Orders, Decorations and Medals (22 June 1999)

Date of Auction: 22nd June 1999

Sold for £1,600

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

Sir Harry Smith’s Medal for Gallantry 1851, a contemporary unnamed example with original steel clip and silver bar suspension, good very fine and rare £1400-1800


When the Eighth Kaffir War started in December 1850, Sir Harry Smith was Governor and Commander-in-Chief at the Cape. Early in the campaign he was blockaded in Fort Cox, inland from Kingwilliamstown, by Gaikas under Chief Sandilli. Attempts to relieve the fort were unsuccessful and the future of the beleaguered garrison appeared none too rosy. But there were wider issues than the survival of the garrison itself. The war had just started, and the fact that the Governor was being couped up by the ‘uncivilised Kaffirs’ was adversely affecting the Colony’s morale and could only result in the defection of additional tribes. Sir Harry therefore decided to make a break for it, and, escorted by about 250 men of the Cape Mounted Riflemen (a unit which at that time was predominantly Cape Coloured), succeeded in getting through the Kaffir lines and reached Kingwilliamstown in safety. The story goes that he was so impressed by the showing of the C.M.R. on this side, and by other feats of the Cape Colonial troops during the campaign, that before he was replaced by Sir George Cathcart in April 1852, he decided to show his high regard for the men under his command by awarding a special medal. Approximately thirty medals are believed to have been awarded.