9 July 2009

Queen's South Africa Medal (QSA)


Second Boer War 1899-1902. Awarded to military personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Marines who served during the Second Boer War in South Africa between 11th October 1899 and 31st May 1902. The medal was also awarded to members of colonial forces who took part in the conflict, “non-enlisted men of whatever nationality who drew military pay”, and war correspondents. Additionally, the QSA without bar was awarded to troops guarding Boer prisoners of war on the island of St Helena.

The majority of the medals were silver, although bronze versions were issued to some Indian troops and the “non-enlisted men” above.

36mm in diameter. The obverse portrays the veiled head of Queen Victoria facing left, and the legend, VICTORIA REGINA ET IMPERATRIX (which translates as VICTORIA, QUEEN AND EMPRESS). The reverse depicts Britannia, her trident and shield on the ground behind her, holding a standard in her left hand and offering a wreath with her right. A column of soldiers advances towards and past her whilst at her back, battleships can be seen offshore. The words SOUTH AFRICA are written above.

So confident were the authorities that the campaign against the Boers would be a swift one, that the QSA was struck with the dates 1899-1900 which appeared at approximately the 3 o’clock position on the medal, above the heads of the advancing column. When it was realised that the war was going to last beyond 1900, the dates were machined off, but not before around 50 had been issued. Subsequent releases of the medal were issued without the dates and with Britannia’s wreath pointing to the letter F in AFRICA and not the letter R where it had pointed on the first, dated version of the medal. Dated versions of the QSA are rare. Undated versions and versions of the medal with “ghosting” or “ghosted dates” are common.

Orange centre (12mm width) and then, on either side, dark blue (5mm width) and red (5mm width) width.

Some medals were impressed in sand serif capitals around the edge, whilst others were engraved in sloping serif capitals and lower case.

Twenty six clasps were issued. Five of these clasps detailed South African states. Two detailed dates and 19 detailed actions or engagements. It is common to find multiple clasps issued to army personnel but the majority of QSAs issued to Royal Navy personnel were issued “bare=arsed”, only around 1500 issued with one clasp and 700 issued with two clasps.

The five South African state clasps are:
Cape Colony, Natal, Rhodesia, Transvaal, Orange Free State. (Note, a man could qualify for either the Cape Colony clasp or the Natal clasp, but not both).

The two date clasps are:
South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. These were awarded to troops who served between 1st January 1901 and 31st December 1901 inclusive and/or between 1st January 1902 and 31st May 1902 inclusive who were not entitled to receive the King’s South Africa Medal.

The 19 battle clasps (in alphabetical order) are:
Belfast, Belmont, Defence of Kimberley, Defence of Ladysmith, Defence of Mafeking, Diamond Hill, Driefontein, Elandslaagte, Johannesburg, Laing’s Nek, Modder River, Paardeberg, Relief of Kimberley, Relief of Ladysmith, Relief of Mafeking, Talana, Tugela Heights, Wepener, Wittebergen.

Alexander Burns and George A J Welch, commemorated on this site, both served during the Second Boer War and received the QSA and KSA.

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