A Fine Collection of Medals Relating to Rhodesia and South Africa

Date of Auction: 10th May 2017

Sold for £1,600

Estimate: £1,600 - £1,800

A rare Jameson Raider’s British South Africa Company’s 1890-97 Medal awarded to Troop Sergeant-Major St. J. H. Wagstaffe, Bechuanaland Border Police, afterwards a Sergeant in the Matabeleland Relief Force in the 1896 Rebellion and a Guide in the Field Intelligence Department in the Boer War

British South Africa Company Medal 1890-97, reverse Matabeleland 1893, 1 clasp, Rhodesia 1896 (1250 T. Sergt. Maj. St. J. H. Wagstaffe, B.B. Police) good very fine £1600-1800


St. John Henry Wagstaffe was born in Southsea in February 1869, the son of a Paymaster, R.N., and entered the Royal Naval College as a cadet in November 1884. Appointed a Sub. Lieutenant, he appears to have served on the Mediterranean Station prior to being sent home under threat of trial by Court-Martial for theft - in the event insufficient evidence was forthcoming but his career was as good as over, the last entries on his record merely listing ‘on the book’ transfers from one shore establishment to another.

During the Matabele Rebellion he served as a Troop Sergeant-Major in 7 Troop, Bechuanaland Border Police, September to December 1893, including appointments under Major Forbes, Colonel Goold-Adams and Major Wilson of the Shangani Patrol - a drawing of him manning a Maxim in the retreat from the Shangani on 13 November appeared in the Illustrated London News, the caption stating:

‘In action on 13 November 1893, during the retreat from the Shangani - Major Forbes had a brief engagement with the Matabele. The Maxims got into action and the fire was hot for a few minutes. The drawing shows Sergeant Wagstaff operating one of the guns and Walter Howard is attending to Sergeant Pyke’s arm which was later amputated by Dr. Jameson at Inyati. Forbes withdrew his men to the river bank, bringing the Maxims back one at a time.’

Wagstaffe next enrolled in the Mashonaland Mounted Police as a Trooper in May 1894, and during the same month was involved as a defence witness in the infamous theft of gold sovereigns trial of Regina versus Daniel & Wilson, before being amongst those to accompany the famous Jameson Raid as a Trooper - captured by the Boers at Doornkop in the Transvaal in January 1896, he was repatriated to England from Durban aboard the Harlech Castle (list of ex-raiders as passengers in The Times of 22 February 1896 refers).

Returning to Rhodesia that March, he served as a Sergeant in the Maxim Detachment of the Matabeleland Relief Force under Captain Wheeler, until October 1896, and was present in all the engagements fought in the Matobos.

Afterwards a regular in the British South Africa Police, Wagstaffe witnessed further action in the Boer War in ‘B’ Troop, with whom he qualified for the “Rhodesia” clasp; and afterwards as a Guide in the Field Intelligence Department, with whom he qualified for the “Transvaal”, “Orange Free State” and “Relief of Mafeking” clasps; sold with full research.