and popular leader”, and was appointed a Companion to the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) the same year.
Airey retired reluctantly in September 1902 with the rank of honorary colonel. He moved to South Africa and became a stock grain farmer, dying at Panplaats in the Transvaal in October 1911. He was survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters.