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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73897

  • davidh
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Jon - In the ABW section of his DCM book Abbott states "Probably many awards to senior NCOs were made for services rendered over a long period. In the case of some Militia Battalions, the only award was to the Sergeant Major of the Battalion"

I would imagine the DCMs to the Army Pay Department fall into the same category. Good service over a long period rather than an act of bravery.

David







David
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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73906

  • gavmedals
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djb wrote: This is the most accurate data I have. A total of 2,096 awards (excluding bars).

Note that the sort order is alphanumeric eg 10th is listed before 2nd.

Natal Mounted Rifles 2
Natal Police 1


HI David, A very interesting list showing the numbers per unit. I noticed that the Natal Police is listed as receiving one DCM. I have read that Sergeant J H Evans (recently sold on City Coins, Auct 71) and Sergeant J A Smith were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for their actions at Mahlabatini. In reading through the threads Evans DCM is named to the District Police, which appears to have been an error in the admin.

Does this mean that the NP should be indicated in the list as 1 or 2? If the former, then should his be listed as District Police, even though not strictly correct? Apologies if appearing to be pedantic but keen to get the Forum's opinions on this please.
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Gavin

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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73909

  • Brett Hendey
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Gavin
'District Police' referred to those Natal Policemen whose duties extended beyond the towns in which they were based. For obvious reasons, all would have been mounted men, and with the NP Field Force, they were the men in action during the ABW. I have written about the muddle with Evans before, and I will try and find the post later. If it remains AWOL, I will post the story from my NP files again.
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Brett
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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73910

  • Brett Hendey
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It was easier for me to find the original record in my NP files:

A NATAL POLICE DCM

In his book “The Mounted Police of Natal” (John Murray, 1913), H P Holt gives a detailed account of what he termed the “Defence of Mahlabatini”, which is summarised below.

On 28/4/1901, a Natal Police (NP) patrol near Mahlabatini in Zululand was ambushed by a Boer commando. The men managed to return to their camp and a reinforced patrol of three non-commissioned officers and 19 troopers was sent out in search of the Boers. Another ambush led to a prolonged fire-fight that ended when the Boers retreated. The NP casualties were four killed, two mortally wounded and one wounded. It was later discovered that the Boer commando comprised 150 men, of whom 11 were killed. The Boers shot their Zulu spies in the mistaken belief that they had lied about the strength of the NP detachment at Mahlabatini. Later, after discovering that their spies had been telling the truth, they sent a message to the NP at Mahlabatini threatening revenge. They did, however, not return.

Both Lord Kitchener, Commander of the British Army in South Africa, and the Prime Minister of Natal, sent congratulatory messages to the NP. Two participants of the Mahlabatini action were later decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). They were:
1st Class Sergeant J H Evans, who was promoted to Sub-Inspector.
2nd Class Sergeant A J Smith, who was promoted to 1st Class Sergeant.

Sergeant Evans’ DCM was later to become subject to some confusion because of errors made in recordings of his affiliation and in confusing him with other men.

A misunderstanding of the structure of the NP during the Boer War was behind two of the four identified faulty records. During the war there were two groups of Natal Policemen who saw active service. The first was the NP Field Force, which was made up of men detached from normal policing and who were specifically tasked with engaging the enemy. The second group comprised men of the NP District Police, who were still employed in normal policing but, when the need arose, they too engaged the enemy. This is known to have happened with the District Police of Dundee, Ladysmith, Estcourt and parts of Zululand.

It so happened that at Mahlabatini in April 1901 Sgt Evans was a member of the District Police, while Sgt Smith was serving with the NP Field Force. When their DCM’s were gazetted this distinction was recorded as “Sgt A.J. Smith, Natal Police” and “Sgt J.H. Evans, District Police” (South African Honours and Awards, 1899 – 1902. Arms and Armour Press reprint, 1971). Although Smith and Evans were both members of the NP, this recorded distinction was to confuse at least two researchers.

In his book, “Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal 1855 – 1909” (J B Hayward & Sons, 1975), P R Abbott recorded Evans as being in the “(Cape) District Police”. Since the Cape Police (CP) was divided into several administrative districts, Abbott mistakenly concluded that Evans served in the CP, which in fact never entered Natal and Zululand. This error was due to a poor understanding of the police forces of the Cape and Natal, as well as the location of, and participants in the Mahlabatini engagement. Abbott did at least bracket “(Cape)”, which suggested some doubt in his mind.

No such doubt troubled the medal roll compiler, D R Forsyth. In his book, “Medals for Gallantry and Distinguished Conduct awarded to Natal, Cape Colony and Union Defence Force Units” (1981), Evans was recorded as being a member of the Cape Police.

These were not the first mistakes in the recording of Evans’ DCM. In his book, “The Colonials in South Africa 1899 – 1902” (The Naval & Military Press reprint), John Stirling recorded Kitchener’s 8/12/1901 despatch as follows:
“Natal Police – Sgt. Lane, for excellent service in defence of a convoy from Melmoth to Nkandhla, May 29. Sgt. A.J. Smith of the Police, and Tpr. A.W. Evans of the M.R., got the D.C.M.”

J H Evans is not mentioned and, instead, the name of Tpr A W Evans of the Natal Mounted Rifles is mistakenly included under the “Natal Police” heading. A W Evans was awarded the DCM for gallantry on 29/10/1899 in an action that preceded the Siege of Ladysmith. This action and the award are covered in detail in “The Official Natal Mounted Rifles History” by Eric Goetzsche.

Less excusable than the three errors recorded above was the one made by retired Natal Policeman, A A Wood, in his book, “Natal. Past and Present” (Arthur H Stockwell Ltd, Ilfracombe, Devon, 1962). His account of the Mahlabatini action included the following:
“Awards: Sergeant J.H. Evans was promoted to Sub-Inspector, and two Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded to No. 1432 Sergeant J.A. Smith, and No. 1726 Trooper Jack Smith.”

Wood at least allowed Evans his promotion, but he credited his DCM to Tpr Jack Smith, who may have been the man wounded at Mahlabatini, but who certainly was not awarded a DCM.

Judging from entries in the NP Headquarter’s Order Book, Evans continued to serve in Zululand until at least the end of the war. He was awarded the QSA with the clasps ‘Natal’ and ‘Transvaal’, the latter indicating his service in those parts of the Vryheid district that bordered on Zululand. Evans is one of many Natal Policemen who should have been awarded the KSA.

Evans retired from the NP in 1904 and evidently returned to Britain. When World War I broke out he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers and later served at Gallipoli and in France with the Lancashire Fusiliers. He reached the rank of Captain and was awarded the 1914/15 Star trio of medals. His group of five medals was offered for sale by Liverpool Medals on 6 May 2009.

It is extraordinary that there has been so much confusion surrounding J H Evans’ DCM. Hopefully, this account will set the record straight.

21/3/2011
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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73914

  • djb
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Great to hear from you, Brett. Many thanks for this information.
Dr David Biggins

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DCMs for the Boer War 11 months 1 week ago #73916

  • Jon
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I assume there are clear “rules” for attachments? My example being Armourer Sgt T H Ford of the Army Ordnance Corp. who was attached to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. In LG of 27 Sept 1901 for his DCM he is listed under and with the Dubs (but with brackets saying AOC attached), in Mainwaring listing of Dubs DCM’s he is listed (again saying attached), he was presented with his medal in Crete on 19 June 1903 with others of the Dubs – but in the DCM listing here he is under AOC.

On the topic of the DCM’s and the Dubs, Mainwaring lists as Boer War DCMs;
- Col Sgt 4637 J Ambrose RDF (using name search he exists but no DCM)
- Col Sgt J H. Robinson RDF (using name search there are none with RDF)
Neither appear on the DCM listing. Conversely Mainwaring is missing Lance Sgt 5628 J Church who is on the DCM list.

(Mainwaring being author of “The Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War” and his DCM listing is for all RDF battalions).

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