The Barrett J. Carr Collection of Boer War Medals

Date of Auction: 7th March 2007

Sold for £1,300

Estimate: £500 - £600

Eight: Able Seaman A. S. Churcher, Royal Navy, afterwards a long-served member of the Royal Household who was awarded the R.V.M. for his services as a Privy Purse Messenger in 1937

Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902
, 1 clasp, Cape Colony (A.B., H.M.S. Magicienne); 1914-15 Star (179311 A.B., R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (179311 A.B., R.N.); Coronation 1911; Coronation 1937; Royal Victorian Medal, G.VI.R., 1st issue, silver; Royal Household Long and Faithful Service, G.VI.R., 1st issue, the suspension bar dated ‘1920-1940’ (Churcher, Albert Seymour), mounted court-style as worn, contact marks and a little polished, nearly very fine and better (8) £500-600

Footnote

Ex Lovell Collection, Sotheby’s, 16 November 1978 (Lot 524).

Just six 1-clasp Queen’s South Africa Medals were awarded to the ship’s company of H.M.S. Magicienne, three of them for “Natal” and three for “Cape Colony” - all remaining 230 awards to the ship were without clasp.

Albert Seymour Churcher was born in Bermondsey, London in October 1877 and entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in April 1894. He subsequently served as an Able Seaman aboard H.M.S. Magicienne throughout her commission off South Africa from October 1899 to November 1900, a period that witnessed her crew boarding a number of foreign vessels, among them the German East Africa Company’s mail steamer Bundesrath - although the discovery of railway sleepers and trucks marked for Johannesburg prompted the Magicienne’s captain to take her into Durban, the Prize Court eventually ruled in the Bundesrath’s favour.

Churcher’s unusual entitlement to the “Cape Colony” clasp probably stemmed from him being one of a small party of men landed at Kosi Bay in May 1900, part of an initiative to capture the Komati Poort Bridge - in the event the operation was cancelled and the small party encountered great difficulty in getting back aboard the Magicienne.

In July 1903, Churcher joined the royal yacht Victoria & Albert, in which capacity he served until the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, when he removed to the battleship Agincourt - in which period he qualified for his Coronation 1911 Medal. He subsequently served in the latter ship until January 1917, a period that witnessed her participation in the Battle of Jutland - Fawcett and Hooper describe several lucky escapes she had from enemy torpedoes on that memorable day in The Fighting at Jutland:

‘As far as Agincourt was concerned, our excitement started at 7.08 p.m., when with a sharp turn of the ship a torpedo passed just under our stern, and later on another broke surface about 150 yards short on our starboard beam. At 7.35 p.m. the tracks of two more torpedoes were reported approaching on the starboard side, but by good co-operation between the fore-top and the conning tower they were both avoided. Aloft the tracks were clearly visible, and acting on the reports from there the ship was gradually turned away, so that by perfect timing one torpedo passed up the port side and one the starboard side; after which we resumed our place in the line. A fifth torpedo was successfully dodged by zigzagging at 7.47 p.m., but after this we had no further excitements. We ourselves had no opportunity to fire torpedoes at the enemy, but fired 144 shells from our 12-inch turrets and from our secondary armament (6-inch guns) 111 shells.’

Following an appointment in Victory I from January 1917 to January 1919, Churcher rejoined the royal yacht Victoria & Albert, and was finally pensioned ashore in October 1920, thereafter gaining employment in the royal household. He was awarded his Royal Victorian Medal in June 1937 for services as a Privy Purse Messenger.