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DCMs for the First Boer War 7 years 1 month ago #53150

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Brett,

These are tremendous groups and it is great to group them together in this thread to allow us to marvel at them which is almost as good as owning them.

I agree with your comments on the quality of DNW's images. They are excellent.
Dr David Biggins

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DCMs for the First Boer War 7 years 1 week ago #53483

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Fascinating to watch the Bush DCM sale. Sold for a hammer of £16,000.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the First Boer War 7 years 1 week ago #53488

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Yep watched the show! Another DCM pair to Sgt Bradley will also soon hit the market. For those of you who are interested I see that some nice photographs of some of these DCM winners are available on line in the Royal archives.
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DCMs for the First Boer War 5 years 9 months ago #59976

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Picture courtesy of the London Medal Company

DCM VR (AG.CONDTR: C. JURGENSON. 22ND: JAN: 1881.)

Charles Jurgenson, whose name was anglicised from Jørgensen, was originally born in Denmark, but then settled in South Africa, and with the outbreak of the First Anglo-Boer War of 1880 to 1881, which was otherwise known as the Transvaal War, then saw service as a civilian and employed as an Acting Conductor with the Commissariat and Transport Corps, though this unit was not officially known as such till later, and found himself besieged by the Boer forces in Lydenburg for 84 days between 6th January and 30th March 1881, after which the town surrendered to the Boer forces.

Lydenburg was controlled by the full force 94th Regiment. On 5 December 1880, most of the regiment was withdrawn, under Lieutenant-Colonel Anstruther. Less than 100 British forces were left to defend the city, under the command of Second Lieutenant Walter Long son of the British politician with the same name. On 20 December 1880, six officers and 246 men of the 94th Regiment, along with 12 men of the Army Service Corps and 4 men of the Army Hospital Corps, were attacked by 250 Boers at Bronkhorstspruit whilst marching from Lydenburg to Pretoria. They suffered 156 casualties. This begun the First Boer War.

Following the outbreak of the war, Long received orders from Pretoria to defend Lydenburg. Long acted by building a fort and constructing stone walls around it to improve defences. The fort, known as Fort Mary, consisted of eight thatched huts connected by stone walls. Fort Mary provided cover for British forces and would allow Long to successfully fight off the Boers for three months. The British stored 200,000 rounds of ammunition, left behind by the main force of the 94th Regiment under Anstruther, in preparation for a Boer siege. The British had at their disposal three months' supply of meat, eight months' supply flour for bread making, and supplies of groceries and vegetables, in order to survive the siege.

On the 23rd December 1880, Dietrich Muller entered Lydenburg and informed Long that his government had demanded the immediate surrender of Lydenburg. Long refused to capitulate, and the Boers prepared to besiege. Commandos took positions two miles away from the road to Middelburg on 3 January 1881 and then advanced on Lydenburg on the 6th. Over two hundred burghers breached the town and proclaimed their allegiance to the South African Republic, again requesting Long to surrender. Long refused, and the Boer contingent grew to about five hundred men. As the Boers advanced through Lydenburg, they neared Fort Mary, and opened fire at 230 metres. The garrison was not harmed, despite sporadic firing for three hours. Two days later, on 8 December, a cannon was brought to bear, which also failed to impress the fort or inflict any casualties on Long's men. However, a second gun brought later damaged Fort Mary's defences.

On the 23rd January 1881, the garrison discovered that its water supply was running low. Water was temporarily rationed until rainfall on 8 February brought relief. On the 4th March 1881, Boers successfully set fire to the thatched roofs of Fort Mary. British forces managed to put out the fire in twenty minutes, but came under heavy Boer fire whilst doing so. On the 10th March, two Boers entered Lydenburg with a letter from Alfred Aylward, offering favourable terms of surrender to the British. Aylward stated Long should surrender due to the small size of his army and as there were no British troops in South Africa, close to Lydenburg, available to relieve the siege. Long replied that he would not surrender as long as he had men at his disposal or was told otherwise. On the 23rd March, Boers again entered Lydenburg, informing Long of the death of Major-General George Colley at Majuba Hill, and requesting British surrender. Still, the siege continued until 30 March 1881, when Lieutenant Baker, from the 60th Regiment, agreed to peace terms with the Boers. The siege lasted for 84 days. Following the capture of Lydenburg and other British forts in Transvaal, the South African Republic regained independence and control over its territories.

Despite sorties made by the besieged troops of Lydenburg on 4th January and 7th February, the garrison was predominantly involved in defensive operations, exchanging fire with Boer forces and predominantly sniping from concealed positions in the town and surrounding forts. The 94th Foot had a covering party who assisted in the resupplying the various outlying positions, and the resupply of the troops was organised by amongst others, Conductor Charles Jurgenson. It was during one of these resupply operations, on the 22nd January 1881, that Sergeant Cowdy, commanding the covering party of men from the 94th Foot, was shot through the head and body in an exposed position.

Company Sergeant Major Thomas Day, Conductor Charles Jurgenson, Private Morris Whalen, and another man with the surname Allen of the Army Hospital Corps, volunteered to go out and bring him in under a heavy fire, and for this act of gallantry, Day, Whalen and Charles Jurgenson were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, with Jurgenson being the only civilian so decorated for the First Anglo Boer War. His award was submitted to the Queen on 6th March 1882, along with the other two awards. Jurgenson’s award is the only one to the Commissariat and Transport Corps or its variants, for the First Anglo Boer War. No campaign medal was issued for this campaign, and this is the sole entitlement for Charles Jurgenson.

Charles Jurgenson, appears to have continued to live in South Africa where his family settled and built up a dairy farm.

£12,500
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the First Boer War 5 years 1 month ago #63194

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Pictures courtesy of the National Army Museum

The group, mounted in this order, to Col Sgt Henry Maistre, 2nd Connaught Rangers, an award for Bronkhorst Spruit.

Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the First Boer War 1 year 3 months ago #88394

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Picture courtesy of Noonan's

DCM VR (L./Sergt. P. Sharkey, 2/Conn. Rang.);
SAGS (1) 1879 (732 Corpl. P. Sharkey, 94th Regt.);
QSA (2) Transvaal, South Africa 1901 (175 Scout P. Sharkey, Scottish Horse)

No campaign medals were awarded for the First Boer War 1880-81 but six VCs (all of which are held by institutions), one CB, four RRCs, twenty DCMs and a single CGM were awarded.

One other man who received the D.C.M. for the First Boer War plus a Zulu War medal is recorded on the Q.S.A. roll, but his was a no-clasp medal, suggesting he was involved in the war effort but not engaged in combat. This makes Sharkey’s group unique to a man who unquestionably fought in both Boer Wars.

DCM Submitted to the Queen 14 March 1882: ‘For his gallant conduct during the investment of Standerton by the Boers.’
The original document, signed by the Queen, is held by The National Archives (copy included).

Patrick Sharkey was born in 1858, possibly in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Ireland; his father was living there at the time of the 1901 census. He enlisted in the 94th Regiment (Connaught Rangers) in October 1877, when he was about 19.

Zulu War and Operations Against King Sekukini in Transvaal


Sharkey arrived at Durban, the capital of Natal, South Africa in April 1879 on the troopship S.S. China. The 94th Regiment formed part of the reinforcements which arrived after the opening battles of the Zulu War, as a response to the disaster at Isandlhwana. He was subsequently present at the final battle of Ulundi in July 1879, which effectively ended the Zulu War. The 94th was the only regiment in Newdigate’s Division that had six companies present at the battle. It suffered casualties of two men killed and 18 wounded. By then Sharkey had risen to the rank of corporal, unusual after just two years of army service.

When hostilities against King Sekukuni in the Lydenburg district of the Transvaal resumed in November 1879, four companies of the 94th formed part of the 1,400 Imperial troops and 800 colonials which attacked the reputedly impregnable tribal stronghold. Sekukuni escaped, but he was pursued by ‘B’ Company of the 94th and captured on 2 December 1879.

First Boer War – Gallantry during the Siege of Fort Alice at Standerton

The 94th Regiment remained in South Africa after the Zulu War, with its regimental headquarters at Pietermaritzberg in south-eastern Natal. Its companies were deployed to garrison a number of towns across the Transvaal, either because they were large and strategic in themselves, or because they were significant waypoints on the British lines of communication, such as Standerton, where the road from Natal to Pretoria crossed the Vaal river. Corporal Sharkey belonged to one of the detached companies based at Wakkerstroom in southern Transvaal.

An extensive account of the 94th’s time in South Africa 1879-1882 is recorded in four chapters of Jourdain’s Regimental History. Tensions between the Imperial government and the Boers rose throughout 1880, culminating in the Boers declaring Independence in mid-December. The main body of the 94th Regiment was marching from Leydenberg to Pretoria when, on 20 December 1880, it was ambushed by Boers at Bronkhorst Spruit. The Boers called on the 94th to surrender, but the officers chose to fight and suffered a costly and bloody defeat.

As Standerton was situated midway on the main road between Newcastle in Natal and Pretoria, its strategic importance was obvious. The British scrambled to put down the Boer rebellion and on 21 December 1880 two companies of the 94th and one of the 58th Regiment marched into Standerton from Wakkerstroom and began constructing fortifications. A mile outside the town itself, these were soon christened ‘Fort Alice’. Standerton sprawled on a slope which overlooked a ford across the broad, sparkling Vaal to the south. It lacked trees or gardens; the fifty-odd iron-roofed houses looked to the visiting C. L. Norris-Newman ‘as if they had been a mud-splash thrown at random on the bare veld’. The one object of interest was the octogenarian ‘General’ Stander, a sturdy Voortrekker who had fought the British at Bloomplaats [33 years earlier] and given the town its name. Fort Alice lay below rocky kopjes rising to the north and east, and the towering, flat-topped Stander’s Kop.

Major W. E. Montague of the Connaughts was selected to take command of the new Standerton garrison, despite being far away in the regimental headquarters at Pietermaritzburg near the east coast of Natal. According to the Regimental History, the assignment was not to Major Montague’s liking:

“‘I don’t want to go, sir,’ he had told Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley, ‘I dislike the Transvaal more than I can say, but if you think there is any necessity for my going, I am ready to start at an hour’s notice.’ Colley thought it vital, and advised the major, who had an outstanding record in the Zulu War, ‘You will find Standerton an excellent position for defence, strengthen it, take care they don’t get you unawares, and hold till I come [on January 20th] ... we shall march together on Heidelberg [where the Boers had first proclaimed their independent republic on 16 December 1880].’
To escape detection by Republican patrols (who had already taken two travelling officers prisoner), Montague disguised himself as a colonial bank messenger, journeying to the Transvaal in a post cart. He bought a slouch hat, removed his collar and tie, and left his hair unkempt and his face unwashed after shaving his moustache (which by regulation was worn by all British officers). The Boers let him pass.

Arriving on 23 December, Montague found everything ‘in the wildest confusion’. The half-built fort was ‘all dirt and muddle’. A strict, no-nonsense officer, he infused discipline and organisation while more vigorous preparations were made for the defence. While the parapets of the fort were being raised, the main stone buildings in the town were loop-holed and garrisoned. Soldiers who misbehaved were bound and lashed. Having resorted to the cat from the outset, the Major had no difficulty in maintaining the strictest discipline during the rest of the Siege. In the beginning there were only thirty-four volunteers serving with the 350 regulars. Others ‘came in but slowly, many making excuses for not joining’, wrote Montague. ‘Pressure became necessary.’ He brought the number of ‘volunteers’ up to seventy-five. When Colley did not arrive at the appointed time [he had been blocked by the Boers on the Transvaal/Natal border and was ultimately killed at Majuba Hill on 27 February 1881], rationing was introduced. Boer sympathisers were given a chance to clear out of Standerton. The small Dutch party which remained complained of, among other things, the theft of the church clock and other items from their place of worship. These were later found among the effects of the men of the 94th.”

Sharkey was promoted from corporal to lance-sergeant on 21 December 1880 and moved up to full sergeant just 3 days later, when he was about 23 years old. This meteoric rise probably reflected the need for the 94th to reach its war establishment and incorporate its unwilling local ‘volunteers’. ‘Sergeant’ was possibly a local or extra-regimental acting rank conferred on Sharkey by the newly arrived Major Montague, as it was not included in the naming of Sharkey’s D.C.M. It is likely that Major Montague was already acquainted with Sharkey, a result of them having served together during the Zulu War.

Operating out of three laagers, the Boer investment was complete by the New Year. They positioned themselves on the rim of kopjes and Stander’s Kop in particular, and the British soon learned that the long-range, sniping rifle fire of the Boers was disturbingly accurate. To draw their fire away from the fort, Montague left the tents outside standing throughout the siege. It took the Boers some time to discover that they were unoccupied. “When the soldiers went to their positions, they were allowed to run but had to keep their heads up. The propriety of ducking when under fire was a frequent topic for discussion... Some held that it was a sign of weakness. They saw a relationship between ‘bobbing’ and ‘bolting’. To the Major ‘bobbing’ was unbecoming to a British soldier. Montague himself, while steadily walking bolt-upright from post to post, received a slight wound in the leg. If the Boer fire became too warm, Montague undertook a sortie. But invariably within the hour, because of the Boers’ excellent organisation, reinforcements rode in from distant Boer posts to discourage any further action on Montague’s part.”

Major Montague exercised what was at that time a common ‘Commander’s prerogative’ by forming an ad hoc ‘Intelligence Department’, which reported directly to him rather than through his subordinate officers. For this assignment he selected Sergeant Sharkey [94th Regiment] and Colour-Sergeant Conway [58th Regiment], together with ten soldiers. Sharkey’s main task was daytime observation of enemy movements from ‘an exposed roof-top position’ and fire suppression of the massed Boer snipers; Conway was instructed to lead reconnaissance patrols into no-man’s land twice a night.

The 94th’s Regimental History continues: “One night a drunken Sergeant [believed to refer to Colour-Sergeant Conway of the 58th Regiment] and five of his comrades boasted that they could capture Stander’s Kop. They stumbled up the slope to a place near the top and seized a post which the burghers left unoccupied after dark. When the unsuspecting Boers returned in the morning, the six opened fire. The fire was returned, of course, and the Sergeant and his men quickly sobered up when they saw the seriousness of their position. Major Montague had to stage a diversion to bring them down safely to the fort.”

The unauthorised night-time ‘capture’ of Stander’s Kop occurred on 4 January 1881. Colour-Sergeant Conway was put under arrest on 5 January and stayed in arrest for the remainder of the siege. Major Montague harassed his opponents on 7 February, by sending his mounted men to attack a small fortification occupied by about sixty Boers some two miles away. Boer reinforcements sent to assist those manning their siege-work were ambushed by the British raiders. On 7 March the garrison repulsed a determined attack on Fort Alice made from the south. Officers bearing news of the end of hostilities (a message from Sir Evelyn Wood) arrived on 25 March 1881. This ended the siege, which had lasted 88 days, a well-sustained resistance during which the Standerton garrison suffered casualties of five killed and two-dozen wounded.

In his official report dated at Fort Alice on 29 March 1881, Major Montague drew Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood’s notice to Sharkey’s gallant work: “I would especially mention Sergeant Sharkey who with a party of five men held an exposed position on the roof during the whole siege, keeping the look-out, informing me of every movement of the rebels and putting down fire from their position on the Stony Koppie with excellent effect to judge from the number of men seen to fall.” (TNA WO/32/7833 refers). Montague refers to Starkey for a second time in closing his report, but adds a curious reference to the disgraced Conway: “To Captain Campion, 94th, in charge of the detachment quartered in the town and of the Forts surrounding, the Major wishes to express especial thanks; as well as to Colour-Sergeant Conway, 58th and Sergeant Sharkey, 94th, for the able way in which they kept him continually acquainted with all movements of the attacking force, and he considers that the security the Garrison enjoyed was largely attributed to their vigilance. In bringing the conduct of the Garrison to the notice of the Major-General commanding the troops he will not fail to mention the work done by these two gallant N.C.Os.”

Conway was placed under formal arrest from 5 January 1881 for the remainder of the siege, but possibly, due to the need for manpower, was not confined but allowed to remain on duty, which might explain Montague’s praise. In any event, Conway was severely reprimanded by Sir Evelyn Wood for recklessly endangering his men while acting without permission. Sharkey was the only member of the Standerton garrison recommended for the D.C.M. (no such recommendation was made for Colour-Sergeant Conway). The warrant was approved by the Queen in March 1882. By this time Sharkey had left the army in order to stay and settle in South Africa, as the 94th had been ordered home. Sharkey purchased his discharge in January 1882, ending full service with the colours of four years and 94 days. His discharge is recorded on the same day on which the Connaught Rangers vacated Richmond Road Barracks in Pietermaritzburg to start their journey to England.

Some interesting insights are provided by an article on page 3 of the Evening News of Sydney, Australia, dated 1 November 1899 and headed “Gallant Patrol Work. An Episode of the Last Boer War”. The source is described as ‘an old comrade’ of George Conway, the ex-Colour Sergeant of the 58th who had settled in Australia and was now a Warrant-Officer in the 1st Regiment (of New South Wales infantry). Conway apparently applied to serve with the Australian contingent sent to fight in the Second Boer War, but was refused. Conway’s “old comrade” concludes that “many who served with him in the last Boer campaign think it particularly hard that he should have received no recognition for his gallant services. That this was recognised elsewhere is evidenced by the fact that another non-commissioned officer who was only once under fire during the Boer war (and then under Mr Conway’s command) refused to wear the Distinguished Service [sic] Medal [a commonly used reference to the D.C.M. in the late 19th Century] which had been granted to him while the color-sergeant was in South Africa.”

This ‘quote’ attributed to the “old comrade” cannot be taken at face value. It is true that Conway’s rank gave him seniority over Sharkey, but Sharkey’s direct commander was Major Montague, not Conway. As Conway worked at night and Sharkey during the day, Conway had little opportunity to know when Sharkey came under fire, and Montague specifically states that his post was “a very exposed position”. As for Sharkey’s alleged refusal to wear his DCM while Conway was in South Africa, we know that Sharkey received his Zulu War medal on parade on 12 July 1881, while the earliest date that he could have been in physical possession of his DCM is a year later in mid-1882, by which time he was a civilian. In July 1881 the 58th was re-badged as the 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment and left South Africa for Hong Kong in 1884-5. It is not known when Conway left the colours.

Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902


At some point, probably in the 1890s, Sharkey served in the East Griqualand Mounted Volunteers. Following the outbreak of the Second Boer War, Sharkey, at the age of around 43, attested at Dundee in Natal as a Scout in the 1st Scottish Horse on 2 January 1901. On his attestation form he is described as five feet eight and half inches tall, with hazel eyes and grey hair. 1st Scottish Horse was involved in considerable fighting in cavalry actions in the Eastern Transvaal during 1901 and suffered heavy casualties at Moedwil on 30 September 1901 and at Brakenlaagte on 30 October 1901. Earlier, in the action fought at Vlakfontein on 3 July 1901, Lieutenant W. J. English of the Scottish Horse won the VC.

Patrick Sharkey took his discharge in November 1901 at the end of his twelve-month engagement; his mailing address on the Q.S.A. medal roll is given as ‘Rorke’s Drift P.O., Natal’.
Dr David Biggins
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