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Queen's South Africa Medal, with bar for Relief of Mafeking, awarded to Cpl. J. Farrell 1901

Queen's South Africa Medal, 1901

Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria with veil

Queen's South Africa Medal, 1901

Reverse, Britannia in the foreground facing right holding a standard and waving a wreath over an army marching along the shore, with ships offshore in the background

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Queen's South Africa Medal, 1901 (Second Boer War)

During the 1830s and 1840s several Dutch republics had been established outside the British Cape Colony in South Africa, among which were Transvaal and the Orange Free State, all now in modern South Africa. Transvaal was annexed briefly by the British but its independence re-established in the First Boer War.
In the 1880s however the discovery of vast gold reserves in Transvaal brought large numbers of foreign settlers, largely British, across the border, and an attempted coup at the instigation of Cecil Rhodes in 1895. Military escalation followed, negotiations failed and the two Boer republics, convinced that the British intended annexation, declared war on the Cape Colony in October 1899.
The immediate result was the siege of British troops in Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley, while field forces attempting to come to their relief were defeated in several open battles by Boer contingents. Kimberley, the first town to be relieved, could open its gates only in mid-February; Mafeking, famously, had to hold out until May. By now Boer resistance in the field was more or less defeated but their forces maintained a bitter and obdurate guerilla campaign in several areas of the two Republics until mid-1902, when a surrender was finally agreed.
This medal is inscribed to Corporal J. Farrell of the Liverpool Regiment. This presents the historian with some problems, as regimental rolls appear to testify that Farrell arrived with his 4th Battalion well into the war, after Mafeking had been relieved, and received a medal not with this clasp but with those for Cape Colony, Transvaal and South Africa 1902. Possibly therefore this medal was at some point in its history retooled with the bar bearing the famous name of Mafeking to increase its value, although in fact Farrell's original medal would probably now have fetched more at sale. The earliest issues of the medal indicate that the War was not expected to last as long as it did, as they bear the dates 1899-1900 in the reverse field. Very few were issued in this state, but a large number of the first issues show signs of the dates' erasure, often as in this case insufficiently thorough. Lester Watson purchased the medal as it is at some point before 1928.
The Museum must gratefully acknowledge the researches of Mr Tony Jones into the Liverpool Regiment's medal rolls in pursuit of clarity about this and other medals.