The Zuidafrikaanse Republiek en Oranje Vristaat Oorlogmedalje 1899-1902 (ABO) was the medal issued to all ranks of the Transvaal and Orange Free State who fought during the Boer War. The regulations for the award of the ABO were published in the Government Gazette of the Union of South Africa number 2307 on 21 December 1920. The application form for people to be awarded the ABO was called Form B. 'The medal which will be designated 'The South African Republic and Orange Free State War Medal' will be silver, circular, having the coat-of-arms of the South African Republic and the inscription 'Anglo-Boeroorlog 1899-1902' on one side, and the coat-of-arms of the Orange Free State and the inscription 'Anglo-Boeroorlog 1899-1902' on the other side, with the name and rank of recipient engraved on the edge of the medal'.
The ABO can still be issued subject to the demands for proof being met. The last award was made in September 1975.
Approximately 13,750 ABOs were issued.
Several Boers subsequently fought on the British side being awarded the QSA.
In the DNW auction of June 2008 was a QSA awarded to a recipient who had fought on the Boer side and then on the British side. The British awarded him with QSA. There is no record of his application for the ABO.
My thanks to DNW for allowing the information from their catalogue to the reproduced here:
Mark Samuel Thring had the unusual and dangerous distinction of having fought on both sides during the Boer War. First in Natal in 1899 and 1900, as a member of the Swaziland Commando at the battles of Colenso, Pieter’s Hill and Alleman’s Nek. Then, as a Trooper in Steinaecker’s Horse from March 1901 to July 1902. He was fired on by the Boer Commando that captured Bremersdorp on 23 July 1901 but unlike some of his comrades, he managed to make a fortuitous escape. There is no doubt that a violent fate would have befallen him had he been taken prisoner - of four hensoppers en joiners captured at Bremersdorp one was executed and the other three flogged.
Thring was born in Stanger, Natal on 24 May 1865, part of a British family that had emigrated to South Africa in the early 1800's and established “Thring’s Post” in Natal, a trading station that featured in both the 1879 Zulu War and the 1906 Zulu Rebellion. He is recorded as being involved in Swaziland, which lay between the Eastern Transvaal and Northern Natal, as early as November 1887 when he obtained a land concession. Swaziland was an independent country with an administration provided by the South African Republic (ZAR) from 1895 to October 1899 when it was withdrawn. Under Boer regulations Thring was eligible for service on Commando and when the South Africa War commenced he was called up for compulsory service in the Swaziland Commando, which was composed of resident burghers and members of the Swaziland Police. He took part with them in the invasion of Natal and fought in the early stages of the Natal campaign. On 28 October 1899, the 200 burghers of the Swaziland Commando climbed the steep face of Lubombo in the north of Zululand and attacked the police post at Kwalileni manned by a Sergeant and 17 Zululand Police with two white police. At the battle of Colenso on 15 December 1899, it was the withering fire of the Swaziland Commando, amongst three others, dug in on the other side of the Tugela River that destroyed Hart’s Irish Brigade in the loop between Bridle and Pont Drifts. It was part of the besieging force at Ladysmith and fought at the battles of Pieter’s Hill on 27 February 1900 and Alleman’s Nek on 11 June 1900.
It is not known at what stage Burgher Thring extricated himself from his service with the Swaziland Commando, which was withdrawn into the Eastern Transvaal as Buller’s Natal Army continued its advance northwards in August 1900, surrendered or was captured by the British forces. A Swazi spy kept the British informed of the Boers’ movements in Swaziland, and the records show they included those of M. S. Thring. It is recorded that the Natal authorities considered him to be a Boer spy (Steinaecker’s Horsemen by Bill Woolmore and “Neutrality Compromised: Swaziland and the Anglo-Boer War”, by Huw M. Jones in the S.A.H.M.S. Military History Journal Vol. 11, No. 3/4 refer). It is probably no coincidence that Thring enlisted in Steinaecker's Horse at Koomati Poort rather than at Durban, where the majority of enlistments took place, given that the Natal authorities thought he was a spy and he would most likely have been arrested. Steinaecker’s Horse, raised and commanded by the Prussian Baron Von Steinaecker on Kitchener's instructions at the end of 1900 was Head Quartered at Koomati Poort on the border with Portugese East Africa and it was there that Thring enlisted on 14 March 1901. Though Steinaecker’s Horse was described as ‘rough lot’ by General Pole-Carew (Woolmore refers), they were an aggressive and mobile unit in an increasingly bitter and vicious guerilla war. Swaziland was an independent kingdom during the Boer War but its neutrality was not respected by either side. In late 1900/early 1901, Steinaecker's Horse started operating there. As a long standing former resident of Swaziland and fluent in Afrikaans, his knowledge of the territory would have made Thring an ideal scout. The area over which they operated was notoriously hostile, with constant threat from Boers, lions and disease, and Steinaecker’s were consequently the best paid corps in South Africa, with a daily rate of 8 shillings for Troopers compared to 5 shillings in most of the other South African Mounted Irregular Force units - the Bushveldt Carbineers, operating not far from Steinaecker's Horse, being the other exception.
However, men such as Thring were derided as hensoppers en joiners by the Boers. The British called them “National Scouts” and eventually raised a unit from surrendered Burgers titled the same. They were often viewed with grave suspicion within their own units and ran risks from both sides. Such suspicion sometimes led to extreme measures, as witnessed by the shooting of Trooper Van Buuren of the Bushveldt Carbineers by Lieutenant Handcock, one of the acts for which he was subsequently executed alongside his brother officer Lieutenant “Breaker” Morant. The hatred of the Boers still serving on Commando towards these hensoppers en joiners was fierce and the risk to a captured “National Scout” was great. Retributions were reported to have ranged from summary execution to castration and flogging.
At the beginning of July 1901 a detachment of 110 men of Steinaecker’s Horse under Von Steinaecker’s command was based at Bremersdorp, the former administrative capital of Swaziland. The Swazi Queen-Regent was unhappy with the British troops being there and informed Commandant-General Botha who ordered the Ermelo Commando to take the town. ‘The commando had surrounded the town during the night, only to find that the bulk of the detachment [of Steinaecker’s Horse] had moved eastwards. Scouting at daylight near the Transvaal residency on the eastern side of the town, M. S. Thring was the first to notice burgers riding up from the river. He was fired at ... ’ (Jones refers). In the fight that followed Steinaecker’s Horse suffered four killed in action and four seriously wounded, with an unknown number taken prisoner. The town of Bremersdorp was captured, looted and burned by the Boers. Assistant Commandant-General Smuts, who led the Boers at the action, reported to General Botha that he had captured four hensoppers who had previously served with the Ermelo Commando and he believed that a further sixteen former burghers with the Steinaecker’s Horse detachment had escaped. The four prisoners were taken back into the Transvaal where they were court-martialled. One was shot in front of the Ermelo Commando, one received 25 lashes, another 15 lashes and a fine, and the last 10 lashes and a fine. Thring obviously escaped from Bremersdorp and continued serving with Steinaecker's Horse until he was discharged time expired at Koomati Poort on 7 July 1902.
With a precarious post-war future ahead of them, only a handful of the “National Scouts” or hensoppers en joiners ever bothered to collect their Queen’s South Africa Medals and it is doubtful, understandably, whether any applied for the Anglo-Boere Oorlog Medal on its inception in 1922. Certainly, the double award of QSA and ABO has never been recorded. It has long been rumoured that Jan Smuts ordered the destruction of many of the records pertaining to these men owing to the bitterness and hostility amongst the Afrikaners caused by their actions. The QSA medal rolls and unit enlistment forms never indicate whether a man was a surrendered Burgher and therefore, it is very rare to find a QSA that can be so definitely attributed to, and with such history, to a man who fought for and against both Boer and Briton.
QSA (1) DNW Apr 04 £140. DNW Sep 06 £260. DNW Jun 08 £800. Wellington Auctions Oct/Nov 09.