Wyon, Leonard Charles; artist; British medalist, 1826-1891
Wyon, William; artist
Victoria (1837-1901); ruler; Queen of Great Britain 1837-1901
Victoria regina; ruler; with the title of
Lester Watson Collection
South Africa General Service Medal; denomination
British Army; subsubsubseries
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.
Particularly demanding were the attacks of the Galeka and Gaika tribes on a protected people, the Fingos. The campaigns against the insurgent peoples lasted some eight months from 1878 into 1879 and involved, as well as extensive local forces, contingents of both the British Army and the Royal Navy serving ashore. The conflict, which became known as the Ninth Kaffir War, ended in the annexation of the Transkei, home of the Galeka peoples, to the Cape Colony.
With this settled the attention of those forces not embroiled in the developing conflict with the Zulus was turned to a Basuto tribe in the Transvaal the Bapedi of Chief Sekukuni, whose raids from a supposedly impregnable fortress had now begun to affect tribes under British protection. An initial sally against him in late 1878 having proved ineffective, a larger force was sent in November 1879 and quickly overran the fortress. The defenders were killed almost to a man, largely by African soldiery.
This medal was awarded to Private F. Bird of the 80th Foot, who seems to have joined the war against the Zulus once the Galekas and Gaikis were temporarily pacified. Lester Watson purchased his medal from the London dealers Spink at some point before 1928.
London, mint, place
weight, 39.88, g
diameter, 36.4, mm
loan; 2005; Cambridge in America
Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt Spink before 1928
design; obverse; VICTORIA REGINA; Bust of Victoria facing left
design; reverse; Lion couchant before protea bush; Zulu shield on four crossed assegais in exergue
Watson Catalogue; 350
Hayward, John (author, C20th). Birch, Diana. Bishop, Richard. 2006. British Battles and Medals 7th edn.London: Spinkp. 315-331
British and other Campaign and Gallantry Medals From the Collection of Lester Watson (d. 1959).
South Africa (1877-9) (1878-9): 109, Pvt. F. Bird, 80th Foot.
Object Number: LW.0321
(Coins and Medals)
(record id: 141532; input: 2007-03-27; modified: 2009-11-23)