Queen's South Africa Medal

Queen's South Africa Medal
Awarded by the Monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India
Country United Kingdom
Type Military Campaign medal
Eligibility British and Colonial forces
Awarded for Campaign service
Campaign Second Boer War
Clasps 26
Established 1900
Total awarded Approximately 178,000
Order of wear
Next (higher) East and Central Africa Medal
Next (lower) Queen's Mediterranean Medal
Related King's South Africa Medal
Kimberley Star
Cape Copper Company Medal for the Defence of O'okiep

Ribbon bar

The Queen's South Africa Medal is a British campaign medal which was awarded to British and Colonial military personnel, civilians employed in official capacity and war correspondents who served in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Altogether twenty-six clasps were awarded to recipients of the Queen's South Africa Medal, to indicate particular actions and campaigns of the Second Boer War.[1]


The Queen's South Africa Medal was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1900, for award to military personnel, civilian officials and war correspondents who served in South Africa during the Second Boer War from 11 October 1899 to 31 May 1902.[1]

Three versions of the medal are known. Since the war was initially expected to be of short duration and to reach its conclusion in 1900, the first medals were struck with the years "1899" and "1900" on the reverse. Approximately fifty of these medals were awarded before it became evident that the war was going to drag on much longer. The rest of the dated medals which had already been minted, therefore had these dates machined off. The third version was minted with an altered reverse and without the years.[1]

The Second Boer War

Poor logistics and disease, combined with having to fight against a disciplined and capable enemy of excellent horsemen and marksmen who perfected guerrilla warfare, made this a hard-won medal. In addition to men often having to go without basics such as food and water, enteric fever killed several thousand and was a constant drain on manpower. The published casualty rolls run to over 50,000 names, while studies of contemporary publications and reports put the actual figure for all casualties at 97,000.[1]

This war is notorious for the British scorched earth policy, which was implemented when it became clear that the guerrilla tactics practiced by the Boer forces could not be overcome by conventional means. In 1901, Emily Hobhouse reported on the genocide in the 45 British concentration camps for Boer women, children and elderly in which, over an 18-month period, 26,370 people would die, 24,000 of them boys and girls under 16. Exact mortality figures in the 64 concentration camps for black displaced farm workers and their families are not known, but may have been even worse.[2][3][4]

Award criteria

The medal

The Queen's South Africa Medal was awarded to all British forces who served in South Africa from 11 October 1899 up to the end of the war on 31 May 1902. Units from the British Army, Royal Navy, colonial forces from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Cape of Good Hope, the Colony of Natal and "hensoppers" (joiners and collaborators, literally "hands-uppers") from the South African Republic and Orange Free State, civilians employed in official capacity, war correspondents, and non-enlisted men of whatever nationality who drew military pay, qualified for the award of the medal. This included those such as the New Zealand 10th Contingent, who arrived in Durban in May 1902, but did not fight.[1]

Approximately 178,000 medals were awarded. The medal, without a clasp, was also awarded to troops who guarded Boer prisoners at the prisoner of war camp on the island of Saint Helena. Troops on the Mediterranean islands, however, were awarded the Queen's Mediterranean Medal, while some personnel on troopships were awarded the Transport Medal.[1]


Altogether twenty-six clasps were awarded to recipients of the Queen's South Africa Medal, to indicate each action and campaign of the Second Boer War. They were authorised in Army Order 94, April 1902, as amended. The official order of wear of all 26 clasps is according to the starting dates of the applicable battle or campaign and, in the case of the four clasps with the same starting dates, also according to the duration of the campaign. As they would appear on a ribbon and read from the suspender upwards, their order of wear is as follows, with the clasps at the bottom of the list appearing closest to the suspender and their applicable starting dates shown in brackets:[5][6]

Five clasps in correct order of wear
Five clasps in correct order of wear
Three clasps, not in correct order of wear
Six clasps, not in correct order of wear

Clasps were often presented to recipients loose with the medal, or separately at a later date. As a result, such clasps were often lost over time or attached in the wrong order of wear, since the recipients either knew no better or did not care. Examples of clasps affixed in correct and incorrect orders of wear are shown alongside.[6]

Five unofficial clasps are known to exist, as follows:[5]

The official clasps fall into three groups, State, Date and Battle clasps. The award criteria for each clasp were as follows:[1][5]

State clasps

A State clasp was awarded for service within that state, when no Battle clasp was awarded to the recipient for a specific action within the same state. A Queen's South Africa Medal could therefore not carry both a State clasp and a Battle clasp for actions within the same state. The same rule applied to the "RHODESIA" clasp, which was not awarded along with the "RELIEF OF MAFEKING" clasp. The "CAPE COLONY" and "NATAL" clasps were not awarded together, with the exception of Private Wingell, a Royal Marine attached to the Army.[1][5][7]

Date clasps

The two date clasps are normally worn with the King's South Africa Medal, but are worn with the Queen's South Africa Medal when the recipient was ineligible for the award of the King's South Africa Medal, but had qualified for one or both of the clasps.[1][5][8]

Battle clasps

Recipients could not be awarded both the "DEFENCE OF" and "RELIEF OF" clasps for Mafeking, Kimberley or Ladysmith. This list of clasps is sorted alphabetically and not in order of wear.[1][5]

Order of wear

Campaign medals and stars are not listed by name in the order of wear prescribed by the British Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, but are all grouped together as taking precedence after the Queen's Medal for Chiefs and before the Polar Medals, in order of the date of the campaign for which awarded.[9]

In the order of wear of British campaign medals, the Queen's South Africa Medal takes precedence after the East and Central Africa Medal and before the Queen's Mediterranean Medal.[9]

The British order of precedence of the Second Boer War campaign medals is as follows:[9]

South Africa

Even though the Republican awards for the Second Boer War, the Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst and the two campaign awards, the Medalje voor de Anglo-Boere Oorlog and the Lint voor Verwonding, were instituted on behalf of King George V by His Royal Highness, the Governor General of the Union of South Africa, the Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst is not listed in the British order of wear and the two campaign awards would therefore most likely also have been excluded.[9]

The South African order of precedence of the Second Boer War campaign medals, in order of the date of the campaign for which awarded, is as follows:[10]

With effect from 6 April 1952, when a new South African set of decorations and medals was instituted to replace the British awards used to date, the older British decorations and medals applicable to South Africa 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. Of the official British campaign medals which were applicable to South Africans, the Queen's South Africa Medal takes precedence as shown.[9][10][11]


The Queen's South Africa Medal is a silver or bronze disk, 38 millimetres (1.5 inches) in diameter. The bronze medal was awarded to some Indian troops and non-enlisted men of whatever nationality who drew military pay, although some silver medals were awarded to native troops. The suspender is attached to the medal with a claw mount and a pin through the upper edge of the medal.[1][5]


The obverse shows a crowned and veiled effigy of Queen Victoria, facing left, with the legend "VICTORIA REGINA ET IMPERATRIX" around the upper perimeter.[1][5]

Version 2, with the ghost years "1899" and "1900"

The reverse shows Britannia holding the Union Flag in her left hand and a laurel wreath in her right hand. In the right background are troops marching inland from the coast. In the left background are two men-of-war, with Neptune's Trident and Britannia's shield on the ground in the foreground. Around the top perimeter are the words "SOUTH AFRICA". Three types of reverse exist.[1][5]


The clasps were attached to the suspender and to each other in roller chain fashion with rivets. Clasps were often issued to an eligible recipient after the medal, with the result that clasps were frequently attached with unofficial rivets, or worn loose on the ribbon if the recipient didn't bother to have them attached.[1]


The ribbon is 32 millimetres wide, with a 7 millimetres wide red band and a 4 millimetres wide dark blue band, repeated in reverse order and separated by a 10 millimetres wide orange band.


Upon the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward VII on 22 January 1901, the medal was replaced by the King's South Africa Medal, although the Queen's South Africa Medal continued to be awarded until the end of the war. Both medals could be awarded to those who served during 1901 and 1902, but the requirements for the new medal had the result that few were awarded.[1]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 The Queen's South Africa Medal 1899 - 1902 (Retrieved 2015-03-13)
  2. Phillips, Lisle March (1901). With Rimington in the Boer War. London: Edward Arnold.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  4. "RootsWeb: SOUTH-AFRICA-L Re: Boer War Records". Archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com. 1999-01-22. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 AngloBoerWar.com - Queen's South Africa Medal (Retrieved 2015-03-13)
  6. 1 2 British Commonweath War and Campaign Medals awarded to New Zealanders - The Queen's South Africa Medal Archived 8 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (Retrieved 2015-03-13)
  7. Campaign Medals of the British Army 1815-1972 by Robert W. Gould (1972, Arms and Armour Press, London) ISBN 0-85368-515-0
  8. G.R. Duxbury (June 1972). "Queen's South Africa Medal with 10 Bars". Military History Journal. The South African Military History Society. 2 (3). (Retrieved 2015-03-13)
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. p. 3352. 17 March 2003.
  10. 1 2 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.
  11. Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005, OCLC 72827981
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