A second article by Henk Loots about the Boer medals. Some of the information can be found in his original article HERE, but there is new information that makes this article a worthwhile read, including some rare documents for the wound ribbon.
The first shot of the Anglo Boer War was fired at
Kraaipan near Mafeking on 12 October 1899, and the war ended with the
signing of the Peace Treaty at Vereeniging on 31 May 1902. During
this period more than 90,000 men, ranging from boys hardly into their
teens to old men in their seventies and eighties, as well as small
number of nurses, served on the Boer side. Some 35,000 of these were
taken prisoner of war, many thousands surrendered voluntarily (the
so-called “hensoppers” and “joiners”) and more than 7,000
were killed in action or died, either on service or in captivity. At
the end of the war approximately 21,000 “bitter-einders” finally
laid down arms. In comparison: on British side almost 450,000 men
took part in the war, with participants receiving medals from as
early as February 1901 (QSA’s presented to members of Strathcona’s
Horse returning to Canada)
Boer Republics never had any official awards for gallantry or
Notices, however, did appear in the ZAR
Government Gazette in May 1900 about an
intended post-war bravery award for Boer soldiers: for obvious
reasons the issue of this decoration, as well as that of an
associated service medal, never materialised.
The first move to institute awards to Boer
Officers and Burghers was made in 1913 by Colonel Skinner, the
Commandant of the Military School at Bloemfontein. He noticed that
ex-Republican Officers, who attended a course, were without medal
ribbons, while their fellow officers who had served on the British
side were well beribboned. He consequently suggested to Defence Head
Quarters that this discrepancy should be addressed, but due to the
outbreak of the First World War, nothing was done until 1920.
Government Gazette of 21 December 1920 (Notice 2307) regulations were
published for the award of a Decoration for Devoted Service 1899-1902
(Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst or DTD),
a Medal (Anglo Boere Oorlog Medalje or ABO)
and a Wound Riband (Lint voor Wonden or LvW).
The gazetted notice restricted the awards to South African citizens
who were serving in the Union Defence Forces or
were liable so to serve if called up under
the provisions of the S.A. Defence Act and
who did true and faithful military service during the Anglo Boer War
and actually served
with the Republican forces in the field between 11 October 1899 and
31 May 1902. The published regulations, per sé, excluded many men
who had fought on the Boer side, e.g. the members of the various
foreign units like the Irish Brigade, Hollander Corps, etc. and
potentially also the Natal and Cape rebels. In later years these
regulations were less stringently enforced and eventually the
accepted qualification for the award of the medal was proof that the
applicant had fought against the British without surrendering or
taking either parole or the oath of allegiance prior to 31 May 1902.
This resulted in medal issues to those previously excluded men and a
number of medals were eventually awarded to members of the various
foreign units who fought on the Boer side. At least 90 went to
members of the Hollander corps, some 40 odd to members of the
Scandinavian corps, more than 20 to the German Commando, 10 to the
Foreign Legion under Gen. de Villebois-Mareuil and 5 to the Irish
Brigade. Some of these (especially Hollanders) served in specific
commandos such as the Ermelo Commando, Pretoria commando, etc., and
their medals are noted as being issued off these units.
1A service medal was privately issued in 1899 by the
Commanding Officer of the Johannesburg Vrijwilliger (Volunteer)
Corps. There were bars for the Jameson Inval (Raid)
(1895-96) and the Swaziland Expeditie (1898)
Above: A group to C.J. Lourens from Wakkerstroom, including his Wound Ribbon.
The Decoration and Medal are both in silver
(diameter 1.45 inches). There is no obverse or reverse in the
accepted sense of the word. On the one side is the Coat of Arms of
the ZA Republic and on the other side that of the Orange Free State.
The Decoration has the legend ‘Voor Trouwe Dienst’ (For
Devoted Services) and the Medal has the legend ‘Anglo Boere
Oorlog’. The dates ‘1899-1902’ appear on both. These medals are
often found with the suspender claw flattened to varying degrees: the
SA Mint on occasion used rather crude methods to “fix” the pin!
ribbons have the combined colours of the two former Republics in
various widths and combinations. These colours were gazetted as red,
green, white, blue and orange,
but on the actual ribbons the orange comes over as yellow.
The rank, initials and name of the recipient are impressed in block
capitals on the edge of the medal. The Wound Riband has no medal
accompanying it but was issued with a printed certificate, named by
hand with rank and name of the recipient The initial version was a
plain black-and-white certificate, which also included the recipients
file number: the more readily found type with a full colour
reproduction of the Riband, but without file number, soon superseded
The DTD took precedence
in wearing (it also officially ranked above the British DSO). It was
followed by the ABO, with the LvW last.
DTD’s were gazetted in Govt. Notice 918 of the 14 June 1921 and the
first ABO medal was issued on the 28 October 1921. The
original closing date for applications (30 June 1921) was not adhered
to. The award of the DTD was discontinued on 31
December 1946 and the last decoration was dispatched on 22 January
1947 to Kaptein M.C. Avis of General Smuts’ Commando: I confirmed
this previously unrecorded award after a chance meeting with the
grandson of Captain Avis! As far as can be traced the last issue of
the Wound Riband was made on 3 November 1949 and a final batch of 12
Anglo Boere Oorlog medals was issued in 19821.
Included in this lot was an ABO that was formally presented at a
special ceremony on 24 January 1983 to the 94 year old Burger H C
Lubbe who joined the Fauresmith Commando in 1901 at the age of 12.
A renamed ABO medal was specially issued in 1988 to the descendants
of Lt Thilo von Trotha who had served in the German Corps on the
Above: A wound ribbon document to J.J. Meyer
A relatively small
percentage of those who had served on Boer side received the medal or
decoration. This was mainly due to the period of almost 20 years that
had elapsed between the end of the Boer War and the institution of
the awards and the fact that the award(s) had to be applied for by
the Officer/Burgher concerned, or by his next-of-kin, if deceased.
Some 14,600 ABO applications were received of which approximately
13,800 were awarded. 662 Decorations and 1,060 Wound Riband
Certificates were also issued.
Claimants, which could
include the direct descendants of a deceased Officer/Burger, had to
submit official application forms: “Vorm A” for a DTD, “Vorm B”
for the ABO medal and “Vorm C” for the LvW. Details had to be
supplied of actions fought, commandos/units served in with names of
commanding officers, dates and places taken PoW or wounded, etc.
Although many of the “Vorm A” applications only had a general
recommendation such as “Loyal and Devoted Services”, a fair
amount had details of specific acts of bravery such as “Bringing in
a wounded man under heavy fire at the attack on Fort Itala”. An
Advisory Board considered each application and applicants were often
asked for further information or even questioned in person. Details
of each application were entered in a central Register and Card
Index, listing one unit per applicant (seemingly chosen at random if
the applicant served in more than one unit) as well as the date of
issue of the award. Fortunately, virtually all of these application
forms have survived.
the late Don Forsyth published a Roll, extracted from the Register,
listing all recipients of the ABO together with their “official”
units, and also identifying recipients of the DTD and/or LvW.1
This made it relatively easy to “pin-point” the recipient of a
particular ABO, have the relevant application form drawn and thus
trace the recipient’s service history.
However, it was still impossible to differentiate,
for instance, between a Burger Jacobus Frederick Smith who served in
Gen. De la Rey’s Commando and Burger Josia Francois Smith who
served in the Heidelberg Commando since both medals were impressed
BURGER J.F. SMITH. Some “look-alike” medals can, however, be
positively identified by correlating the type of suspender as well as
the type and size of lettering with the date of issue.
Medals issued after 1975 do not feature in the Forsyth Roll. The
relevant application forms have unfortunately been filed in an
Above: A later variation of the Certificate for the wound ribbon
Type A: Medals with straight non-swivelling suspenders
as used on the British War Medal (1914-1918) and with naming in
impressed large upper case (often unevenly positioned), as on the
South African issue of the BWM.
Type B: Medals
with the WWI non-swivelling suspenders as above but with a thinner
and smaller, more even type of impressed upper case naming as found
on the South African WWII Africa Service Medal.
Type C: Medals with the smaller and thinner type of
naming and straight non-swivelling suspenders as used for the Africa
Type A is applicable to all medals issued from
1921 up to October 1937. Type B medals were issued from October 1937
to February 1942.
medals were issued from February 1942 right up to the last issue in
1982. Under type C there are also variations where a square dot is
found after the initials and cases where it is a round dot. An
interesting sub-variety also occurs on at least one batch in 1942-43
where the figure ‘6’
was used instead of the letter ‘G’
of BURGER and, in at least one instance, even as the ‘S’
This method of
classification obviously does not solve all uncertainties but can be
applied in cases where a single example of a multiple issue with the
same surname and initials falls into one of the above three
categories. If, for instance, the record cards and registers indicate
that three medals to J.J. Smit were issued between 1920 and 1930
there is no way of identifying the individual ones but if a fourth
one was issued in 1944 it would be possible to isolate that
particular J.J. Smit.
All Type C discs have
two 5mm. wide notches filed on both sides at the suspension hole.
Please use the correct (ASM) suspender when repairing a dismounted
medal of this type!
Boer War Medals issued to members
of the Republican Forces are less well known than their British
counterparts, the QSA and KSA. However, due to the information on the
individual application forms that had to be submitted, they are
eminently researchable and in my collection these medals have a very
special place. In the majority of cases they are the only memorials
to men (and women) of all ages who had suffered hardships and
inconvenience and faced great danger for what they believed was a
just cause, namely the independence of the ZAR and the Orange Free