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South Africa General Service Medal: CM.1436-2009

An image of South Africa General Service Medal

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Object information

Current Location: In storage

Maker(s)

London (Mint)
Wyon, Leonard Charles (Artist)
Wyon, William (Artist)
Victoria (1837-1901) (Ruler)
With the title of Victoria regina (Ruler)

Description

The history of the British presence in South Africa is inextricably bound up with that of the Basuto and Zulu tribes whom it displaced. A series of shaky and short-lived accommodations with the various polities that made up the African kingdoms meant that the borders between the zones were never entirely free from conflict. Between 1877 and 1879 a number of particularly difficult punitive expeditions were mounted by the British authorities, and in 1880 a medal was sanctioned for these that was a new issue of that for the campaigns of 1834-1853 with a slightly modified reverse design.
Although an independent commission had adjudged in 1878 that most of the Zulu claims to border territories were justified, the repeated infractions and raids either perpetrated or provoked by the dependants of King Cetshwayo kaMpande of the Zulus determined the British commissioner in the area, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, to finally reduce the independence of the Zulu kingdom. Accordingly he demanded a complete disarmament on the part of the Zulus and the imposition of a British residency, and when Cetshwayo predictably ignored this demand, invaded Zululand in January 1879.
The Zulu forces outnumbered the British and African troops ranged against them two to one, and on occasions were able to achieve far more effective concentrations that resulted, for example, in a massacre of Europeans at the Battle of Isandlwana. Normally, however, the balance of battle was with the far-better-equipped Imperial troops, and only an acute shortage of troops (worsened by African desertions) as against Cetshwayo's forces prevented a rapid British victory. By March 1879 reinforcement was altering this impasse, and the Battle of Ulundi, in which the Zulus lost 1500 men, more than a tenth of their force, against 100 British losses from a force of more than 5000, determined most of the Zulu chiefs to seek peace. Cetshwayo became a fugitive, and was eventually captured and imprisoned in Cape Town. The British now faced the problem of effectively controlling this huge and resentful territory with the limited forces available to the peacetime administration.
This medal was awarded to Sergeant R. Muir of the 91st Foot for his service in the 1879 conflict. Lester Watson purchased it at some point before 1928.

Notes

History note: Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt before 1928

Legal notes

Given by Lester Watson through Cambridge in America, 2009

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 36.2 mm
Weight: 39.77 g

Place(s) associated

  • London

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (2009) by Watson, Lester

Dating

1880 - 1881

Materials used in production

Silver

Techniques used in production

Struck

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: Bust of Victoria facing left

  • Text: VICTORIA REGINA
  • Location: Obverse
  • Type: Design

Inscription present: Lion couchant before protea bush; Zulu shield on four crossed assegais in exergue

  • Location: Reverse
  • Type: Design

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: CM.1436-2009
Primary reference Number: 141530
Watson Catalogue: 348
Ordering: M-0319
Previous object number: LW.0319
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Saturday 22 January 2022 Last processed: Sunday 23 January 2022

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Coins and Medals

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "South Africa General Service Medal" Web page available at: https://collection.beta.fitz.ms/id/object/141530 Accessed: 2022-08-10 21:54:39

Citation for Wikipedia

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{{cite web|url=https://collection.beta.fitz.ms/id/object/141530 |title=South Africa General Service Medal |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2022-08-10 21:54:39|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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