Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (24 & 25 February 2016)

Date of Auction: 24th & 25th February 2016

Sold for £40,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

A rare Victorian campaign pair awarded to Private W. Crawford, 80th Foot, a confirmed survivor of the Intombi River massacre on 12 March 1879: in a letter home to his wife, Colour-Sergeant A. C. Booth, who won a V.C. on the same occasion, described how Crawford ‘was the only man out of his tent that got across [the river] alive’

India General Service 1854-95, 1 clasp, Bhootan (499 Sergt. Willm. Crawford, 80th Foot); South Africa 1877-79, 1 clasp, 1878-9 (499 Pte. W. Crawford, 80th Foot), edge nicks, very fine or better (2) £6000-8000


Only nine soldiers of the 80th Foot - Crawford among them - can be confidently named as participants and survivors of the famous Intombi River massacre on 12 March 1879; see Robert Hope’s A Staffordshire Regiment in the Zulu & Sekukini Campaigns 1878-79.

Crawford is mentioned in Sergeant Booth’s letter to his wife and children, dated at Luneburg on 14 March 1879, from which the following extract has b
een taken:

‘We left Luneburg on the morning of the 7th March to escort a convoy of wagons, about some twenty-four in number. We arrived at the lntombi River some six miles from Luneburg on the road to Derby about 11 a.m. The river was very high and we could not cross it - only on a raft that me and Mr. Lindop and some of the men constructed. The rain coming down heavens hard which continued for four days successively - I was acting Quarter-Master Sergeant for the men, 103 men - Captain Moriarty, Lieutenant Johnson, Lieutenant Lindop and Doctor Cobbin also a lot of volunteers and native drivers in all that was engaged in the battle was 154 men, Officers to all told only about forty-one men and some natives arrived at Luneberg to tell the tale. Mr. Lindop had gone to Luneberg the night before the battle also Lieutenant Johnson and one man Lieutenant Harward came out to relieve them that would leave 152 men all told at the Intombi River. About 4.30 a.m. on the 12th March 1879 I was awoken by hearing a shot fired in the direction of the mountains (I should have told you we were under Umberlines Cave a notorious Chieftain) - Lieutenant Harward called for me to alarm the camp on the other side of the river for there was me and Lieutenant Harward and thirty-three men on one side of the river, the remainder on the other side. I called out for the sentry on the other side to alarm the camp, he did not answer me but a man named Tucker came to the river side and I told him to tell Captain Moriarty that a shot had been fired and to alarm the camp. He sent word back that the men were to get dressed but to remain in their tents. I was in the Commissariat wagon taking charge of the goods. I went in the wagon again and lit my pipe and looked at my watch. It was 1/4 to 5 a.m. I put on my ammunition belt and me and another man was smoking in the wagon, when about 5 o'clock I heard another shot fired and someone shout Sergeant Johnson. I looked out of the wagon and I shall never forget the sight. I saw the day was just breaking and there was about five thousand Zulus on the other side, they were close to the tents and shouted their war cry 'Zu Zu.' They fired a volley into us on this side of the river then they commenced assegaing the men as they lay in the tents. I rallied my party by the wagon and poured heavy firing into them as fast as we could, some of the men coming out from the other side of the river and coming across to us.
Crawford was one of them; he was the only man out of his tent that got across alive. Captain Moriarty and Doctor Cobbin was murdered in their tents and most of the men also. I commanded the party on this side as Lieutenant Harward saddled his horse and galloped away leaving us to do the best we could, when I saw all our men across, about fifteen in number all as naked as they was born. I sent them on in front and we retired firing at them, there was hundreds of the Kaffirs crossing the river to try and cut us off but we made good our escape to a mission station and expected to be outflanked there but we fought our way to within a mile of Luneberg - the distance we had to run and fight was nearly five miles, so you will have a guess at how we were situated - We arrived at Luneberg about fifteen minutes past seven o'clock losing nine men on my side and forty-one on the other side was buried - and all the remainder was assegaied in the river - a party went out to bury them on the same day but they took them up again, I mean the Kaffirs, and skinned them - so we are ordered out again to go and bury them.’