South Africa Medal (1854)
|South Africa Medal (1854)|
|Awarded by the Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Type||Military Campaign medal|
|Awarded for||Campaign service|
|Campaign||1834–6 First Kaffir War
1846–7 Second Kaffir War
1850–3 Third Kaffir War
|Status||Discontinued in 1880|
|Order of wear|
|Next (higher)||Waterloo Medal|
|Next (lower)||Ghuznee Medal|
|Related||South Africa Medal (1880)|
The South Africa Medal (1854) is a campaign medal that was instituted in 1854, for award to officers and men of the Royal Navy and British Army who served in the Cape Colony during the Xhosa Wars between 1834 and 1853.
In 1854 Queen Victoria instituted the South Africa Medal for award to members of the Royal Navy and British Army who had served in any one of the three South African Xhosa Wars of 1834–36, 1846–47 or 1850–53 on the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony.
The South Africa Medal (1854) was awarded to participants in three campaigns in the eastern Cape Colony:
- The 1834–36 First Kaffir War or Sixth Frontier War.
- The 1846–47 Second Kaffir War or Seventh Frontier War.
- The 1850–53 Third Kaffir War or Eighth Frontier War.
No clasps were awarded, therefore it is not possible to determine which of the wars any particular medal was awarded for without reference to the appropriate medal rolls.
The 1834–36 campaign began with a response to a Xhosa cattle raid when, on 11 December 1834, a Cape Government Commando party killed a chief of high rank. This incensed the Xhosa and an army of 10,000 men swept across the frontier into the Cape Colony, pillaged and burned homesteads and killed all who resisted. In response, Boer commandos under Piet Retief, Burgher and Khoikhoi commandos and British Imperial troops that arrived via Algoa Bay launched a retaliatory campaign.
In 1851 the situation was bad enough to necessitate reinforcements, which became famous because of the troopship HMS Birkenhead which, on 26 February 1852, struck a rock off what is now Gansbaai in the Western Cape while transporting troops to Algoa Bay. The ship sank within 20 minutes and, since there were not enough serviceable lifeboats for all the passengers, the soldiers aboard stood fast rather than escape, so as to allow the women and children to reach the lifeboats in safety. This event gave rise to the "women and children first" protocol, also known as the Birkenhead Drill, and the concept of "the captain goes down with the ship".
South African order of precedence
Until 5 April 1952 the position of the South Africa Medal (1854) in the official order of precedence was prescribed by the British Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. With effect from 6 April 1952 these awards continued to be worn in the same order of precedence but, with the exception of the Victoria Cross, took precedence after all South African orders, decorations and medals awarded to South Africans on or after that date.
The medal was struck in silver and is a disk, 36 millimetres in diameter, with a swivelling suspender. Designed by William Wyon and L.C. Wyon, the dies for the medal were engraved by Leonard Charles Wyon.
The medal's obverse displays the diademed head of Queen Victoria, facing left. The medal is inscribed "VICTORIA" at left and "REGINA" at right around the perimeter.
The reverse shows a crouching lion on a plinth in front of a protea bush with a single flower. The medal is inscribed "SOUTH AFRICA" around the top perimeter and has the year "1853" in the exergue, the space beneath the main design.
The ribbon is 32 millimetres wide, with a 2½ millimetres wide golden yellow band, a 4 millimetres wide blue band, a 3 millimetres wide golden yellow band and a 1 millimetre wide blue band, repeated in reverse order and separated by an 11 millimetres wide golden yellow band.
Army Order No. 103 of August 1880 instituted a new South Africa Medal. While it made no mention of any change in the design of the 1854 medal, the year "1853" was replaced in the new medal's reverse exergue by a military trophy consisting of a Zulu ox-hide shield and four crossed assegais. The obverse of the new medal and the ribbon was identical to those of the 1854 medal.
- Mackay, J and Mussel, J (eds) – Medals Yearbook – 2006, (2005), Token Publishing.
- Joslin, Litherland, and Simpkin (eds), British Battles and Medals, (1988), Spink.
- The Zulu War Medals on The South African Military History Society website
- The Fitzwilliam Museum Collection – South Africa (1853) Medal, awarded to Pvt. Thomas F. Fleming, 1854 Retrieved 2015-03-09
- Government Notice no. 1982 of 1 October 1954 – Order of Precedence of Orders, Decorations and Medals, published in the Government Gazette of 1 October 1954.
- The London Gazette: . 17 March 2003.
- Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005, OCLC 72827981