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Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries

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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Victorian/Edwardian Medals & Trophies - 2

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REW Turner, DSO

The Distinguished Service Order: The second highest medal a warded to officers, was the DSO, instituted in 1886, for individual instances of meritorious or distinguished service in war. (The parallel medal for NCOs and men was the DCM.)

historian John Goldi looks out over the site where Lt. REW Turner of the Canadian Mounted Rifles, right won his DSO.

During Lord Roberts' fabled March to Pretoria, he ordered the Canadians to seize the crossing at the Vet River, still visible snaking up the far side under the bridge right.

Treat the two pictures as a panoramic assembly.

Turner swam back and forth across the river holding his rifle above his head to draw the fire of the Boers, who were shooting down from their positions on the north bank pointed out by John Goldi.

The DSO - For Distinguished Conduct in the Field

The DCM - For Distinguished Conduct in the Field

The Distinguished Conduct Medal: The second highest medal awarded to NCOs and men, was the DCM won by Canadian William Knisley for saving a chum under fire. (Later Geo V version shown here.)

Later in the year he would be handed his DCM and QSA at Toronto's Woodbine Race Track, from the Duke of York, the future George V, who was making his first tour of Canada.

William returned to a hero's welcome, sitting below the flag in a sled, pulled by an adoring crowd down Main Street from the Jarvis, ON, railway station, in Feb. 1901 below. One hundred years later, these buildings are all still standing.

William Knisley, DCM
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Postcard, William Knisley Statue, Courthouse, Cayuga, ON - c 1906
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Brantford, ON
The Paths of Glory: William returned to South Africa for a second tour and sadly, fell heroically during the action near Boschbult Farm. See page 70.
Go to 10 Bar Queen's South Africa Medal

The QSA - Queen's South Africa Medal - 1899-1900


When war broke out in South Africa, the medal designers set to work immediately to create a medal that would be awarded to men for service in the various theatres of war. The Queen's South Africa Medal (left) with its central orange band, bordered, by narrow dark blue bands and wider outside margins of red, was awarded to all officers and men who served in the Great Anglo-Boer War in South Africa.

As with earlier Victorian medals, bars were to be added for different campaigns, territories, or major battles. In all 26 bars were created for different engagements and territories.

Is this a fake? READ ON.

Each medal had the regimental number, the name of the recipient, and his unit stamped around the outside of the rim of the medal.



Ultra Rare Medal: A nine bar QSA, like the one on the left, is an extremely rare find. Cavalry units, because they were much more mobile than infantrymen, so often ended up with more bars. After Lord Roberts' march on Bloemfontein began on Feb. 11, 1900, Canadian infantrymen walked, and watched, as Gen. French's cavalry made a brief detour - on horseback - on Feb. 15, to relieve Kimberley and get their Kimberley bar, while the infantry nursed their blisters, onions, and corns.

In a couple of days the cavalrymen were all back with the foot-sloggers in the column, regaling them with tales of adventure - like the fabled charge at Abon Dam, where 5,000 cavalrymen charged into a valley ringed with Boers, causing a dust cloud so huge that virtually no one was hit. But French had turned the flank (got around the sides of the defences and now threatened the rear) of the Boers under General Cronje. In an instant, Kimberley was freed.

9 Bar or Ten? In all 26 bars were eventually created to be added to the QSA, but few ever got more than a few bars. One authority claims 9 bars were the most ever awarded. To see the data on another medal that claims to 10 genuine bars click the link below...




The KSA - King's South Africa Medal - 1901-1902


The KSA: The QSA, has all the bars because Queen Victoria's reign marked the more traditional "set-piece" battle period of the war from 1899 through 1900. It was easier to award bars for these, often big, battles.

Her death also coincided with the end of this more "traditional" phase of the war as the Boers changed tactics to a "hit and run" guerilla style of fighting which could literally erupt anywhere. So KSAs (King's South Africa), marking the war under Edward VII (near right) were awarded only with bars for territories where the men served. KSAs almost always have only one or two bars. As a result collectors pay huge amounts of money - like $1,500 US - for a QSA with many or unique bars, like Defence of Kimberley or Defence of Mafeking, but very little for a KSA.

(It also leads to forgery - READ ON.)

Double medals for service are common, but not among the Canadians. The vast majority of men in Canadian contingents served under Queen Victoria - the last units were on the way home when she died. The last Canadian contingent which saw action - sent out in 1902 - only got the KSA.

The Stash of a Pro: The members of the Canadian units were volunteers only for the Anglo-Boer War, so most ended up with only one medal. They could never amass the treasure trove of medals of a professional British Tommy like Band Sgt. P. Griffiths of the 1st Cameron Highlanders: from left, the Khedive's Sudan medal with bars for The Atbara, and Khartoum, the KSA, the QSA, and the Queen's Sudan Medal.

The owner was - like Lord Kitchener, who would command the longest and most bitter part of the war - fresh from the Sudan campaign, where the British had crushed the Khalifa's forces at the fabled battle of Omdurman. Only 48 of the British forces died while some 10,000 spear-wielding Dervish tribesmen were slaughtered. Appearances to the contrary, it was not a good omen.

A year later, British officers were supremely confident that the Boers would be a push-over for the most powerful army in the world.

It was a costly mistake. In the opening months of the war it was the turn of the British to die by scores and hundreds because they vastly underestimated the Boer farmers, who were not the "Fuzzy-wuzzies" the British Army had mostly been fighting for the past hundred years.








Winston Churchill:
Winston Churchill was a young lieutenant in the Sudanese Army at Khartoum, and fought at Omdurman where he wrote his famous line about the "exhilaration of being fired at without effect." He would have received the two outside service medals above. His books on the Boer War make fabulous reading. Though he was there ostensibly as a war correspondent, Churchill also "fought" in South Africa. It's hard to keep a pro down. Did he ever qualify for a QSA? And collect? More on Churchill on Page 25 Then and Now.


Because QSAs, the more bars they have, are worth a lot of money, some unscrupulous medal sellers are soldering bars from less valuable medals to create 5, 6, or 7 bar medals. Before you buy, remember, bars were almost all added at the same time. Check differences in soldering, and see if all the bars look the same in finish and patina. If some have a different "look" or "age burn," suspect a forgery. Also check the unit the soldier belonged to. Did it really serve in Mafeking, or Diamond Hill, or in the places noted on the bars? That's a quick way to check. Or verify with the soldier's service records. Or only buy from a reputable dealer like. Or if you buy from a pawnbroker or antique dealer ask him. Is it fake? And watch his eyes as he says it!!!

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