A Fine Collection of Medals Relating to Rhodesia and South Africa

Date of Auction: 10th May 2017

Sold for £4,400

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

The important K.C.B. group of twelve awarded to Sir William Hoy, Controller of the Imperial Military Railways during the Boer War and Director of Military Railways in South Africa in the Great War, and General Manager of the combined South African Railways and Harbours, 1910-27; he was made K.C.B. for his services during the Rand Revolt of 1922

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, K.C.B. (Military) Knight Commander’s set of insignia, comprising neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels, and breast star, silver with gold and enamel appliqué centre, in Garrard, London case of issue; Knight Bachelor’s Badge, 1st type breast badge, silver-gilt and enamel, hallmarks for London 1927; The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knight of Grace’s set of insignia, comprising neck badge and breast star, by ‘JBC’, silver and enamel; Queen's South Africa 1899-1902, 3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (Mr. W. W. Hoy. Imp: Mil: Rly:); 1914-15 Star (Col. W. W. Hoy. Staff.); British War and Bilingual Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaf (Col. W. W. Hoy.); Union of South Africa 1910, privately engraved (W. W. Hoy. Gen. Man. Rlys. & Harbs., S. Africa.); St John Service Medal, silver (687 Asst. Commr. Sir William Hoy. S.A.R. & H. Dis. S. Africa S.J.A.B.O. 1918); Belgian Order of the Crown, Commander’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels, both centres detached, the first with some chips to both wreaths, otherwise generally good very fine; together with S.A.R. badges (2), one gilt brass, one silver, and an S.A.R./S.A.S. badge in silver (15) £3000-4000


William Wilson Hoy was born at Portmoak, Kinross-shire, Scotland, on 11 March 1868, son of Robert Hoy, a Scottish farmer. He had only an elementary schooling and for the rest was self-educated. His life-long connection with with the railways began at the age of twelve, when as junior clerk he entered the service of the North British Railway Company in Edinburgh. In 1889 he joined the Cape Railways and in December 1890 he attended the opening of the Cape-Free State line at Bloemfontein. In 1892 he was appointed chief clerk to the transport manager at Kroonstad, and in June that year was transferred to Vereeniging. By March 1895 he was acting chief clerk to the general manager (Transport Section) of the Cape Railways and consequently returned to Cape Town. A few months later he was made general manager of this branch and thus became intimately involved in the tariff war between the Cape and Natal Railways and N.Z.A.S.M., a struggle which led to the temporary closing of the drifts in the Vaal River in 1895. After being appointed representative of the Cape Railway at Johannesburg in 1896, Hoy acted as assistant-manager of transport in Bulawayo and Kimberley from 1897 to 1898, going to Port Elizabeth in 1898 to take up the post of assistant-manager.

From June 1900 to June 1902, Hoy was controller of the Imperial Military Railway network in the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republic, with headquarters at Bloemfontein, creating a viable railway network from what remained of the Z.S.A.R. At the end of the war he was recommended to Lord Kitchener for an award by Lieutenant-Colonel Girouard, Director of Railways. Although his duties entailed much travelling, he nevertheless took an interest in municipal affairs and served on the Johannesburg City Council, 1901-02. When the railways were transferred back to the civil administration, Hoy acted as chief traffic manager of the Central South African Railways until 1910, introducing the section system in 1907. He represented the Railways at the international conference in Washington and was promoted assistant general manager in 1909. When he was made general manager of the South African Railways, he successfully melded the various systems into an integrated unit.

In 1914 he was appointed director of Military Railways, with the rank of Colonel, and made an important contribution to the campaign in German South-West African campaign, which depended on the ability of the Union troops to deploy rapidly into the field and for the lines of communication to be reliable. Hoy was one of the seven men present at the meeting called by Smuts in August 1914 to plan the invasion of South-West Africa, and the speed with which the South Africans advanced during the campaign and rebuilt the damaged railways in the desert took the Germans completely by surprise. He superintended the construction of the line between Prieska and Upinton which was completed in just 82 days. For these services Hoy was knighted and was created a Companion of the Bath. He accompanied General Louis Botha and J. C. Smuts to the peace conference in Paris in 1919 when Smuts received railway materials and three ships as a gift from Britain to the Union Government. During this visit to Europe he was made a Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown and became a Knight of Grace of St John of Jerusalem, later becoming deputy commissioner of this order in South Africa.

His promotion to K.C.B. in 1922 was the last such distinction to a South African and represents an award for a grave episode in South African history, the 1922 civil strike commonly known as the Rand Revolt. It was a strike that threatened to engulf Johannesburg in anarchy and was put down with severity by the government. Measures included parts of Johannesburg being shelled by the Transvaal Horse Artillery and bombed by the South African Air Force. Without trains being made available to the government for the transportation of troops from Durban, what nearly amounted to a fully armed uprising could not have been contained. General Hertzog, who gained power from Smuts in 1924, subsequently banned South Africans from receiving knighthoods, a ban which remains on the Statute Books to this day.

During the post-war years, Hoy successfully guided the Railways through those critical times, acted as chairman of the Civil Aeronautical Council from 1921 to 1923, and in 1922 began to steer the first railway electrification project in South Africa, the route between Glencoe and Pietermaritzburg. He was chairman of the South African section of the Empire Exhibition of 1924-25. He was succeeded as general manager of the South African Railways and Harbours in March 1928, but his great contribution to the establishment and development of South African Railways and Harbours remains his lasting memorial.

Hoy married Gertrude Mildred Price, a daughter of Sir Thomas Price, in 1901. They had no children. He died in Cape Town on 11 February 1930, and is buried on Hoy’s Kopje, near Hermanus. A bronze bust of Hoy was placed at the entrance to Johannesburg railway station.

Sold with a quantity of research and a rare original bound volume containing ‘Netherlands Railway Concession, Cape Agreements, Regulations, Tariffs, Minutes of Meetings and O.F.S. Convention’, variously dated 1892-94, apparently Hoy’s own copy.