14 September 2009

South Africa Medal 1877-1879


Awarded for operations against various African tribes between September 1877 and December 1879.

Silver, 36mm diameter, with an ornamental scroll swivelling suspension. The obverse portrays the diademed head of Queen Victoria and the legend VICTORIA REGINA. The reverse depicts the lion of South Africa crouching in front of a protea bush. Above are the words SOUTH AFRICA; below the lion a Zulu shield and crossed spears.

As with the Indian Mutiny Medal, the South Africa Medal design is another father/son collaboration. The obverse of the medal was designed by William Wyon (1795-1851) who was the official chief engraver of the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death. (See also the Army of India Medal). The reverse was designed by his eldest son, Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-1891) who became Second Engraver at the Royal Mint in 1844 and who succeeded his father as Modeler and Engraver in 1851.

Watered, orange-yellow with two narrow and two wide stripes in dark blue.

Engraved capital letters.

Seven clasps were awarded and these are listed below. The medal could also be issued without a clasp (also below). After a good deal of deliberation on the part of the War Office, and after three Royal Warrants had been issued it was decided to issue only one clasp per medal, that clasp representing the year, or number of years, that the recipient had been employed against an enemy.

1. 1877
The second least common of the clasps with approximately 150 awarded.

2. 1877-8
Approximately 5,820 awarded.

3. 1877-8-9
Approximately 3,520 awarded.

4. 1877-9
The rarest of all the clasps. Approximately eight awarded.

5. 1878
Approximately 2,000 awarded.

6. 1878-9
Approximately 1,180 awarded.

7. 1879
Approximately 18,330 awarded.

Men entitled to any of the above clasps who were already in possession of the earlier South Africa 1853 medal were supposed to declare this to the authorities so that the appropriate clasp from the 1877-79 campaign could be added to their earlier medal.

In all, 36,600 medals were struck, 5,600 of these issued without a clasp to men who took part in the Zulu operations between 11th January and 1st September 1879 but who did not cross into Zululand from Natal.

The operations for which the above bars were awarded were as follows:

1. Operations against the Gcalekas and the Gaikas (1877-78).

2. Operations against the Griquas in 1878.

3. Operations against Sekukuni in 1878 and 1879.

4. Operations against Moirosi in 1879.

5. The Zulu War of 1879.

The medal is also referred to as the Zulu War Medal and the South Africa General Service Medal.

The photograph is taken from Dix Noonan's September 2009 auction catalogue whilst British Battles and Medals has been invaluable in putting together the information.

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