Tuesday 01st of October 2002 09:27 PM 
 
 
Medals and Decorations of the Boer War
VICTORIA CROSS
Victoria CrossThe Victoria Cross (VC) was instituted in 1856, but was made retroactive to the autumn of 1854 to cover the period of the Crimean War.
The Cross was created to recognise very outstanding deeds of gallantry in the presence of the enemy. It was to consist of a Maltese Cross (in fact, a cross paté) of bronze made from the metal from one of the Russian guns captured at Sebastopol, with the Royal Crest in the centre and underneath a scroll bearing the words "For Valour". On the reverse side of the cross is engraved the date of the act of bravery while the name of the recipient is engraved on the back of the clasp (see below).
Clasp name example
At first the ribbon was blue for the Navy and red for the Army. But by Royal Warrant of 22 May 1920, signed by the secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, "the ribbon is red for all services and when it only is worn, a small replica of the cross is fixed in the canted".

With the view of putting everyone on a perfectly equal footing for winning the decoration it was ordained that neither rank nor long service nor wounds nor any other circumstance, save the brave act itself, should be held to establish a sufficient claim to the honour. In the case of conspicuous bravery on the part of a body of soldiers or sailors (and later airmen), officer and other ranks had the privilege of selecting one or more of their number for the honour. In earlier wars - particularly the Indian Mutiny, a number of awards were decided in this manner. Later, the practice died out almost completely.

A Bar to the Cross could also be awarded for another act of equal bravery. There have only been three of these ever awarded.

It can only be bestowed for actions "in the presence of the enemy" (although from 1858 to 1881 an amendment allowed for awards "under circumstances of extreme danger". Six awards were made under these conditions).
The first presentation was made in Hyde Park on 26 Jun 1857 where Queen Victoria decorated 62 officers and men for actions during the Crimean War.
Each VC is still made by the same London jewelers, Messrs Hancocks [now HANCOCKS & CO. (JEWELLERS) LTD - Established 1849, 1 Burlington Gardens, London W1X 2HP, U.K. from the bronze of Chinese cannons captured from the Russians at the siege of Sebastopol. However, the VC to Lieutenant Gorle in WWI was flouroscoped by the Tower of London and found to be fairly common bronze, which was was apparently the case for some crosses in WWI.

The largest number of Victoria Crosses awarded to one regiment in a single action is seven - a Lieutenant, a corporal and five privates of the 24th Foot, who were selected for the award after the engagement at Rorkes Drift in the Zulu War of 1879. In the Gallipoli landings in 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers won six VCs before breakfast. The youngest person to receive the award was fifteen years old and the oldest was 69 at the time.

To date, 1, 351 Victoria Crosses have been awarded; 78 from the South African War. Of these, 38 were awarded for rescuing de-horsed and wounded comrades and 16 for rescuing or recovering guns.

The Victoria Cross Cascabel
A little-known fact, even to many 'experts' is that the metal used to forge every Victoria Cross is tended by Victoria Cross Cascabel15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Donnington. The VC metal rarely sees the light of day as it is secured in special vaults and is removed only under exceptional circumstances; however, on 28 May, this item of national history was transported to the Imperial War Museum in London for the royal opening of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Exhibition.
Weighing 358 ounces and looking somewhat like a lump of cheese, the VC metal is unique among BOD Donnington's 700,000 item headings of Army stores. It is all that remains of the bronze cascabels from two Russian cannon captured at Sebastopol, the last great battle of the Crimean War in 1854-55. The cascabel, a large knob at the rear of the cannon, held ropes which were used when the artillery piece was being manhandled. The two cannon, minus cascabels, stand proudly outside the Officers Mess in Woolwich.

The most recent issue of metal, exactly fifty ounces and sufficient to make twelve medals, occurred on 23 October 1959, to Messrs Hancocks & Co (Jewellers) Ltd, the royal jewellers who have been responsible for individually making each medal since the inception of the VC in 1857. Given that fifty ounces are required to make twelve Victoria Cross medals, the remaining 358 ounces contain enough for a further eighty five.
Source: Victoria Cross Reference

Click here to view details of all 78 Boer War Victoria Crosses


DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL
Distinguished Conduct Medal This medal is awarded to Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and men, serving in any of the English sovereign's military forces, for distinguished conduct in the field. It is the second highest award for gallantry in action, after the Victoria Cross, for all military ranks below commissioned officers.

A silver bar with laurels on it is awarded for a subsequent act or acts of distinguished conduct in the field. The current reigning monarch appears on the medal.

 

 

 

 



KING'S SOUTH AFRICA MEDAL
King's South Africa MedalTerms
The King's South Africa Medal was awarded to all troops who served in South Africa on or after 01 January 1902, and completed 18 months service before 01 June 1902. The medal was not issued alone but always with the Queen's Medal.

Bars
South Africa 1901: Awarded for service during 1901 towards the required service of 18 months;

South Africa 1902: Awarded to those who served during 1902.

Description
A circular, silver medal, 1.52 inches in diameter.

Obverse
The obverse shows King Edward VII, in Field Marshal's uniform, facing left, with the legend EDWARDVS VII REX IMPERATOR.

Reverse
Britannia is depicted holding the Union Flag in her left hand and a laurel wreath in her right. The right background shows troops marching to the coast and the left shows two men-of-war. Around the top are the words: SOUTH AFRICA.

Mounting
A plain, straight, suspender is attached to the medal with a double-toe claw.

Ribbon
The ribbon is 1.25 inches wide, and consists of three equal stripes (left to right): light green, white, and orange.

Dates
The medal was authorized in 1902.

Naming
Indented block or sloping capitals were used for the recipient's name.


QUEEN'S SOUTH AFRICA MEDAL Queen's South Africa Medal
Terms

The medal was awarded to all who served in South Africa between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902 (during the Boer War).
BARS
There are twenty-six bars to the medal;

State Clasps:
Cape Colony: Awarded to troops serving in Cape Colony between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902;

Natal: Awarded to all troops serving in Natal between 11 October 1899 and 11 June 1900;

Rhodesia

Orange Free State: Awarded to troops serving in Orange River Colony any time from 28 February 1900 to 21 May 1902;

Transvaal: Awarded to those troops serving the Transvaal at any time between 24 May 1900 and 31 May 1902, who received no other clasp for action in the Transvaal;

Battle Clasps:

Defence of Mafeking

Defence of Kimberly

Talana

Elandslaagte

Defence of Ladysmith

Belmone

Modder River

Tugela Heights

Relief of Kimberley

Paardeburg

Relief of Ladysmith

Driefontein: Awarded to troops serving with Army Headquarters and LGen French's column which advanced from Popular Grove on 10 March 1900;

Wepener

Relief of Mafeking

Johannesburg: Awarded to those troops who, on 29 May 1900, were north of an east and west line through Klip River Station and east of a north and south line through Krugersdorp Station;

Laing's Nek

Diamond Hill

Wittebergen

Belfast: Awarded to troops who, on 26 or 27 August 1900, were east of a north and south line drawn through Wonderfonein, and west of a north and south line through Dalmanutha Station, and north of an east and west line drawn through Carolina:

Date Clasps:
South Africa 1901: Awarded to those not eligible for the King's Medal although they had served at the front between 01 January and 31 December 1901;

South Africa 1902: Awarded to those not eligible for the King's Medal although they had served at the front between 01 January and 31 May 1902.

Description
A circular, silver medal, 1.52 inches in diameter.
Obverse
The obverse shows a crowned and veiled effigy of the Queen Victoria, facing left, with the legend VICTORIA REGINA ET IMPERATRIX.
Reverse
Britannia is depicted holding the Union Flag in her left hand and a laurel wreath in her right hand. In the right background are troops marching to the coast and in the left background are two men-of-war. Around the top are the words SOUTH AFRICA. The first medals, awarded to the Lord Strathcona's Horse, bore the dates 1899 - 1900. The dates were removed from subsequent medals because the war continued beyond 1900. Some medals still show the 'ghost' of 1899 - 1900.
Mounting
A plain, straight suspender is attached to the medal with a double-toe claw.
Ribbon
The ribbon is 1.25 inches (32 mm) wide, and consists of five stripes: red (5 mm), dark blue (5 mm), orange centre, dark blue (5 mm), and red (5 mm).
Dates
The medal was authorized in 1900 and awarded to all who served in South Africa between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902.
Naming
Naming is in indented block or sloping capitals.

To be continued...

 

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Further Reading

Blatherwick, Surgeon Commander F.J. 1000 Brave Canadians. The Unitrade Press, Toronto, Ontario, 1991 [ISBN: 0-919801-58-7]