British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
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This article is concerned with the three campaign medals issued by the UK during the Boer War of 1899 - 1902. This has also been called the 2nd Boer War or South African War.
The Boer War was fought between Great Britain and the two Afrikaner (Boer) republics: Transvaal and Orange Free State.
it was the largest and most costly war in which the British engaged between
the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, it was fought between wholly unequal
protagonists. The total British and Commonwealth military strength in
South Africa reached nearly 500,000 men, whereas the Boers could muster
no more than about 88,000. But the British were fighting in a hostile
country over difficult terrain, with long lines of communications, while
the Boers, mainly on the defensive, were able to use modern rifle fire
to good effect, at a time when attacking forces had no means of overcoming
The war began on Oct. 11, 1899, following a Boer ultimatum directed against the reinforcement of the British garrison in South Africa. The crisis was caused by the refusal of the Transvaal, under President Paul Kruger, to grant political rights to the primarily English population of the mining areas of the Witwatersrand, and the aggressive attitudes of Alfred Milner (the British high commissioner) and Joseph Chamberlain (the British Colonial Secretary).
An underlying cause of the war was the presence in the Transvaal of the largest gold-mining complex in the world, beyond direct British control.
The course of the war can be divided into three periods.
The Boer War was finally concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902.
78 Victoria Crosses were awarded during this conflict.
Queen's South Africa Medal
There were three types of reverse to the Queen's South Africa Medal (QSA). The obverse side contains a profile of Queen Victoria.
The most common of the some 177,000 QSAs issued are of the Type 3 medal.
The least issued QSA was the type 1 medal. These were issued to a Canadian unit called Lord Strathcona's Horse, whilst they were in London on their way back to Canada. This first type of the QSA was quickly amended when it became apparent that the duration of the Boer War had been grossly underestimated.
A total of 26 clasps were awarded with this medal, the maximum being 9 to the Army and 8 to the Navy (excluding the two date clasps). The medal was made from either silver or bronze and is 36 millimetres in diameter. The bronze QSAs issued to local troops, natives and the West Indian regiments. The QSA could be issued with no clasps.
All the QSAs were issued named, with the recipient's details shown on the medal's rim. The majority had the recipient's details in impressed capitals, although some have the details engraved.
Of the 26 clasps, 5 clasps were termed "State" clasps. These State clasps were for areas that contained so many incidents or battles, that it was not deemed appropriate to issue a "Battle" clasp for each individual action. The "Battle" clasps were issued for named actions, although these actions often consisted of several, separate, sometimes major but related actions. The "Date" clasps refer to two clasps that were awarded to personnel who did not qualify for the King's South Africa Medal.
For example, the Battle at Spion Kop on 24 January 1900 (from which "The Kop" at Liverpool's Anfield Ground is named) does not have its own clasp, but soldiers who took part in this battle would have been entitled to the "Relief of Ladysmith" clasp. Note that this does NOT mean that every "Relief of Ladysmith" QSA signifies that a soldier took part in this battle. Merely that a soldier who was at Spion Kop comes under the criteria for the award of the "Relief of Ladysmith" clasp to his QSA.
Another major battle which comes within the qualification of the "Relief of Ladysmith" clasp is the Battle at Colenso, which took place on 15 December 1899. It was at this battle that Captain Walter Norris Congreve (The Rifle Brigade), Corporal George Edward Nurse (Royal Field Artillery), Captain Harry Norton Schofield (Royal Field Artillery) and Lieutenant The Hon. Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts (King's Royal Rifle Corps), the son of Field Marshal Earl Roberts (the British Commander-in-Chief), were all awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 15 December 1899 at the Battle of Colenso, Captain Congreve, Corporal Nurse, Lieutenant Roberts and Captain Schofield tried to save the artillery guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery (RFA). When the RFA detachments servicing the guns had either been killed, wounded or forced to retreat by withering, close range and accurate Boer rifle fire, the four soldiers went out into the exposed position and helped to recover two of the guns.
Two days later, on 17 December 1899, Lieutenant Roberts died of wounds sustained in this action.
Certain clasps could not be awarded together with certain other clasps, as shown below.
All the QSA clasps are shown below. The information in the table has been split into four columns: the clasp's name, the type of clasp, the eligibility dates and a brief qualification summary (which had to be satisfied on or between the dates).
Queen's Mediterranean Medal
The Queen's Mediterranean Medal was issued to garrisons in the Mediterranean who guarded Boer prisoners-of-war.
The medal is identical to the Type 3 QSA (see the earlier Queen's South Africa Medal section), but the word "MEDITERRANEAN" replace the text "SOUTH AFRICA" on this medal's reverse.
As with the QSA, this medal was issued named. The recipient's details are shown on the rim of the medal in impressed capitals.
King's South Africa Medal
Following the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, her eldest son and second child became her successor: King Edward VII (born: 9 November 1841, died: 6 May 1910).
Meanwhile, the Boer War had continued its shift from a conflict involving major battles into one of numerous guerrilla actions. It also introduced the term "commando" to military language. This shift in the type of warfare was reflected in the KSA only having two clasps, compared to the Queen's South Africa Medal which had 26.
The KSA, a silver medal that was 36 millimetres in diameter, was issued to personnel who were serving in South Africa on or after 1 January 1901 and who would have completed at least 18 months' service prior to 1 June 1902. Any service in South Africa during 1901 or 1902 that did not meet this criteria was recognised by the award of the appropriate date clasp to the Queen's South Africa Medal.
The two clasps available with the KSA are South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902.
The KSA was always issued together with the QSA, and was always issued with either one or both clasps. Nursing Sisters are believed to be the only personnel issued the KSA without any clasp.
All the KSAs were issued named, with the recipient's details shown on the medal's rim. The majority had the recipient's details in impressed capitals, although some have the details engraved.