27 October 2011

South Africa Medal 1834-1853

By General Order No 634 on the 22nd November 1854.

Awarded to survivors of the African frontier wars of 1834-5, 1846-7 and 1850-3. This was the first medal specially struck for military service in Africa which was available to all ranks.

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; in the exergue, the date 1853.

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 Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-18910, William's eldest son, 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.

Indented in roman capitals, as seen on the Military General Service Medal.

None issued.

The medal is commonly called the Kaffir Wars medal. Royal Mint records show that 10,558 medals were struck between 24th April 1855 and 31st March 1862; this number including two patterns presented to Queen Victoria, those issued to deserters and later cancelled, replacements, duplicates etc. The actual number of medals awarded is, according to British Battles and Medals, 8,540.

The obverse photograph is courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb; the reverse courtesy of Neate Auctions. British Battles and Medals has been invaluable in putting together the information.

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