South Africa Medal (Kaffir Medal)

Era: African Frontier Wars

Army order 103 in August 1880 announced the first medal specially struck for military service in Africa which was available to all ranks.

The medal is commonly called the 'Kaffir (or Zulu) Wars medal'. Royal Mint records show that 10,558 medals were struck between 24th April 1855 and 31st March 1862; this number including two patterns presented to Queen Victoria, those issued to deserters and later cancelled, replacements, duplicates etc. The actual number of medals awarded is, according to British Battles and Medals, 8,540.

Commonly known as '1879 SAM' it was awarded by the British Government to members of the British Army and Royal Naval Brigade involved in a series of South African tribal wars between 1877 to 1879, but most notably for the Anglo-Zulu War made famous by the films Zulu (1964) and Zulu Dawn (1979).

In 1854 Queen Victoria had given approval for the award of a South Africa Medal to members of the British Army who had served in any one of the three South African campaigns of 1835–36, 1846–47, or 1850–53, on the Eastern Frontier of the Cape Province.

Six were awarded: “1877-8”, “1877-8-9”, “1877-9”, “1878”, “1878-9” and “1879”. 

Only one bar is awarded with each medal, namely that bearing the date or dates during which the recipient served in the relevant parts of South Africa.  Those mobilised but who remained in Natal between 11 January and 1 September 1879 received the medal but no bar.

For the following battles/operations -

1.  The Galekas and Gaikas from 26th September 1877 to 28th June 1878

2.  Chief Pokwane from 21st to 28th January 1878

3.  The Griquas from 24th April to 13th November 1878

4.  The Zulu’s under Cetewayo and his followers from 11th January to 1st September 1879.

5.  Chief Sekukuni from 11th November to 2nd December 1879.

6.  Chief Moirosi in the Drakensberg mountains from 25th March to 20th November 1879.



Major LL Gordon, 'British Battles & Medals

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