Monday, April 5, 2010

Did your Anglo-Boer War ancestor get a medal?

There were two campaign medals issued for soldiers of the British Empire who served during the Anglo-Boer War. They were awarded as follows:

The Queen’s South Africa Medal (QSA): to men who served in the campaign between October 1899 and 22 January 1901 (i.e. date of Queen Victoria’s death). Up to nine bars (or clasps)*, for the Army, could be worn on the medal ribbon and eight bars for the Navy.

The King’s South Africa Medal (KSA): to men who served during or after January 1902. Up to two bars for South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 could be worn on the ribbon. The KSA was never issued without the QSA.

Major Darrell Hall in his Handbook of the Anglo-Boer War mentions:

‘Note that clasps were not awarded for defeats. There are clasps, e.g., for Belmont and Modder River, but not for Magersfontein. There are no clasps for Colenso and Spioenkop (or Spion Kop as spelt by the British) but there is one for Tugela Heights. The KSA has no clasps marking actual engagements, but simply South Africa 1901 or South Africa 1902.’  These two clasps were issued for both the KSA and the QSA, as was the clasp Relief of Ladysmith.

The Medal Rolls at TNA, Kew, listing recipients, are held in WO 100/120-130, WO 100/356, WO 100/357. These rolls could be helpful in a search for an ancestor whose unit is not known.

Other awards including the Victoria Cross (for all ranks), the Distinguished Service Order (officers only) the Distinguished Conduct Medal (for other ranks), Long Service and Good Conduct Medal etc are also held at TNA Kew.

It wasn’t until August 1902 that King Edward VII approved the principle of awarding the Victoria Cross posthumously. Prior to that date it was awarded only to soldiers who survived their acts of gallantry.

The Military Cross (for officers) and Military Medal (for other ranks) did not come into being until World War I. At the time of the Anglo-Boer War recognition for gallantry could be awarded in the form of Mentions in Despatches.

Awards to men of the Royal Navy during the Anglo-Boer War are in ADM 171/52-54 at TNA.

There are some published medal rolls available: see further details at South African Military History Museum

*Clasps for QSA include:

Cape Colony
Diamond Hill
Defence of Kimberley
Relief of Kimberley
Defence of Ladysmith
Laing's Nek
Defence of Mafeking
Relief of Mafeking
Modder River
Orange Free State
Tugela Heights


Parag said...

The first shots of both the 1st and 2nd Anglo boer war were fired in the North West.

Mole said...

Thanks for your comment, Parag.

Norman said...

My Great Grandfathers got a medal each one at the siege of Kimberley, their grandaughter, my Moms sister, gave them both to a collector and then after that asked me if i wanted them. This "gentleman" the collector said he had already disposed of them to an unknown buyer, most dissapointing.

Mole said...

That's a great pity, Norman.
Thanks for your interest and comments.