SOUTH AFRICA MEDAL 1854 (1834 – 1853).

Era: 1834 - 1853

This medal was instituted on the 22nd November, 1854 by General Order No: 634 for the award to survivors of the South Arica campaigns against the Kaffirs between 1834-1835, 1846-1847 and 1850-1853.  This was the first medal specially struck for military service in Africa which was available to all ranks.

The medal only issued to the approx 9,500 survivors in both the Army and Navy, but wasn’t issued to the next of kin.  As the medal bear’s the date 1853, the only way to tell which campaign it was awarded is to verify the medal with the regimental roll as some regiments were present in more than one campaign.

No clasps were issued, almost all the recipients were British troops, although 650 were issued to Naval personnel on five ships. Only a few local troops and officers in native levies received the award.

To was issued for the following campaigns’:

1834-1835 Campaign – Regiment present: 27, 72, 75 Foot; Cape Mounted Rifles and other colonial units.

1846-1847 Campaign – Regiments present: Four troops of 7 Dragoon Guards; Cape Mounted Rifles; Grahamstown Yeomanry; 6, 27, 45, 73, 90, 91 Foot; 1 Rifle Brigade.

1850-1853 Campaign – (24th December, 1850-6th February, 1853). – Regiments present: 12 Lancers; Cape Mounted Rifles; Armstrong’s Horse: R.A., R.E., R. Marines, Ordnance Services; 2,6,12,24,43,45,2/60,72,73,74,91 Foot; 1 Rifle Brigade; Catty’s Rifles; Waterkloof Rangers.


Materials:      The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants.  The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.

Ribbons:         Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.

Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.

Ribbon – Watered orange/yellow with two narrow and two wide stripes in dark blue.

South Africa Medal 1854 Ribbon
South Africa Medal 1854 Ribbon

Type – Campaign medal

Eligibility – British and commonwealth forces.

Awarded for – Campaign service 1834-1853

Established – 22nd November, 1854

Designer – Obverse – W. Wyon, R.A.; Reverse – L.C. Wyon.

Naming – Indented in Roman capitals.

Total Awarded – 10,558

Clasps – None issued.

Suspender - Ornate

Description – Silver disk, 36mm Diameter.

The medal obverse: The diademed head of Queen Victoria, and the legend “VICTORIA REGINA.”  The reverse: A loin, stopping to a drink, whilst standing in front of a mimosa bush; above him is the wording “SOUTH AFRICA.”  In the exergue is the date “1853.”

The suspension is ornamental and swivelling. The naming is always by impressed Roman capitals, no ship being shown on those medals to Naval recipients.


This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’

Some of the material on this page was also partially derived from

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