Lt. Melvill: Well done, Sir! Did you see that Noggs? Deceived him with the up and took him with the down. Norris-Newman: Well well, this one's a grandfather at least. If he'd been a Zulu in his prime I'd have given odds against your lancer, Mr.Melvill.
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Lt. (Brevet Major) J.R.M. Chard, 5th Field Company, Royal Engineers--Rorke's Drift and Ulundi
(Mac and Shad) Isandula Collection)
Rededication Rorke's Drift Defender William Wilcox. 8th May 2011 Dolton Devon.

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 General Information

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PostSubject: General Information   Sat Sep 12, 2009 9:05 pm

No campaign medal was instituted exclusively for the Zulu War. Bloody and hard-fought as it was, the War was no doubt regarded in Britain as but a part of the general fighting that took place from 1877 to 1879 between the various African tribes in Southern Africa and their British and Colonial overlords.

In 1854 royal sanction had been given for the award of a medal to the survivors of British regular troops who had served in any one of the three campaigns of 1835-36, 1846-47, or 1850-53, on the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Province.

Designed by William and L.C. Wyon, this medal bears on the obverse a beautiful portrayal of Victoria as the young queen, wearing a coronet. The reverse shows a lion, half-crouching watchfully, behind a protea bush, with the date '1853' in the exergue.

In 1880 it was ordained that the same medal should he awarded to all personnel - Colonial volunteers and native levies as well as British regulars - who had served in any of the campaigns in South Africa between September 1877 and December 1879, namely the Gaika / Galeka War, the Northern Border War, the lst and 2nd Sekukuni Wars, the Moirosi's Mountain campaign in Basutoland, and the Zulu War.

A bar or clasp was to be attached to the suspender of the medal hearing the date or dates of the year or years in which the recipient had actually served in any of those campaigns. Military personnel who had been mobilized in Natal, but had not crossed the Tugela River into Zululand, were to receive the medal without any bar.

The original Army Order, no 103 of August 1880, made no mention of any change in design of the earlier model. However, the date '1853' was clearly inappropriate, and it was therefore replaced in the reverse exergue by a military trophy consisting of a Zulu ox-hide shield and four crossed assegais.

Participants in the Zulu War received this medal without a bar if they remained on the Natal side of the Tugela, or with the bar '1879' if they actually saw service in Zululand.

One can say with confidence that a medal without a bar is a medal awarded for service in connection with the Zulu War, albeit not combatant service. Problems arise, however, when one is faced with a medal bearing the bar '1879', for the same bar was given with the medal for the Moirosi's Mountain campaign in Basutoland, and for the Second Sekukuni War in the North-Eastern Transvaal.

Unless the service details of the recipient are known, the only way to establish whether the bar '1879' was indeed for the Zulu War is to look at the name of the unit (which will be found engraved, together with the recipient's rank and name, on the edge of the medal) and to check that the unit concerned was in Zululand.

Imperial troops who participated included two regiments of cavalry and fifteen infantry battalions (see Appendix I), together with a composite Naval Brigade, detachments of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, and members of the various supporting commissariat, ordnance, and medical services.

In addition there were a considerable number of 'odd men' - often officers -drawn from a wide variety of British regular and militia units who were sent out as members of the staff or as observers. Some enthusiastic adventure-seekers qualified for the medal by reaching the front line entirely on their own initiative, and even at their own expense!

The Natal colonists also played their part. Forces called out on full mobilization to meet the threat of Cetewayo's estimated 40 000 warriors included the Natal Mounted Police (a semi-military formation, and the only 'regulars) and all the Natal Volunteer units then in existence.

The Frontier Light Horse and units such as Raaff's Transvaal Rangers and the Kaffrarian Rifles came from the other colonies. Special reserve units were established in Pietermaritzburg and Durban for local garrison duty and large numbers of Natal Natives were enlisted. (see Appendix II).

The Campaign Medal for the Zulu War - the medal for "South Africa 1877-79", with bar "1879".
Left: Obverse of medal awarded to Lieut. W. Pool, Border Horse, killed in action on Hlobane Mountain.
Right: Reverse of medal awarded to Trooper J. Deane, Natal Carbineers, killed in action at Isandlwana.

The ultimate - if in practice unattainable - collection of medals of the Zulu War would include medals to all these formations. It would include not only all the 'odd-man' units on the Imperial side - to some of which only one medal was issued - but also the many small Natal units bearing such glamorous names as Carbutt's Border Rangers, Isipingo Mounted Rifles, and Weenen Yeomanry.

Alternatively, the collector can aim to represent in his collection a recipient from each of the major actions of the war. This theme involves considerable research, and final verification of participation in a particular action - unless the recipient was a casualty - can be tantalizingly difficult in the absence of personal letters or a diary. One can, however, consult the full casualty rolls for Isandlwana or Hlobane Mountain, and Chard's report on the defence of Rorke's Drift contains a comprehensive nominal roll of the defenders. Press reports, regimental histories, church or battlefield memorials - all these may provide useful information. It is interesting to record that whereas Colonial Forces Order no. 169 (issued at Kingwilliamstown on 14th September, 1880, to announce the granting of the medal) stated specifically that 'the Medal will be granted to survivors only ...', no such restrictive condition appeared in the original Imperial Army Order no.103 of 1st August, 1880. Whatever happened in the Cape of Good Hope, it is certain that medals were given to the next-of-kin of men killed in action in Zululand. Medals to Isandlwana casualties, in particular, are much sought after and command a substantial premium.


In 1879, apart from promotion in the field, or brevet rank for officers, the only available means of rewarding gallantry or distinguished service was by the award of either the Victoria Cross or the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Both of these decorations had been instituted at the end of the Crimean War. (The Distinguished Service Order was established only in 1886 and the Military Cross and Military Medal followed much later, during the 1st World War).

The Zulu War saw the award of twenty-three Victoria Crosses and 15 Distinguished Conduct Medals. The story of Lieutenants Coghill and Melvill who died fighting to the last at Fugitives Drift after their gallant attempt to save the colours when their Regiment, the 1st Battalion 24th Regiment (later The South Wales Borderers) was overrun at Isandlwana, and who were given the V.C. by King Edward VII in 1907, when posthumous awards were first authorized, is well known. It was at Fugitive's Drift, too, that Private Wassall of the 80th Regiment of Foot earned his Cross rescuing a comrade in the wild fury of the flooded Tugela under a hail of Zulu bullets.

The historic and emotion-stirring defence of Rorke's Drift on the evening of the Isandlwana disaster of the 22nd January was marked by the award of no less than 11 Victoria Crosses and 5 Distinguished Conduct Medals - an all-time record for a single action. The disasters at Hlobane Mountain and at the Intombi River likewise brought their quota of 'Valour beyond the call of duty', as did the epic victories of Kambula and Ulundi. As will be seen from the attached schedule, (Appendix III), of the major actions of the Zulu War only the gallant defence of Eshowe, and the battle on the Inyezane River, near Gingindlovu, on the 2nd April, failed to gain the distinction of a decoration. It is particularly interesting to note that two black African NCOs of the Natal Native Horse won the DCM - at Kambula and on the Umfolozi River before Ulundi respectively.

Below is a list of Imperial Troops who participated in the ZULU War (excluding the many odd men) as recorded in the medal rolls for the South Africa Medal (1877/79) that were deposited at the public records office in London.

The Naval Brigade, constituted from contingents of sailors and Royal Marines from various ships of the Royal Navy, namely Her Majesty's Ships Active, Boadicea, Euphrates, Forester, Himalaya, Orontes, Shah, Tamar and Tenedos.
Detachment of the Royal Artillery.
(i) The 1st King's Dragoon Guards.
(ii) The 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own).
(i) 2nd Bn., The 3rd (East Kent - The Buffs) Regt. of Foot (1881-1935 The Buffs (East Kent) Regt. of Foot).
(ii) 1st Bn., The 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert's Light Infantry) Regt. (1881-1959 The Prince Albert's (Somerset Light Infantry), later known as The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's).
(iii) 2nd Bn., The 21st (Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regt. of Foot (1881 - 1959 The Royal Scots Fusiliers).
(iv) 1st and 2nd Battalions, The 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regt. of Foot (1881-1969 The South Wales Borderers).
(v) The 57th (West Middlesex) Regt. of Foot (1881-1921 the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regt.)
(vi) The 58th (Rutlandshire) Regt. of Foot.
(vii) 3rd Bn., The 60th or The King's Royal Rifle Corps (1881-1958 The King's Royal Rifle Corps).
(viii) The 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regt. of Foot. (1881-1959 The South Staffordshire Regt.)
(ix) The 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regt. of Foot (1881-1922 1st Bn., The Connaught Rangers).
(x) The 90th Perthshire Light Infantry (1881-1968 2nd Bn., The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)).
(xi) The 91st (Princess Louise's Argyllshire) Highlanders (1881 - 1921 the Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)).
(xii) The 94th Regt. of Foot (1881-1922 2nd Bn., The Connaught Rangers).
(xiii) The 99th (The Duke of Edinburgh's) Regt. of Foot (1881-19592nd Bn., The Wiltshire Regt. (Duke of Edinburgh's)).

Detachments, of:
(i) Royal Engineers.
(ii) Army Hospitals Corps.
(iii) Commissariat and Transport.
(iv) Ordnance.


Alexandra Mounted Rifles.
Baker's Horse.
Bettington's Horse.
Border Horse.
Buffalo Border Guard.
Colonial Commissariat.
Dunn's Scouts.
Durban Mounted Rifles.
Ferreira's Horse.
Frontier Light Horse.
Isipingo Mounted Rifles.
Kaffrarian Rifles.
Lonsdale's Horse.
Natal Carbineers.
Natal Horse.
Natal Hussars.
Natal Light Horse.
Natal Mounted Police.
Natal Native Contingent (5 Battalions)
Natal Native Horse.
Natal Native Pioneers.
Newcastle Mounted Rifles.
Stanger Mounted Rifles.
Transvaal Rangers (Raaff's)
Uys' Burghers.
Victoria Mounted Rifles.
Weenen Yeomanry.

B. Units which earned the medal, but not the bar
Carbutt's Border Rangers.
Durban Mounted Reserve.
Durban Volunteer Artillery.
Pietermaritzburg Rifles.
Royal Durban Rifles.
Southey's Rangers.

by Capt F.K. Mitchell, JCD, SAMC
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PostSubject: medal roll book.   Sun Sep 13, 2009 7:44 am

hi sas 1.
Not sure if you meant to list the colonial units which fought only against the zulus with the 1879 clasp.
There are other units entitled to the 1879 clasp which arent listed in your post, according to the STH AFRICAN
cheers 90th.

also the 2 / 4th regt ( The kings own royal regt)
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PostSubject: Re: General Information   Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:07 am

Would appricate it. If you good add them.
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Posts : 9621
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 62
Location : Melbourne, Australia

PostSubject: colonial units medal yearbook   Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:40 pm

hi sas1,
I just spent an hour going through the medal roll book , finished the post and then somehow lost the BLOODY thing !!.
Here i go again. the following units you listed are not in the medal roll book. they may be under another name.
Colonial Commissariat , Dunns Scouts , Uys Burghers. The following unit wasnt awarded 1879 clasps ,Durban Mtd Rifles.
The following units with the number of 1879 clasps awarded in brackets , that were in your posting of a minor amount.
Isipingo Rifles ( 1) , Kaffrarian Rifles ( 6), Natal Native Pioneers ( 11). There are to many to list which were awarded
the 1879 clasp under the amount of 20 issued , the following are the units with over 20 , 1879 clasps awarded.
Alexandra Mtd Rifles , should read , Alexandria Mtd Rifles ( 29), Cape Mtd Rifleman ( 52), 1ST Cape Mtd Yeomanry ( 282 ).
2ND Cape Mtd Yeomanry ( 287), 3RD Cape Mtd Yeomanry ( 189 ), Fort Beaufort Burghers ( 33 ), Herschels Mtd Vltrs (59).
Herschels Native Cont ( 1031 ), Kimberley Rangers ( 89), Lydenburg Rifles ( 102 ), Queenstown Vltr Rifle Corps ( 33 ),
Shepstones Native Horse (89), Stockenstroom Vltr Rifles (20), Transvaal Artillery ( 22 ), Transvaal Mtd Rifles (158)
Weemen Yeomanry ( 19 ), hope this helps.
cheers 90th.
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