One of the well-known injustices of the Boer War was the selective award of the Bronze QSA to the dark-skinned soldiers who served with the British forces. For example, in Natal the Indian stretcher-bearers raised by Mahatma Gandhi received the medal, whereas the Zululand Police did not, even though one of their number, Sergeant Gumbi, was Mentioned in Despatches by Kitchener (6/10/1901).
While researching the latest addition to my collection, the QSA of Joseph Ingram, Murray's Scouts and FID, I came across correspondence in the Pietermaritzburg Archives concerning the award of medals to the black men who had served as scouts. A Minute Paper from the Chief Staff Officer, Natal, includes the following handwritten note:
Secretary of Native Affairs
Passed to you as the supply of 2000 bronze medals were sent to you on 9 April 1903 for distribution.
Illegible name Major
for C. S. O. Natal
Would there be any record in the UK of this batch of medals and what became of them after they reached the Secretary of Native Affairs in Maritzburg? They certainly did not end up with the men who had earned them.
Thank you for that information. I wonder how many of the 26 medals are known to exist? I made a note of one on a local auction (to a Leader Royeppen) many years ago. It would have fitted in well with my Natal collection!
Since there are no QSA rolls for the black guides and policemen in Natal, I presume the medals in the bulk delivery to the Chief Staff Officer, Natal, were unnamed, probably because the only reliable records of who might have qualified were kept in Pietermaritzburg. Do you know if there were any other such bulk deliveries, perhaps to the Cape Colony and to India?
I will ask a researcher in Maritzburg to pursue this matter in the New Year. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful records in the local archives, so perhaps more will emerge on the fate of the 2000, evidently unissued, bronze QSA's.
Perhaps some or all of the 2000 bronze QSA's sent to Natal were issued unnamed and they have long since disappeared from their generally remote destinations. As with silver medals, some might have been passed off as coins, but as pennies rather than crowns, while others succumbed to wear and tear.
It is most frustrating to suspect that there may still be some of these medals in remote parts of Zululand waiting to be discovered.