The Keith Holshausen Collection

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Date of Auction: 16th September 2010

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,500

A rare B.E.M. for Gallantry awarded to Constable Jaconiah, British South Africa Police

British Empire Medal, (Civil) E.II.R., with gallantry emblem (Jaconiah), in its Royal Mint case of issue, extremely fine


One of just five British Empire Medals for Gallantry ever awarded to the British South Africa Police and one of just 70 such awards made to overseas police forces.

B.E.M. Southern Rhodesia Notice No. 374 of 1963 refers. The original recommendation, submitted by Chief Superintendent L. H. Turner, Officer Commanding Police, Victoria District, states:

‘On 23 December 1962, at about 3 p.m., No. 6126 Constable Thatcher and No. 16263 Constable Jaconiah left camp per motor transport in response to a call from Makaholi Experimental Station, requesting assistance in the rescue of two Africans trapped by rising flood waters in the Shashe River. Upon their arrival at the scene, both Constable Thatcher and African Constable Jaconiah made an abortive attempt to rescue the two African juveniles, who were trapped on an island.

They decided to seek help, and at about 6 p.m. returned to the scene accompanied by Mr. Reeskamp, Mr. Ward and a Mr. Whiting. They brought with them some electric light cable and a portion of half-inch garden hose. Constable Thatcher tied the cable around his waist and entered the water, and commenced swimming, when nearly at the island where the juveniles were sheltering in a tree, the cable ran out and he had to be pulled back to the shore. The cable was extended by tying the garden hose to the end, and Constable Thatcher again entered the water. It was dark at this time. He succeeded in reaching the island, seized one child and shouted to the rest of the party to pull him back, which they did. Both Constable Thatcher and the child were submerged for most of the way back to the bank. On arrival at the bank, Constable Thatcher was plainly exhausted, the child ran off.

African Constable Jaconiah then assayed to cross the flooded river to rescue the remaining child. He failed and was swept downstream and hauled to safety by the party on the bank.

Mr. Ward (P./R.) volunteered to make the attempt, tied the cable around his waist and managed to reach the island, and was dragged to safety by the shore party, being submerged most of the way with the child in his arms. He too was in a state of exhaustion on reaching the bank.

It is considered that Constable Thatcher, African Constable Jaconiah and Mr. Ward showed considerable zeal, tenacity, initiative and bravery in the manner in which they carried out these rescues. It is recommended that each of them deserve recognition, and that failing a commendation for bravery by His Excellency the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, that they may be commended in Force Orders.’

Jaconiah Ngwenya, a member of Swazi Tribe from Nkai District of Rhodesia, joined the British South Africa Police in June 1961, and was posted from African Police Training School (A.P.T.S.) to Victoria District, P.G.H.Q. (Dogs), followed by further postings to Salisbury Town (Dogs) and Matabeleland District. His record of service further reveals that he faced a Disciplinary Board in January 1964, when he was fined ten shillings for ‘using unnecessary violence on a prisoner’ (Force Order 85/64 refers).

Sold with an original letter from the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, dated 23 April 1963 (’It is with great pleasure that I received news that Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to award you and your two colleagues the British Empire Medal for Gallantry for your very brave act in rescuing two children on 23 December, last year. Please accept my warmest congratulations’); a signed copy of receipt for the B.E.M. (’I, No. 16263 A. C. Jaconiah, to whom the award of the Decoration of Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry has been made, declare that I have personally been presented with the medal by His Excellency the Governor’); a newspaper cutting reporting on the B.E.M. incident; and a file of copied research and photographs.