Medal News

Volume 37, Number 3, March 1999


Volume 37, Number 3, March 1999

THIS year is the centenary of the Second (sometimes know as the Great) Anglo-Boer War. Hostilities officially began on October 11, 1899, and officially ended nearly three years later on May 31, 1902. During that time Britain had spent over £200 million, and, with its colonial allies, had lost 22,000 men and over 400,000 animals. During 1999 MEDAL NEWS will be regularly publishing articles connected with the war. Every issue will contain one (this month's is "Alfred Towers, Mounted Policeman", which includes a discussion of a scarce single clasp King's South Africa Medal), although there will be no attempt to be comprehensive, exhaustive, or to cover every aspect of the war. Clearly, not every medal collector is interested in this topic, but it is probably safe to say that, after the medals of World War I, Queen's and King's South Africa Medals are the most common on dealers' lists and in the auction rooms. Almost every infantry regiment in the British Army was involved, some of them sending several battalions to the conflict. British cavalry regiments were well represented, as was the Imperial Yeomanry. Large numbers of troops in the Artillery, Engineer, Service and Medical Corps were also engaged, and there was a myriad of local colonial units to whom medals were awarded. The Royal Navy also sent a contingent. The scope for "theme" collecting and research is enormous, and, what is more, these medals often turn up in groups which make them even more interesting. Perhaps this year will see a re-evaluation of Queen's and King's South Africa Medals in the collecting pantheon, just as medals of World War I seem to have soared in value over the last decade or so, as general interest among the population at large in that conflict has increased. About 20 years ago prices for QSAS and KSAS were very strong, and a QSA with three "battle" clasps named to a line regiment could sell for as much as £80. Since then there has been a distinct drop in the market, and this year's heightened interest may well reverse this. Spink will be holding a special auction on October 20 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war, and this will undoubtedly raise the profile of all aspects of the conflict, particularly, of course, of the medals. Spink are currently soliciting for material for this auction (militaria and memorabilia as well as medals), and I for one hope that interest in Boer War medal-collecting will extend, perhaps as a result of this, beyond the usual relatively small circle of medal collectors, to involve the general public. There is just a possibility that the kind of publicity this auction will generate, together with the inevitable commemorative programmes on radio and television, as well as articles in newspapers and general interest magazines, will bring previously unseen material onto the market to the benefit of all of us who collect Boer War medals.

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