South Africa Medal (Kaffir Medal)

Era: African Frontier Wars

The South African Medal was often known as the Zulu War Medal, and it was sanctioned in 1880 and awarded by the British Government to members of the British Army, Colonial Volunteers and the Royal Naval Brigade who were involved with severe fighting and operations in the following:

  • Against the Galekas and Gaikas from 26th Sept, 1887, to 28th June, 1878.
  • Against Chief Pokwane from 21st – 28th Jan, 1878.
  • Against the Griquas, 24th Apr – 13th Nov, 1878.
  • Against the Zulus, under Cetewayo, from 11th Jan – 20th Nov, 1879.
  • Against Chief Sekukuni, 11th Nov – 2nd Dec, 1879.
  • Against Chief Moirosi in the Drakensberg mountains, 25th Mar – 20th Nov, 1879.

The medal is exactly the same as that for the previous campaigns between 1834 and 1853 except that the date on the reverse is replaced by a Zulu shield and four crossed spears (assegais).


Materials:      The majority of the British medal 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 (or Ribands). These where first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the ninetieth century progressed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the blue and white strips of the Egypt medal, for example, are said to signify the blue and white Niles, while the red and green ribbon of the Second Afghan War shows the heraldic colours of Great Britain and of Islam.

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

Ribbon Orange, with two outer wide blue stripes, and two inner narrow blue stripes. The ribbon is similar to that of the South Africa Medal (1853), but with wider blue pinstripe

South Africa Medal (1880) ribbon
South Africa Medal (1880) ribbon

Type – Campaign medal

Eligibility – British forces & Colonial volunteers

Awarded for – Campaign service

Established – 1880

Suspender – Ornate

Naming – Engraved in upright or sloping serif capitals

Total awarded – 37,144

Clasps – Seven

Description – The medal was struck in silver and is a disk, 36 millimetres in diameter. The medal’s obverse displays the diademed head of the monarch Queen Victoria, facing to the left and the legend “VICTORIA REGINA”. The reverse shows four Zulu assegais and a Zulu ox-hide shield (similar to the 1834-1853 South African Campaign Medal, except that the date on the reverse is replaced by a Zulu shield and four crossed assegais) with a crouching lion on a plinth in front of a protea bush with a single flower, above this are the words “SOUTH AFRICA”

Clasps are usually referred to as ‘bars’.  They are single-faced metal bars carried on a ribbon attached to the medal, indicating the recipient’s service in a particular campaign or battle.  The clasps carry side flanges to enable them to be attached to the medal and riveted to each other, so that new ones can be attached as earned.  Usually the first earned Clasp is closest to the medal, so that the latest earned should be at the top, although they can be found in the wrong order. 

  • "1877" – 153 clasps awarded.
  • "1877-8" – 5,822 clasps awarded.
  • "1877-8-9" – 3,525 clasps awarded to recipients who had qualifying service in all three years.
  • "1877-9" – Eight clasps awarded to recipients who had qualifying service in 1877 and 1879, with no service in 1878.
  • "1878" – 2,009 clasps awarded.
  • "1878-9" – 1,185 clasps awarded.
  • "1879" – 18,332 clasps awarded.

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

< South_Africa_Medal_(1880)>

Which are released under the terms of

Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname

Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait