Saturday 1 June 2024

The Ten Clasp QSA – Myth or Reality?

The South African National War Museum (now known as Ditsong National Museum of Military History) has or had a QSA with ten clasps named to Trpr Moses Wilson, Damant’s Horse. I proved it was not a valid ten clasp QSA, the two date clasps belonged on a King’s South Africa medal. See The ten-clasp QSA mystery resolved (Military History Journal (South African Military History Society) vol 125 No 5 June 2012). The Special Note appended to the article by the editor immediately prior to publication is in fact irrelevant to the matter. No other ten clasp QSAs are known to exist.

Is it possible though? Strictly speaking the answer is “Yes”. Eight and even nine clasp QSAs are known, you can see how many and to whom by using the query “Number of clasps awarded on a QSA” in the Research Centre on The Register of The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. The award of clasps was subject to rules specified for each clasp, these can be seen here.

Most of the known eight and nine clasp QSAs have the following battle clasps; Belmont, Modder River, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen and Relief of Kimberley. This combination represents the fighting and hard slog on the Western Front from November 1899, relief of Kimberley and the capture of the Boer capitals, ending with the second mass surrender of Boers in the Wittebergen in July 1900.

The clasp issue rules allow for a South Africa 1902 clasp on the QSA if the recipient served less than the 18 months overall to qualify for a KSA. But, most eight or nine clasp men either left the war in 1900 or 1901 or earned the KSA with over 18 months service. There are only nine months between the qualification dates for the first clasp, Belmont, November 1899, and the last clasp, Belfast August 1900, which gives plenty of time to earn South Africa 1901 take a break then serve again in 1902 to earn a South Africa 1902 clasp on the QSA. No examples have been found of a valid ten clasp QSA.

Total Clasps

Total known

South Africa 1901 clasp

South Africa 1902 clasp

Both date clasps

KSA Medal













 Of the 73 KSA medals issued to recipients of an eight clasp QSA three earned their KSAs as civilian conductors with the Army Service Corps and were thus, correctly, not issued clasps to the KSA. One had a no bar KSA, the other two single bar KSAs with South Africa 1901 clasp. The latter earned their South Africa 1901 clasps by virtue of being discharged from Rimington’s Guides in 1901.

There were only five battle clasps awarded for the Natal campaign; Talana, Elandslaagte, Defence of Ladysmith, Relief of Ladysmith, Tugela Heights and Laing’s Nek. A ten clasp QSA for a participant in this campaign would have to combine with battle clasps from the Western Front. As both fronts were fought simultaneously it is scarce to see QSAs with clasps for both fronts. Most are Relief of Ladysmith paired with Relief of Mafeking but, they don’t figure  in high clasp combination QSAs. The majority of this double relief combination are five clasps: RoM,OFS,T,TH,RoL. Belfast is the most likely non-Natal clasp in combination with the Relief of Ladysmith clasps as that battle in August 1900 marked the union of Buller’s Natal Field Force with Lord Robert’s South African Field Force.

A few multi-front clasp combinations are known to cavalry soldiers, in what capacity they served on either front or why they switched it is not known. They would have had to travel at some speed to meet the qualifying dates for the clasps. Captain FR Lawrence, 14th Hussars, and Pte 3899 JC Parker, 14th Hussars (probably officer’s servant) earned eight clasps each; J,DH,Bf,CC,OFS,TH,RoL,SA01,SA02. Pte 4331 V Botting, 9th Lancers, managed the Natal clasp in his Western Front eight clasp combination; B,MR,J,DH,Bf,RoK,OFS,N,SA01. The most common Western Front and Natal combination is Relief of Ladysmith and Relief of Mafeking,

In summary, the ten clasp QSA is technically possible but so far no valid issue of such a medal has been found.

Friday 15 March 2024

Spion Kop - who was on the hill?

This aim of this article is to enable medal collectors to make an informed choice when purchasing a medal to one who was there.

Ask “the man in the street” to name a battle or word associated with the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 and they will probably answer ‘Spion Kop’ or ‘the Kop’. The battle of Spion Kop (24th January, 1900) holds similar familiarity amongst medal collectors. The reason why Spion Kop is so well known is because it was a very bloody battle for the British, it dominated the news of the day and the word ‘kop’ passed into the British language to describe a steeply banked terrace at football grounds – most notably at Anfield the home of Liverpool FC. The word ‘kop’ survives today in its footballing context and the battle continues to attract attention as one of those defeats the British Army finds itself saddled with.

Spion Kop has been the subject of a number of books and articles written in the last 110 years. The most recent published in October 2023 (right).  Generally the authors concentrate on two aspects; the casualties, from a high level number to detailed lists for a unit, and descriptions of what took place in that “acre of massacre”. The battle of Spion kop has not been researched from the point of view of the medal collector. An important fact the medal collector needs to know is if the ‘man behind the medal’ was actually present at a certain battle. The chance to buy a medal to a man taking part in a famous battle of the British Army is a must for most (if not all) medal collectors. Unlike many famous battles Spion Kop does not have a medal or clasp dedicated to it.

Spion Kop is covered by the 'Relief of Ladysmith' clasp that covers 14 weeks of fighting across a wide geographical area: "
All troops in Natal north of and including Estcourt between 15th December, 1899, and 28th February, 1900, both dates inclusive.". Contemporary accounts and the casualty rolls also refer to "Spion Kop" not just as a battle but a series of battles that culminated in the battle on Spion Kop on January 24th, 1900. The Natal Field Force casualty roll uses Spion Kop for some casualties of the preceeding battles of Tabanyama (20th January),  Venter's Spruit (23rd January) and a gunner  on Three Tree Hill (20th January). This information can be used uncritically by dealers and collectors giving the false impression the soldier was on that "acre of massacre".

The table shows shows those troops actually enagaged on the summit of Spion Kop with their estimated strength, percentage of a complete unit involved and percentage casualties suffered. The exact number of troops involved is difficult to state. Davidson states there were 1,700 men in the first wave (p.160) and a further 1,900 reinforcements (p.201) making a total of 3,600 on the hill. This differs from my figure below of 4,248, highlighting the diffiuclty of this exercise. Apart from Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry contemporary sources simply state numbers of companies of a unit that were involved. On campaign company strength varied due to deaths, sickness and sending men to be signallers or servants and grooms to Staff officers. Company strength is assumed to be 100 men. The percentage attempts to show how much of a unit was involved in the battle.

Numbers of companies sent into battle with approximate strength

Casualty %age

Army Medical Corps, Royal





Engineers, Royal, 17th company

half company




Imperial Light Infantry

8 companies




Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd bn

8 companies




Lancaster Regiment, Royal, 2nd bn

6 companies




Middlesex Regiment

8 companies




Scottish Rifles

8 companies




South Lancashire Regiment, 1st bn

2 companies




Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry










It is apparent most infantry regiments sent up a complete battalion. However, there is one piece of data that is missing so far; how many from each regiment earned the clasp 'Relief of Ladysmith', does the number approximate those on the hill or exceed it? Some regiments may have had access to reinforcements who still qualified for the 'Relief of Ladysmith' clasp. This will be a project for The Register as I compile the QSA medal rolls on a database.

Not every man on Spion Kop was there on 24th January. Early on the 25th Briton and Boer reconvened on the hill early in the morning to remove the wounded and bury the dead, the Boers took many of their dead away for burial in Pretoria. One British soldier was made a POW despite being a strecther bearer.

Pte 3541 H Adcock, 1st bn Leicestershire Rgt, was a stretcher bearer. The 1st bn Leicestershires were shut up in Ladysmith, re-called from the reserves Adcock was sent out and tagged onto an unknown unit. On his release from POW camp at Waterval on 6th June, 1900 he wrote to his worried parents as he had been posted as killed in a newspaper, "Just before daybreak on the 25th we were sent up the hill". They found a wounded man, placed him on stretcher, "when we heard a lot of shouting behind us. We looked round and saw lot of Boers. They made us put up our hands, and go to them." Having explained they were stretcher bearers the Boers "told us that they did not want us and told us to look after our wounded.". Tending to another wounded man, "...a Boer came up to me..."Where is your red cross?" I looked at my arm and, found I had lost it. I told him I had lost it, but he said; 'You will have to go with us'". (Leicester Chronicle 28 July 1900) Adcock was sent to Waterval Camp near Pretoria where he remained for over 5 months.

Sunday 31 December 2023

The Gurkhas and the War

The Second Anglo-Boer War involved every arm of the British Army except one: the Gurkhas. 

Gurkha regiments were first raised as part of the Honourable East India Company army in 1816 following the Anglo-Nepali war (1814-1816). They grew to become the Brigade of Gurkhas, a part of the (British) Indian Army, but maintained their distinct identity as they do today. The Indian Army was well represented in the war although employed in non-combatant roles. The West India Regiment guarded Boer POWs on St Helena.

However, six ghurka regiment officers and one ghurka NCO did serve in the war on attachment to other units. 

  • Cpt William Cotton French, 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles, served with the Refugee Camps Department.
  • Cpt Harry Townsend Fulton, 2nd (Prince of Wales Own) Gurkha Rifles (Sirmoor Rifles) attached 4th contingent New Zealand Mounted Rifles. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, his entry (with additional information) in The VC and DSO (O'Creagh and Humphris, The Standard Art Book Co, Ltd) reads:

Born 15 August 1869, sixth son of Lieutenant General John Fulton, Royal Artillery. He entered the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, from the Local Military Forces in New Zealand, 9 April 1892, becoming Lieutenant, Indian Staff Corps, 24 July 1894. He served on the North-West Frontier of India, 1897-98; Malakand; operations in Bajaur (Medal and clasp); in the Tirah Campaign, 1897-98 (clasp). He served in South Africa, 1899-1901, employed with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, taking part in operations in Rhodesia in May 1900; operations in the Transvaal, west of Pretoria, 1900; operations in Cape Colony, north of Orange River, 1900. He was severely wounded at Otto's Hoop 16th August, 1900; mentioned in Despatches [London Gazette, 10 September 1901]; received the Queen's Medal with three clasps, and was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [London Gazette, 27 September 1901]: "Harry Townsend Fulton, Lieutenant, Indian Staff Corps. In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa". The Insignia, Warrant, etc, were sent to the Commander-in-Chief in India, and presented by the OC in Chitral 22 March, 1902. Attended the Delhi Durbar in 1903. He was promoted to Captain 10 July 1901. He married in 1905, Ada Hermina, second daughter of John James Dixon.

Served WW1 as Brigadier-General 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Died of wounds 29-03-1918, buried Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No. 1, Doullens, France. Awarded CMG, 1914-15 Star trio, Croix de Guerre.

  • Havildar Bahadur Gurung, 2nd (PoW Own) Gurkha Rifles (Sirmoor Rifles), "arrived in Natal too late for clasps, i.e after June 1900. Awarded silver QSA and KSA medals. No indication what function he served in South Africa.
  • Brevet Major C de M Norie, 2nd (PoW Own) Gurkha Rifles (Sirmoor Rifles), lines of communications Cape Colony.
  • Ridgeway, Edward William Craufurd, 2nd (PoW Own) Gurkha Rifles (Sirmoor Rifles, attached 12th and 29th (Burma) Mounted Infantry. Son of Col EK Ridgeway VC, CB late 8th Gurkhas. Killed 1917 in Mesopotamia.
  • Brevet Major WI Ryder, 1st Gurkha Rifles, supply and transport officer northern districts, Cape Colony.
  • Cpt Gonville Warneford, 44th Gurkha Rifles attached 14th Mounted Infantry . From my own research Cpt Warneford did not have a decorated military career like Cpt Fulton but he had interesting, if short, life.

Gonville Warneford (his medal left) was born in 1871 in Limerick, Ireland to Cpt WJJ Warneford and his wife Mary. His father served in the Commissariat & Transport Corps, they had been stationed in Canada where their first child was born in 1864. It seems Gonville had one aim, to become an officer. In 1890 he qualified for the Royal Military College (RMC) coming third in examinations at a crammer school in Dublin. He spoke French and German. He attended RMC in 1891 gaining a commission in the Wiltshire Regiment. In December 1891 he was on his way to join the 2nd battalion based at Jhansi in India where he applied himself to his career. In 1892 he passed a Mounted Infantry course. In 1893 he was promoted to Lieutenant, the following year he passed a course in Hindustani in Mandalay, Burma. He returned to England in 1895, but returned to India in 1896 having transferred to the 44th Gurkha Rifles. In 1898 he was transferred to the Civil Department.

In December 1900 he arrived in Durban and was attached to the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles operating in the eastern Transvaal. He only spent a few weeks before transferring to the 14th Mounted Infantry who served in the Transvaal, Natal and the Orange Free State. He was promoted Captain in July 1901 just before leaving for England. His QSA is named to the "I.S.C." - Indian Staff Corps, as is correct for most Indian Army officers serving on attachment in South Africa.

Gonville returned to India having secured a position as Assistant Political Agent, assistant to the Political Resident in Aden. Gonville was a true polymath adding Arabic (fluent - higher standard), Khasia (spoken in north-east India), Parvatia (colloquial, an Indian language, possibly from the north-west), Chinese (preliminary), Russian (preliminary) to his linguistic skills. In Aden he worked on the Boundary Delimitation Commission of England and Turkey defining the boundary between Aden (Yemen) and what is now Saudi Arabia. In Aden he indulged in his interest in antiquities and there are two items in the British Museum that he had “collected”.

In early 1904 he was in the border area when he was murdered by a local policeman at Am Rija on March 3rd. His body was bought down and he is buried in Ma’alla (Maala) Cemetery, Aden City. This cemetery also contains 307 CWGC graves. His family erected a brass plaque in St Michael's and All Angels Church, Westrop, Highworth, Wiltshire where the family originated.

His father did not stop travelling with the Army. In 1878 he was in the eastern Cape Colony responsible for the Army’s supplies. He was involved in the action at Komhga. He remained for the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and appears to have stayed on into the 1890s as “Captain, Colonial Office, Cape Town”. Gonville’s uncle is the Rev TLJ Warneford who served in the second Afghan War earning a medal and a mention in dispatches. Gonville’s cousin, via his uncle Rev TLJW, is Sub-Lieutenant RAJ Warneford VC who was the first to shoot down a zeppelin in aerial combat in 1915 over Belgium.

Googling “Gonville Warneford” brings up a connection to the battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879. His younger sister
Winifred compiled a “unique album of ephemera” which was sold in January 2014. Highlighted by the auctioneer was a letter from Assistant Commissary WA Dunne to “My Dear Warneford” dated 24th January 1879 from Rorke’s Drift. This is a first-hand account of the battle. Unfortunately, the auctioneer states the recipient, “My Dear Warneford” was Gonville, then 8 years old. This is an error, the letter is too factual for an eight-year old, a number of casualties are mentioned by name; did the eight year old Gonville know these men? Given that Gonville’s father was a Commissariat officer in Natal at the time it is certain he was the recipient. No doubt the two Commissariat officers knew each other professionally.

In June 2014 the letter on its own was offered for sale. It appears not to have sold as the whole collection was offered for sale again in November 2014. Some more research was done and Winifred, Gonville’s sister, is now the wife of Cpt WJJ Warneford. Oh dear.