Ensign Down was born at Fulham, London, England, on 2 March 1842, and was 21 years old, and an Ensign in the 57th Regiment (later The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own)), British Army, during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand, when the action for which he was awarded The Victoria Cross took place.
The citation from the London Gazette dated 23 September 1864 reads:
"For their conduct at Potoko, on 2nd October, in rescuing a wounded comrade from the rebel Maories.
They succeeded in bringing in this wounded man, who was lying at about fifty yards from the bush, although the enemy kept up a very heavy fire from the bush at short range, and also from fallen logs close at hand.
The man had been wounded during an engagement with the rebel natives, and Ensign Down, and Drummer Stagpoole, responded to the call of the Officer commanding the detachment of the Regiment for volunteers to bring him in.
The Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field has already been conferred on Drummer Stagpoole, for the energy and devotion which he displayed on the 25th September, 1863, at the affair near Kaipakopako, in having, though wounded in the head, twice volunteered and brought in wounded men."
Ensign Down was killed in action at Otahuhu, New Zealand, on 28 April 1866. He is buried at the Otahuhu (Holy Trinity) Cemetery, Auckland, New Zealand.
His Victoria Cross is not publicly held.