Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why did the ancestors emigrate?

What motivated our 19th c ancestors to emigrate from Britain or from other parts of Europe? I refer to voluntary emigration, not transportation to penal servitude or escape from religious persecution. Family historians generally accept the standard reason: the wish for a better life. That sweeping phrase covers a multitude of factors including greater opportunities for employment, prospects for personal advancement, perhaps even financial enrichment, a more secure future for the emigrant and his children. Some simply sought adventure.

It’s hardly surprising that they wanted to leave. The population of England had grown from 8.3 million in 1801 to 16.8 million in 1851 and, by 1901, had nearly doubled again to 30.5 million: the sceptred isle was becoming a little crowded. Europe’s population doubled during the 18th century from about 100 million to 200 million and during the 19th century increased to about 400 million.

Most of the population in the period after the Industrial Revolution was concentrated in the cities where living conditions for the vast majority of people were poor and diseases such as cholera, typhus and smallpox were rife. But the greatest and most insidious killer of all was tuberculosis which by the late 19th c accounted for approximately 40% of deaths of the urban working-classes. It appears, often disguised by the terms phthisis and consumption, on innumerable death certificates.

My search for something – anything - on an obscure figure in the family tree finally turned up his Natal death record: cause of death, consumption. The date was 1883, only a year after TB was recognised as an infectious disease (resulting from the work of Robert Koch). What was significant was that this person had arrived in Natal not long before he died: clearly his physical condition had played a role in the decision to emigrate. It was believed that removing to ‘a more salubrious climate’ would help. By this stage, however, the disease had taken a firm grip on the man and he died at the age of 37 leaving a wife and six children.

Note: there was no effective treatment for tuberculosis until the development of the antibiotic Streptomycin in 1946. Despite more recent forms of medication, TB continues to kill people worldwide.
See TB statistics at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

QR codes on gravestones

It’s now possible to embed a QR (Quick Response) code in a gravestone: by scanning the code with your smart phone you can view biographical information about the deceased - not only text but photographic and video material.

Some people think this is cool. I’m not sure that it isn’t taking technology too far, invading a sacred precinct – disturbing the dead, who, incidentally, may or may not be related to you.

No doubt the companies marketing the embedded QR code idea will find plenty of takers. But where will it all end? Do we want interactive media available via our loved ones’ gravestones? Will the next step be virtual floral bouquets? Hyperlinks to Facebook or Twitter pages are already on offer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Was your ancestor a Rechabite?

The Independent Order of Rechabites started out in the early 19th c as a Friendly Society promoting temperance i.e. abstinence from alcohol.

Friendly Societies had been set up in Britain as a form of relief association for working class people - offering help with funeral and medical expenses etc: a form of insurance. Meetings of these Societies, when members would attend to pay their dues, were generally held in local pubs. This began to be seen, especially by the Methodist Church, as a bad influence encouraging men to drink.

Therefore a new Friendly Society was formed: The Independent Order of Rechabites, taking its name from the biblical nomads, descendants of Rechab who abstained from alcohol. Because this nomadic tribe lived in tents, a branch of the Independent Order of Rechabites was known as a 'Tent'. Members had to take The Pledge - swear not to drink any alcoholic beverages.

So if you find a photo of your ancestor wearing an apron, sash and other accoutrements which could be mistaken for Masonic regalia, he may have been a Rechabite. And if the initials IOR appear on his gravestone he was without doubt a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites.

The Order flourished in South Africa as well as in other colonies.

Independent Order of Rechabites: members listed in
 the Natal Almanac & Yearly Directory 1898


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Passenger List Project Update: eGGSA

Good news for family historians: the eGGSA Passenger List Project has been updated and now includes the Natal Immigration Board's list of immigrants 1850 to 1904, as well as the passenger lists from the departure notices in the British Mail 1879 to 1881. The database includes details of 27,000 passengers and 800 voyages.

This is an ongoing eGGSA project and the finished, searchable data is provided on the eGGSA web site.

The volunteers who are doing the work (photographing the records, co-ordinating the transcribers, transcribing, proof-reading and database creation) are members of the eGGSA, Eastern Cape, Natal Midlands, West Gauteng and Western Cape branches of the GSSA and live on four continents, Africa, Europe, America and Australia.

Passenger list of the William Ackers, 1861.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Porcelain from Sao Joao and other shipwrecks.

Nearly 500 years after the Sao Joao was wrecked (1552), pieces of porcelain continue to be found on beaches near Port Edward, Natal - the location of the wreck according to current research.

In fact, typical blue-and-white Chinese porcelain shards occur at 10 locations along this south-eastern coast of South Africa. The wrecks believed to be associated with these sites are:  Sao Joao 1552; Sao Bento 1554, Sao Thome 1589, Santo Alberto 1593, Sao Joao Baptista 1622, Sao Goncalo 1630, Nossa Senhore de Belem 1635 and Nossa Senhore de Atalaia do Piheiro 1647.

Porcelain found on beach near Port Edward,
in all likelihood from the Sao Joao.

The porcelain washed up in the Port Edward vicinity is usually in small pieces making identifying marks - for dating purposes - difficult to find. According to experts, however, the porcelain from the Sao Joao dates to the Jiajing period, 1522-1566: (Ming dynasty).

An interesting factor when it comes to dating porcelain shards from shipwrecks is that porcelain was regularly in use as ballast i.e. material laid down in the hold of a vessel to provide stability. Porcelain was also carried for the export trade market: the Portuguese were the first seafaring people to reach China via the Cape of Good Hope. In the early 16th c they carried the first consignment of china wares via the Cape to Europe.

Further reading: 
Turner, M: Shipwrecks & Salvage in South Africa
Vieira de Castro, F: The Pepper Wreck: A Portuguese Indiaman at the Mouth of the Tagus River

In contrast to the other major European imports of the time (for example textiles or spices), ceramics are able to withstand exposure to water, thus making it the ideal merchandise to serve as ballast cargo in the great ships. (Vieira de Castro, F: The Pepper Wreck) 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More on the Sao Joao story

The coast north of Port Edward, currently  believed to be the area
where the Sao Joao met her fate.

Wonderful on a calm clear day but imagine a wooden ship
 being dashed against rocks like these.
Night on a barren shore must have been terrifying for survivors.

Historian Graham Mackeurtan in his 'Cradle Days of Natal' refers to the Sao Joao being wrecked just north of the Umzimvubu River - i.e. he chooses the Port St John's location, as did George MacCall Theal and other authors. Though more recent research prompts us to disagree with Mackeurtan's choice of site, he does give an account of the circumstances of the wreck and of the sufferings of the survivors:

'In four hours the ship was smashed to atoms, and her debris and disintegrated cargo strewed the shore. There was not a piece of the galleon as large as a man's arm remaining. The surrounding country was barren, and practically deserted ... After waiting twelve days for the sick to recover, the party set out for Lourenco Marques on 7 July 1552. Donna Leonor, the Captain's wife and a woman of noble rank, delicate and young, was borne in a litter ... For a month they travelled in this way ... subsisting on rice saved from the wreck and fruit found in the thickets.'
Sepulveda, his wife and children, died along the way in circumstances of unimaginable hardship; a small number of Portuguese and slaves survived the march north. A memorial, today unfortunately much ravaged by wind and weather, was placed at Port Edward and offers a verse by the Portuguese poet Luis de Camoens:

Dear gentle soul who went so soon away
Departing from this life in discontent,
Repose in that far sky to which you went
While on this earth I linger in dismay.
In the ethereal seat where you must be,
If you consent to memories of our sphere,
Recall the love which, burning pure and clear,
So often in my eyes you used to see!
If then, in incurable, long anguish
Of having lost you, as I pine and languish,
You see some merit - do this favour for me:
And to the God who cut your life short, pray
That he as early to your sight restore me
As from my own he swept you far away.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The wreck of the Sao Joao June 1552

Taking a break from genealogy I spent some time on one of the most evocative coasts in South Africa - the south-eastern stretch, graveyard of too many ships to mention individually. In particular, I was enthralled to find myself walking on the beach where the great Portuguese galleon Sao Joao was wrecked in June 1552.

Though controversy has dogged the matter of the precise wreck site, experts currently suggest this is slightly north of what is now Port Edward.

Port Edward in the distance
For those who like accuracy, there's E Burger's study (University of Pretoria 2004), chapter one of which pays attention to the puzzle concerning the location of the wreck and refers to various sources speculating on this topic. Historian George Theal in the early 1900s held the view (unsubstantiated) that the Sao Joao was wrecked off Port St John's at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River. However, despite the fact that the galleon gave her name to Port St John's, the wreck at this location has subsequently been identified as that of an entirely different and much later ship - the Nossa Senhora de Belem, 1635. 

Engraving: wreck of Sao Joao

The Sao Joao left Cochin, China, in February 1552 under the command of Manuel de Sousa Sepulveda. At 900 tons the ship was one of the largest built at the time for the India route and this was the return trip of her first voyage. Richly laden, she carried a great quantity of pepper - one of the most highly-prized spices - other export merchandise and about 600 souls.

A storm hurled the vessel on to the rocks, breaking it up so completely that no remains of her hull have been found. About 120 people perished in the wreck and perhaps they were the lucky ones. The survivors, decimated by starvation, exhaustion, disease and attacks by indigenous tribes, attempted to walk to Delagoa Bay (Maputo): only 25 reached their destination almost six months later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Great Gale, Table Bay, 17 May 1865

On Tuesday,16 May 1865, 28 ships were anchored in Table Bay, Cape Town: of these, seventeen were to be lost in the storm which was about to strike with shattering force. Contemporary news reports bring home to us the dramatic and tragic series of events, as well as the frustration and disbelief of those on shore who watched helplessly as vessels were driven ashore and crews and passengers drowned in the surf.

The Cape Argus reported on Thursday, 18 May:

On Monday ... (15 May) the wind blew strongly from the westward, and in the evening heavy rains fell.   Tuesday was showery, with the wind still blowing from the same direction as on the previous day, but in the course of the night a change took place, and a gale commenced from the north-west.   By daylight yesterday a tremendously heavy sea was setting in, while the wind came down in terrific gusts, and the vessels anchored in the bay rolled and pitched with great violence.   As soon as there were sufficient light for the purpose, a signal was made from the Port Office, directing the vessels in harbour to strike top-gallant masts, and to point yards to the wind.   As daylight increased several cargo-boats put off with anchors, and two or three vessels, which had parted, were supplied with extra holding gear.   At half-past eight an anchor was run to the Esther. The sea, however, continued to rise, and many larger boats which were at their moorings parted, and were driven ashore.   Between nine and ten o’clock one of these was observed to be adrift when one of the Water Police, a young man named Charles Bryce, who had gone on board the police boat near the North Wharf, for the purpose of throwing out the ballast, conceived the idea of going to her assistance.  With this in view he got into the dingy, and pushed off, but before reaching the cargo-boat, the dingy capsized, and the unfortunate fellow was thrown out.   The accident was witnessed by some hundreds of people, and an attempt was at once made to render him assistance; it was seen that he had struck out manfully and was making for the Central Causeway, but owing to his being burdened with his oilskin his progress was slow.   Efforts were made to launch a fishing boat from the front of the Sailors Home, but it was discovered that no oars were to be obtained.   In the mean time a couple of life-buoys were procured from the Port Office, and were conveyed to the end of the Causeway, and a gallant fellow named Maderasse, stripped himself and plunged himself into the waves from the beach.  Most gallantly did he breast the waves, dipping his head on the approach the breakers, and when he had accomplished about one fourth of the distance from the beach to the point at which the drowning man was struggling, the people on shore saw the latter go down.  He had battled hard for life, but was at length overcome and perished within sight of hundreds anxious to render him assistance. Shortly after this, the cargo-boat Stag ...  was capsized while in the act of going about, and it is feared that out of a crew of nine men two only were saved.
At 11h00 the Galatea brig parted her anchor but was safely beached on the sands beyond the Castle.
The Galatea was shortly joined by the brig Jane, and the cutter Gem, and before two o’clock five other vessels were on shore; they were the bark Star of the West, the schooner Fernaude, the schooner Clipper, (the latter having dragged her anchors), and the bark Frederick Bassil.   About two o’clock, the barks Alacrity and Deane also parted and drifted down upon the steamer Dane.   The former carried away the steamer’s boat, and the latter her jib boom, losing her own top-mast, and sustaining other injuries. Both vessels then drifted helplessly down upon the beach. Later still they were followed by the bark Royal Arthur, which took the ground near the south wharf, and she again was followed by the brig Kehrweider, the schooner Isabel, the Dutch brig Maria Johanna, and the brig Figilante.
During this time the bay was one sheet of foam, the seas breaking at least two miles from the shore. The wind blew with almost unprecedented violence, and the men in charge of the few anchor-boats which remained fit for use hesitated in risking their lives by going off.   One fine boat, the Providence, was dismasted about the middle of the bay, but having an anchor on board, pitched it out and hung on by the warp. There are said to be seven men on board of her, who are almost utterly without provisions, but hitherto no attempt ... has been made to rescue them from what appears a hopeless position. No ordinary boat could live in the tremendous seas which are coming in, while one life-boat is high and dry on the beach, and the others are said to be unfit for use. It appears that the Providence had gone off with an anchor to the Figilante, and while in the act of putting the warp on board, the brig parted her anchors and came into contact with the boat, carrying away her mast. One of the men succeeded in reaching the brig, and came on shore when the vessel grounded, but the remaining seven are believed still to be in the boat. The mail steamers Dane, Athens, and Briton keep their engines going, but the former labours a good deal, and is apparently in distress.  On the beach the scene is a very painful one; the seventeen vessels, together with the cutters and a large number of cargo-boats, form a dismal picture. Unless the wind changes there will hardly be a vessel left in the bay tomorrow morning.
This was no exaggeration.
The wind has freshened somewhat, and the swell is tremendous.   Another vessel, supposedly the brig Esther, has parted.  The night is intensely dark, and huge bonfires have been lit upon the beach, as some guide to vessels which may still part.   It is rumoured that the mail steamer Athens is on the rocks at Sea Point.   The rain is falling in torrents.   The City of Peterborough is said to be breaking up.
The following is a list of the vessels now on the beach.
Alacrity, bark, 817 tons, Captain Goouch.
Clipper, schooner, 75 tons, Captain Carsens
City of Peterborough, bark, 300 tons, Captain Wright.
Deans, bark, 91 tons, Captain Brabour
Esther, Hamburg brig, 341 tons, Captain Bottschen
Frederick Bassil, bark, 341 tons, Captain N. Glendising.
Figilante, Danish schooner, 74 tons, Captain N. Claster
Fenande, schooner, 86 tons, Captain Giles.
Gem, cutter, 42 tons, Captain Parew
Galatea, brig, 155 tons, Captain Kingston.
Isabel, schooner, 97 tons, Captain Nelson.
Jane, brig, 215 tons, Captain Picot.
Kehrweider, brig, 150 tons, Captain Havenberg.
Maria Johanna, bgtne, 204 tons, Captain Driest.
Royal Arthur, bark, 301 tons, Captain McDougal.
Star of the West, bark, 386 tons, Captain Edlery.
Benjamin Miller, schooner, 25 tons.
Worse was to come. The mail steamer Athens was rumoured to be on the rocks. The night was intensely dark and there was torrential rain. Huge bonfires had been lit on shore as a guide to any vessels that might still come to grief. The fate of the Athens was soon discovered:
... the wreck was lying between the two light houses ... a crowd of Green Point residents assembled, with lights, ropes, and life-buoys for the purpose, if possible, of rendering assistance, but quite unable to do so. The ship was lying sixty or eighty yards from the shore, grinding heavily on the rocks with every sea, and evidently fast breaking up, for pillow cases and cabin doors were washing ashore, so as to leave no doubt that the wreck was complete.  No dead bodies could, however, be found on the beach, but in the face of the tremendous seas and the boiling surf, it appeared impossible that any single one of the unfortunate people on board could reach the shore alive.  It was supposed that the hands had taken to the shrouds, but the darkness was too intense to allow them to be seen. Occasionally, however, as the heavy sea struck the ill-fated vessel, loud wails of anguish were heard proceeding from it, and the effect upon the crowds of spectators was terrible.  The Athens ... carried about thirty hands, including Captain David Smith and officers.  She was to have sailed for Mauritius yesterday, and some fear is entertained that part of her passengers embarked on Tuesday. This, however, is hardly likely to have been the case, and embarkation yesterday was impossible.The storm still rages with unabated violence; and the probability is that at daylight not a vestige of the Athens will be left above water.

We have since learned that the steamer has entirely broken up, and not one of her crew has come ashore either alive or dead.  The wind continues to blow fiercely.
The remains of the Athens - a portion of her boiler and cylinder - can today be seen between rocks not far from shore, a mute reminder of the disaster of 147 years ago.


 Photos at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Zulu War Ancestors continued

Men who fought in the Zulu War didn't suddenly materialize at the start of the campaign. The milestones discovered in the soldier's service documents make it possible to find out more about the ancestor's origins, his parents and siblings, using birth and baptismal records, census entries, marriage records - all the usual tools of the genealogist. Regimental museums and published regimental histories can be helpful; national and local newspapers are worth exploring if a reasonable date-frame is known.

For those who came through the rigours of the campaign, the battle wasn't over. Depending on their age and length of service at the close of the campaign, some men would be discharged to pension. Usually they would need to find employment to provide additional income.  Private Frederick Hitch, V.C., defender of Rorke's Drift, became a London cabby. Gunner John Cantwell, who was awarded the D.C.M., returned to South Africa, became a guard at Durban gaol and ended up as a lavatory cleaner. My own Zulu War ancestor was, by 1881, residing with his widowed sister in a remote Scottish village far from urban temptations.

How difficult it must have been to settle down to a civilian existence with family and other responsibilities. There's no doubt that some of the Rorke's Drift men were psychologically scarred by their experience, living out their lives in a confusing twilight. It's hard to say whether they were luckier than those slaughtered at Isandhlwana, or those who succumbed to fever at Utrecht. Career soldiers continued to serve wherever the army sent them: examples include Lieut. Gonville Bromhead, V.C., who commanded B Company 2/24th Regiment;  promoted to Major, he died in India of enteric fever in 1891 aged 46. Lieut. John Chard also remained in the army, dying at 50 in 1897. Assistant Comissary at the Drift, James Langley Dalton, V.C., survived for only 7 years after the war dying aged 53 in 1887, and lies buried at Russell Road Cemetery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. His old comrade Sergeant John Williams of 85th King's Light Infantry and friends of Natal placed the memorial on his grave.  Surgeon, later Lieut. Col. James Henry Reynolds, V.C., who under enemy fire attended the wounded at Rorke's Drift, lived to the age of 88; his grave is in Kensal Green, London.

Research continues into the burial places of Zulu War soldiers, both famous and obscure, some of whom still lie in unknown or unmarked graves in the UK and elsewhere. Perhaps during your research into a Zulu War ancestor you'll be able to locate his last resting place and, should it be as yet unmarked, add the final accolade.

The 24th at Pinetown, Natal, South Africa: Anglo-Zulu War.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zulu War Ancestors on NAAIRS

Search the National Archives of South Africa at for references to the volunteer's unit within suitable date parameters for the Zulu War. Search under his name as well, of course, or try a combination of surname and unit. References which come up include applications for the campaign medal - sometimes on behalf of dead comrades or members of the same unit. There are enquiries from anxious relatives as to the whereabouts of missing volunteers, claims from widows for compensation or requests for the return of a deceased son's personal effects.

Sometimes index references are surprisingly detailed e.g. in 1880 'George Macleroy requests that the remains of his son, who was killed at Isandhlwana, may be left undisturbed where they were buried by a party of the Natal Carbineers'. Another reference chosen at random concerns the recommendation of Corporal Vinnicombe of the Frontier Light Horse for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. William Dommet Vinnicombe received the D.C.M. for his gallantry at Hlobane when he gave his horse to two other men, in a situation when, according to his citation, 'to be dismounted appeared to be death'. (WO 146/1/18 TNA).

Men of the Natal volunteers who survived the campaign resumed their routine occupations but most retained an interest in and membership of local units. Trooper Henry Lugg of Rorke's Drift fame became one of the founders of the Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles, which was later absorbed into the Alexandra Mounted Rifles and still later reformed as the Border Mounted Rifles with Lugg as Captain and Adjutant. Some volunteers - and their sons and grandsons, went on to serve in other conflicts, including the Anglo-Boer War and the 1906 Rebellion in Natal.

Henry Lugg, Defender of Rorke's Drift

If a member of one of the volunteer units died in South Africa some time after the Anglo-Zulu War, there could be a relevant deceased estate reference on NAAIRS. Such references used in conjunction with local newspapers for funeral notices, obituaries etc can provide interesting additional information.

There are other databases on the SA National Archives site: under MAN, search for photographs and manuscripts held by various SA institutions, while the GEN database may offer information on a military ancestor's burial place (in South Africa).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ancestors in Colonial units Zulu War 1879

There were irregular mounted units raised outside Natal - and there were Natal volunteer units which had existed prior to the Zulu War e.g. the Natal Carbineers had been formed as far back as 1855, the Alexandra Mounted Rifles in 1865. The Imperial Irregulars included men from the Cape and Transvaal and a sprinkling of foreign nationals. Derogatory phrases used in describing Colonial forces, such as 'flotsam and jetsam', are inaccurate when applied to the Natal volunteer units. These men, many of them born in Britain or of British settler stock, were of good standing in their communities, well-respected farmers, business and professional men, civic leaders etc.

The volunteers operated on a personalised system of recruitment: a man was elected to membership by other members of the corps if they considered him suitable. This produced a highly-cohesive and committed group. It wasn't unusual to find several men of one family serving in the same unit and members would be from within a distinct geographical area.

Tracking down written records of an ancestor in a Colonial unit isn't easy. Although the Soldier's Discharge Papers at TNA include copies of documents for men who took their discharge outside the British Isles, this would apply to British Army regulars, not to men in the Colonial regiments. According to one source - and nobody seems to be able to confirm this for me, which may mean it is true - Colonial service records were pulped for paper during World War I.

As a first step towards finding out more about your Colonial soldier check the 1877-9 South Africa Medal Roll. If the man was a recipient the Roll will give you the name of his unit. A list of the Colonial units entitled to the campaign medal with bar '1879' as well as those units who received the medal with the bar, can be accessed at 

At TNA, Medal Rolls for the Colonial units are in WO 100/48, WO 100/49 and WO 100/50.

The family historian should bear in mind that many of the lists, rolls and other sources used when tracing military ancestors may contain errors and omissions and that the spelling of surnames may vary.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Colonials in the Zulu War

Numerous Colonial units served in the Anglo-Zulu War 1879: they're often difficult to classify. The Frontier Light Horse, for example, was a Colonial mounted volunteer force raised at Kingwilliamstown in the Cape Colony but as its members were paid by the British government the unit didn't fall under the Colonial authorities. It was described as 'a tough, informal fighting force, the nearest English Colonial equivalent to a Boer commando. You had to be able to ride and shoot. You took your own horse with you when you joined ...'.  This could be said about any of the Colonial mounted corps.

Then there were the irregulars: Imperial mounted units raised in South Africa, such as Raaff's Horse (also known as the Transvaal Rangers), largely recruited in Kimberley. Not in the same category as any of the above, the Natal Mounted Police (later called the Natal Police) was a permanent force which had existed since 1874. 26 of its members were killed in action at Isandhlwana and of the 3 who happened to be at Rorke's Drift on 22/23 January 1879, 2 survived (Troopers Lugg and Green).

For a detailed list of Colonial units taking part in the Zulu War see

The Colonial mounted volunteers made up somewhat for the dearth of British cavalry in the early phase of the war. Though they played a valuable role, Colonial troops were not highly thought of by British Army regulars.

More on the Colonials in the next post.

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial, Pietermaritzburg, Natal

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Medal for your Zulu War ancestor?

A soldier became eligible for a campaign medal because he served in a particular war within a specific date parameter. No medal was struck especially for the Anglo-Zulu War 1879. Instead, a medal previously awarded for campaigns fought on the Eastern Cape frontier during the 1850s was, with some slight changes to the design, awarded to all those who served in South African campaigns between September 1877 and December 1879 - including the Zulu War.


A bar or clasp showed the year or years in which the recipient served in any of the 1870s campaigns. The bar '1879' worn with the medal indicated that the recipient had served in Zululand during the Zulu War, while men who had served in Natal but not crossed the border into Zululand received the medal without the bar.

Together with the information concerning the recipient which is inscribed on the rim of the medal, the presence or absence of the clasp is significant.

It was suggested that a special clasp be provided for those who took part in the defence of Rorke's Drift but this was not acted upon.

At the time of the Zulu War the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal were the only awards available for valour and for gallantry in the field. Eleven Rorke's Drift defenders received the Victoria Cross and five other defenders the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The total number of V.C.s awarded for the Zulu campaign was 18.  A list of all recipients of decorations for the campaign can be seen at

Medal Rolls are at TNA under WO 100. Check the 1877-9 South Africa Medal Roll to find out if your ancestor was a recipient of this campaign medal.

The South Africa Medal Roll 1877-1879 for the Naval Brigade who served in the Basuto and Zulu Wars can be found under ADM 171/40 at TNA, Kew.