Collectibles & Historical Memorabilia from the Siege of Mafeking (Boer War)

There are countless scholarly papers and articles about the Siege of Mafeking – arguably the most famous British action in the Second Boer War.  This blog post is about how modern-day collectors can reach out to the past by collecting historical memorabilia and researching the connections.  In this post, I am particularly focused on the Irish connections to the Siege and Relief of Mafeking.


The Siege of Mafeking took place at the town of Mahikeng (called Mafeking by the British) in South Africa over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, and turned Robert Baden-Powell, who went on to found the Scouting Movement, into a national hero.  The Relief of Mafeking (the lifting of the siege) was a decisive victory for the British and ‘the beginning of the end’ for the Boers.  The war was littered with incidents in which British contingents became lost or were ambushed often unnecessarily and forced to surrender.  The Boer War was followed by a complete re-organisation of the British Army.

Three Victoria Crosses were awarded as a result of acts of heroism during the siege,

  • to Sergeant Horace Martineau and Trooper Horace Ramsden for acts during an attack on the Boer Game Tree Fort,
  • and to Captain Charles FitzClarence for Game Tree and two previous actions.


Shortly before the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, Lord Wolseley, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, who had failed to persuade the British government to send troops to the region, instead sent Colonel Baden-Powell,  accompanied by a handful of officers, to the Cape Colony to raise two Regiments of Mounted Rifles from Rhodesia.  Their aims were

  • to resist the expected Boer invasion of the Natal Colony (now KwaZulu-Natal Province),
  • to draw the Boers away from the coasts to facilitate the landing of British troops,
  • and, through a demonstrable British presence, deter the local people from siding with the Boers.

Robert Baden-Powell and staff at Mafeking

Accompanying Baden-Powell were two young, ambitious Anglo-Irish officers

  • Major Alexander Godley
    • Born in Chatham, Kent, England, on 4 February 1867, the eldest son of William Godley, a British Army captain of Irish heritage.
    • Educated at Haileybury College and entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1885
    • Commissioned into the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1886 as a lieutenant and left as a captain in 1896
      • played in the first international polo match between England and Argentina at the Hurlingham Club in Buenos Aires
      • to supplement his pay, he trained polo ponies
    • Special Service Battalion, he helped to raise irregular mounted regiments
    • Godley was later adjutant to Colonel Robert Baden-Powell and was present during the Siege of Mafeking
  • Captain Charles FitzClarence, The Royal Fusiliers
    • Born in Bishopscourt, Kill, Co Kildare, the son of Captain George FitzClarence and Maria Henrietta Scott.
    • His paternal grandfather was George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, the eldest illegitimate son of William, Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) who committed suicide with a pistol given to him by his uncle, King George IV.  His grandmother was the celebrated actress Mrs. Jordan.
    • Educated at Eton and Wellington and gazetted lieutenant from the 3rd Militia Battalion, South Staffordshires to the Royal Fusiliers on 10 November 1886
    • Promoted to captain on 6 April 1898
      • His twin brother, Edward, served in the Dongola Expedition (1896)
      • As Captain 1st Dorsetshire Regiment, attached Egyptian Army, was killed in action at Abu-Hamed, on 7 August 1897.
      • Capt. FitzClarence was one of only two British officers of the Egyptian army to be killed in the entire campaign.

Preparations for Siege

Like the British government, the local politicians feared that increased military activity might provoke a Boer attack, so Baden-Powell decided to obtain many of his own stores, organise his own transport and recruit in secret.

With barely trained forces and aware of the Boers’ greatly superior numbers, their ‘hit and run’ commando tactics and the failure of the earlier Jameson Raid, Baden-Powell decided that the best way to tie down Boer troops would be through defence rather than attack.

Consequently he chose to hold the town of Mafeking due to its location – both near the border and on the railway between Bulawayo and Kimberley – and because of its status as a local administrative centre. As well, the town had good stocks of food and other necessities.

The Mafeking forces comprised

  • the Protectorate Regiment of around 500 men,
  • around 300 men from the Bechuanaland Rifles and the Cape Police,
  • and a further 300 men from the town of Mafeking itself.
  • A cadet corps of boys aged 12 to 15, later to be one of the inspirations for the Scouting Movement, was also formed to act as messengers and orderlies.

The recruitment of these cadets released men to fight, bringing the total engaged in the military effort to around 2,000 men.  They were initially confronted by 8,000 Boer fighters, so a solid line of defence was imperative.  Under Baden-Powell’s command the small besieged community at Mafeking established a newspaper (siege slips), which were printed on thin paper in an underground printing press.

  • These historic daily papers printed on any paper (see below) that could be found were distributed in Mafeking throughout the length of the siege
  • Many of the articles are quite cheeky, poking fun at their Boer besiegers, but the overriding theme was that the people of Mafeking “must stand fast”

September 1899

Prior to the Boer attack, they built a 6-mile (10 km) defensive perimeter, including an extensive network of trenches and gun emplacements – as such, the British knew well in advance of the Great War what trench warfare was about and how devastating machine gun emplacements would be on advancing infantry or cavalry.

In addition to the real defences, Baden-Powell also improvised with some brilliant military deception tactics, including :-

  • Fake landmines were laid around the town in view of the Boers and their spies within the town
  • His soldiers were ordered to simulate avoiding barbed wire (non-existent) when moving between trenches
  • Guns and a searchlight (improvised from anacetylene lamp and biscuit tin) were moved around the town to increase their apparent number
  • Soldiers were asked to dress as women undertaking normal activities such as fetching water and sewing to disillusion the enemy

The Siege of Mafeking

October 1899

President Kruger of the independent Boer South African Republic declared war on 12 October 1899. Under the orders of General Cronje, the Mafeking railway and telegraph lines were cut the same day, and the town began to be besieged from 13 October.

  • Mafeking was first shelled on 16 October after Baden-Powell ignored Cronje’s 9 o’clock deadline to surrender.
  • Also in October 1899, Mafeking was the scene of two actions that led to an Irish officer being awarded a Victoria Cross
He was born in County Kildare, the son of Captain George FitzClarence (15 April 1836 – 24 March 1894) and Maria Henrietta Scott (1841 – 27 July 1912). He had a twin brother named Edward. His paternal grandfather was George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, an illegitimate son of William, Duke of Clarence (later King William IV of the United Kingdom). He served in the Sudan during the Mahdist War.

Captain Charles FitzClarence

FitzClarence was 34 years old, and a captain in The Royal Fusiliers, during the Second Boer War when the following deeds took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

  • On the 14th October, 1899, Captain FitzClarence went with his squadron of the Protectorate Regiment, consisting of only partially trained men, who had never been in action, to the assistance of an armoured train which had gone out from Mafeking. The enemy were in greatly superior numbers, and the squadron was for a time surrounded, and it looked as if nothing could save them from being shot down. Captain FitzClarence, however, by his personal coolness and courage inspired the greatest confidence in his men, and, by his bold and efficient handling of them, not only succeeded in relieving the armoured train, but inflicted a heavy defeat on the Boers, who lost 50 killed and a large number wounded, his own losses being 2 killed and 15 wounded. The moral effect of this blow had a very important bearing on subsequent encounters with the Boers.
  • On the 27th October, 1899, Captain FitzClarence led his squadron from Mafeking across the open, and made a night attack with the bayonet on one of the enemy’s trenches. A hand-to-hand fight took place in the trench, while a heavy fire was concentrated on it from the rear. The enemy was driven out with heavy loss. Captain FitzClarence was the first man into the position and accounted for four of the enemy with his sword. The British lost 6 killed and 9 wounded. Captain FitzClarence was himself slightly wounded. With reference to these two actions, Major-General Baden-Powell states that had this Officer not shown an extraordinary spirit and fearlessness the attacks would have been failures, and we should have suffered heavy loss both in men and prestige.

When the regiment of the Irish Guards was formed in 1900 he transferred to it, bringing with him the sobriquet The Demon, and a V.C., from his service in South Africa in the previous year.

  • He was transferred to the Irish Guards on that regiment’s formation in October 1900.
    • He became a Major in May 1904 and succeeded to the command of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in July 1909.  
    • He later achieved the rank of Brigadier General and led the 1st Guards Brigade with the Expeditionary Force in France.
  • He was killed in action leading the 1st Guards’ Brigade against the Prussian Guard.
    • The odds against the British were crushing, for on that day some 24,000 Germans were arrayed against about 5,000 exhausted British troops. In two days the Scots Guards lost 10 officers and 370 men killed and wounded. But the result of the day’s fighting was that the British line stood firm and unbroken, while the Germans had sustained enormous losses”.
    • He is the highest-ranking officer inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, commemorating those with no known grave.

November 1899

As in the case of the nearby Siege of Kimberley, the Boers decided that the town was too heavily defended to take.  As such, the Boers did not make a huge effort to take the town as it was of little strategic value to them.  The heroic and much fabled defence, however, made it of huge propaganda value to the British who, up until the Relief of Mafeking, were not doing so well in military terms, i.e. their Crimean War style tactics were out of date and better suited to facing native tribesmen who did not have modern, accurate rifles.

  • On 19 November, Piet Cronje withdrew with two-thirds of his men, leaving the rest under Commandant J.P. Snyman to continue shelling the town and trying to starve it into surrender.
  • By mutual agreement there was no action on Sundays, when everyone relaxed, picnicked and played cricket and polo. Baden-Powell adopted a carefree and confident demeanour to keep morale high
  • In November 1899 Baden-Powell launched a series of raids on the Boers lines that caused him some casualties but made the Boers wary of the garrison.

December 1899

Initially the Mafeking garrison had no artillery. Baden-Powell improvised various items to look like real guns and trains, while engineers manufactured a gun, known as the “Wolf”, from a length of steel pipe.

  • In sharp contrast to the indolent Ladysmith garrison, Baden-Powell kept his men constantly on the move, raiding the Boer lines and keeping the besiegers on their toes.
  • Noticing the Boers had failed to remove any of the railway tracks, Baden-Powell had an armoured train from the Mafeking rail yard loaded with sharpshooters sent up the rail line in a daring attack right into the heart of the Boer camp, followed by a safe return to Mafeking.
  • On 26th December 1899 Baden-Powell launched an attack on Game Tree Fort, a Boer strongpoint to the North of Mafeking. Unknown to the garrison the fort had been significantly strengthened and the attack was an expensive failure.
    • On the 26th December, 1899, during the action at Game Tree, near Mafeking, Captain FitzClarence again distinguished himself by his coolness and courage, and was again wounded (severely through both legs)

January 1900

As normal commerce was interrupted and rationing ordered, Baden-Powell issued 1 shilling, 2 shilling and 3 shilling coupons, as well as ten-shilling and one-pound banknotes.  From January to March 1900, these notes were printed in an underground shelter on ordinary writing paper. As the notes were released into circulation, the Army Paymaster, Capt. Greener, “collateralized” the notes by depositing cheques of an equivalent amount into the Mafeking branch of the Standard Bank of South Africa, which were accepted by Robert Bradshaw Urry, the bank manager.  Urry co-signed the ten-shilling and one-pound siege notes with the “Army Pay master”, Captain Greener.  These banknotes are scarce but very collectible.

Siege of Mafeking, One Shilling, January 1900

Siege of Mafeking, One Shilling, January 1900

1900 Siege of Mafeking, One Shilling, February 1900

Siege of Mafeking, One Shilling, February 1900

1900 Siege of Mafeking, Two Shillings, February 1900

Siege of Mafeking,Two Shillings, February 1900

1900 Siege of Mafeking, Three Shillings, January 1900

Siege of Mafeking, Three Shillings, January1900

Siege of Mafeking, Ten Shillings, March 1900

Siege of Mafeking, Ten Shillings, March 1900

Siege of Mafeking, One Pound, March 1900

Siege of Mafeking, One Pound, March 1900

February 1900

  • Defenders expand their network of trenches and defensive positions in the area known as The Brickfields
  • Feb 14th : the first Boer attack on The Brickfields is repulsed
  • Feb 28th : the second Boer attack on The Brickfields is repulsed

March 1900

  • Several successful cattle-raiding forays on the part of the Baralongs (after their rations were cut by Baden-Powell)
  • On 31st March 1900 Plumer attempted to fight his way into Mafeking with the Rhodesian regiment but was repelled with heavy losses.

By the end of March, postage stamps were in short supply and the local overprinted issues of British Bechuanaland and Cape of Good Hope were overprinted with a provisional Mafeking Besieged overprint.  These temporary issues are much sought after by collectors due to their relative scarcity and the notoriety of the siege.

1d overprint on halfpenny green of Cape of Good Hope

1d overprint on halfpenny green of Cape of Good Hope – ,000 overprinted

3d overprint on 1d carmine Cape of Good Hope - 6,000 overprinted

3d overprint on 1d carmine Cape of Good Hope – 6,000 overprinted

March 1900 6d overprint

March 1900 6d overprint

1 shilling overprint on 4d sage green Cape of Good Hope - only 1440 were overprinted

1 shilling overprint on 4d sage green Cape of Good Hope – only 1440 were overprinted

March 1900 1d overprint - only 6,000 overprinted

March 1900 1d overprint – only 6,000 overprinted

1900, 1d on halfpenny vermillon, inverted overprint, used on piece, neatly cancelled, perf cut at top right, otherwise very fine and attractive

1900, 1d on halfpenny vermillon, inverted overprint, used on piece, neatly cancelled, perf cut at top right, otherwise very fine and attractive

April 1900 3d overprint - Scarce, only 1,800 overprinted

April 1900 3d overprint on 1d lilac – scarce, only 1,800 overprinted

April 1900 6d overprint - only 3,600 overprinted

April 1900 6d overprint – only 3,600 overprinted

1900 6d on 3d lilac & black of British Bechuanaland - only 3,600 overprinted

1900 6d on 3d lilac & black of British Bechuanaland – only 3,600 overprinted

1900 1s on 6d purple on rose-red of British Bechuanaland, Type 2 Overprint - only 240 ovptd - scarcest printing of the Mafeking issues

1s on 6d purple on rose-red of British Bechuanaland, Type 2 Overprint – only 240 overprinted – the scarcest printing of the Mafeking issues

March 1900 2s overprint - only 570 issued

March 1900 2s overprint – only 570 issued

1900 2s on 1s green of British Bechuanaland, Type 2 Overprint (SG 16) FU example with Mafeking cds MY 13 1900 An elusive stamp - only 570 ovptd

2s on 1s green of British Bechuanaland, Type 2 Overprint (SG 16) FU example with Mafeking cds MY 13 1900. An elusive stamp – only 570 ovptd

April 1900

On 9 April 1900, to keep up morale, Baden-Powell set up a local Bicycle Post to enable the troops to communicate with each other.

  • A corps of cadets mounted on bicycles delivered the mail inside Mafeking while runners slipped through enemy lines to deliver mail to post offices from where they could be dispatched to friends and relatives.
  • When the stamps ran out they made their own.
    • The 1d design was drawn by Dr. W.A. Hayes, a local medico, and showed Sergeant-Major Goodyear of the Cyclist Cadet Corps riding on his bicycle. He had been entrusted with local post deliveries.
    • 1d bicycle stampThe 3d value, which appeared in two sizes, was designed by Captain Greener and depicted a portrait of Colonel Baden-Powell himself.
    • mafeking-baden-powell-stamp 3d blueThe stamps were photographically produced by Dr. D. Taylor on horizontally laid paper with a sheet watermark “Oceana Fine”. Since they were produced in a process similar to that used in the manufacture of draughtsman’s blueprint plans the stamps themselves were blue.
    • After a few thousand were issued they were discontinued when the siege ended about a month later.

Because Baden-Powell had implemented the makeshift stamp solution without reference to higher command, and particularly because he had replaced the Queen’s official portrait with his own, he was severely reprimanded by Queen Victoria who, allegedly, was not amused.

The GB Overprint Society has a nice page devoted to the Siege of Mafeking overprints at and it is very well illustrated with normal issues, overprint varieties and some (sadly inevitable) forgeries.

stamps, postal history, Ireland, South Africa, Mafeking, Boer War

MAFEKING BESIEGED PROVISIONAL OVERPRINT ON COVER; 1 Apr. 1900 env. endorsed ‘By native runner via Bulawayo” to Ireland franked “1s./BESIEGED” on 4d GB QV Jubilee with BRITISH/BECHUANALAND opt tied by Mafeking cds with Bulawayo and Irish transit or arrival cds on reverse. Central crease and mildly toned though a very scarce cover.

Covers to Ireland such as the one illustrated above are exceedingly rare and the price at auction usually reflects this.  There are a number of reasons for collecting an example like this, i.e. philatelists want the stamps, postal historians collect for the postmarks (front and back) in order to study the postal route taken, philatelists might be more interested in the postal rates, or the shade of the printing on the stamp.  Local historians or military historians might be more interested in the contents of the envelope, i.e. the letter.  All of these collectors compete for rare items such as this – hence the price is high.

May 1900

Aware of the approaching British relief columns, the Boers launched a final major attack early in the morning of 12 May that succeeded in breaching the perimeter defences and setting fire to some of the town, but were finally beaten back.  The following Wednesday, 16th May 1900, Colonel Mahon’s flying column of Imperial Light Horse and Royal Horse Artillery rode into Mafeking after an epic ride, and the siege had ended.

The Relief of Mafeking

Colonel Mahon, an officer of Egyptian renown, was in command, and with him rode a force of picked men.

  • There were 900 selected troopers of the Imperial Light Horse and of the Kimberley Mounted Force,
  • 100 infantry from the Scots, Welsh, Irish, and Royal (English) Fusiliers of Barton’s brigade;
  • four guns of M Battery of Horse Artillery; two “Pom-poms”; three Maxims;
  • and last, but not least, 55 wagons laden with forage and supplies for the long journey of 230 miles over the arid veldt.

Brigadier-General Bryan Thomas Mahon, D.S.O. Belongs to a County Galway family. He joined the 21st Hussars in 1883, and later on the 8th Hussars; Captain, 1888; in 1896 he was transferred to the Egyptian Army; Major, 1897; Brevet Lieut.-Colonel, 1898; Brevet Colonel, 1900; Lieut.-Colonel (12th Lancers), 1900 served with the Dongola Expeditionary Force under Sir H. Kitchener in 1896 as Staff Officer, and received the D.S.O.; distinguished himself in the Atbara and Omdurman battles, and especially in the final destruction of the Khalifa. When war broke out he was on the borders of Abyssinia, but on receiving a telegram from Lord Kitchener, at once hastened south. He was appointed to the local rank of Brigadier-General on the Staff, South Africa, his promotion dating from May 4, 1900.

Though attempts had been made to maintain complete secrecy as to the composition and movements of the column, the Boers were, as usual, perfectly informed on every vital point, and the younger Cronje, with a force 1,500 strong, was directed to arrest its march.  Since Colonel Mahon could not dispose of more than 1,200 men, the odds were distinctly against him, and it was only by his rapidity of progress and his dexterous tactics that he succeeded in his perilous mission.

  • To support him, General Hunter with the 10th Division attacked the enemy on the Vaal, near Windsorton, as the march began.
  • On May 4 the column crossed the Vaal and left Barkly West, marching through difficult country
  • On May 5th the column advanced with great speed, covering no less than thirty-one miles (while Hunter occupied the Boers)
  • On May 6th again the march was unmolested and uneventful, save for the capture of several Boer wagons on their way westward from Fourteen Streams.
  • On May 7th Mahon’s column was close to Taungs.  All the morning its attention was centred upon a dense line of dust, which could be made out moving north-westward; this was the pillar of cloud denoting Cronje’s rapid advance to cut off the column from Mafeking. Boers, too, were reported to the south and east; the column was in the midst of the enemy.
  • On May 8th the column hurried through Pudimoe, where several rebel farms were looted and burned, to Brussels Station, only fifteen miles from Vryburg.
  • On May 9th the British rode into Vryburg, and found that a Boer outpost there had taken to flight. The few English in the town hurried out to greet the newcomers, who seemed to them to have started suddenly from the earth; the long nightmare of Boer invasion had ended at last. But Colonel Mahon could make no protracted stay.
  • After a twenty-four hours’ halt, Mahon set off again minus nearly 100 horses and mules on the night of the 10th May.  The night’s journey was a weary one, as the guides mistook the whereabouts of water, and it was not till 2 a.m. that the force bivouacked, waterless and disconsolate.  Even then only three hours’ rest was conceded; but in the morning the anxiously-looked-for water was reached, and a long halt was called.
  • Again, on the night of the 11th a long march was accomplished, and on May 12 the column stood a little to the west of Kraaipan, where, in the affair of the armoured train, the first blood had been shed in the war.
  • On Saturday 12th May the Boer commander (Field Cornet Sarel Eloff) launched the most significant assault on Mafeking in an attempt to capture the town before it could be relieved by the advancing British force under Colonel Mahon.
    • Few of the Boer burghers were prepared to take part in such a foolhardy expedition.
    • The operation began with a feint assault on the eastern defences of the town by General Snyman.
    • Eloff then attacked through the Baralong town and captured the police barracks in the centre of Mafeking.
    • Eloff’s men set fire to the Baralong huts as they passed through giving the Mafeking garrison an instant alarm.
    • The Boer plan was that General Snyman would launch a further attack on the town’s defences, thereby subjecting the garrison to assaults in front and rear, but this did not materialise.
    • Throughout the rest of the day fighting raged around the barracks until Eloff was forced to surrender and the attack collapsed.
    • Eloff was enabled to carry out his boast to his fellow Boers that he would breakfast at Dixon’s Hotel the morning after the attack; but he did so as a prisoner.
  • On May 13th the Boers pushed forward to a hill on the Metsima Spruit, which bore the familiar name of Koodoesrand, hoping thus to bar the way.  But Mahon was by no means eager for a fight.  He heard that the enemy were throwing up entrenchments with their usual lightning speed, and decided that it would be best to leave them alone.  Accordingly, he turned westward, and marched in that direction nine miles before resuming his northward course.  Maneuver was met by counter-maneuver.  By now, runners had come in to the British camp from the north.
    • One, from Colonel Plumer, announced that that officer would effect his junction with Mahon north-west of Mafeking;
    • the other, from Colonel Baden – Powell, asked for information as to the numbers, guns, and supplies of the column.
      • This information could not be entrusted to any messenger, should they be captured and interrogated
      • There was no cipher of which Baden-Powell had the key; but in these straits, Colonel Rhodes, the intelligence officer with the column, succeeded in inventing a most ingenious reply, unintelligible to the Boers, but clear as daylight to the British.
      • It is thus given by Mr. Filson Young: “Our numbers are the Naval and Military multiplied by ten; our guns, the number of sons in the Ward family; our supplies, the officer commanding the 9th Lancers.”
      • The key to the message was that there were 940 men, 94, Piccadilly being the number of the Naval & Military Club (known as the “In & Out Club” by Londoners until its recent sale); that the guns were six, that being the number of sons in the house of Dudley; and that the supplies were little.
  • Mahon rode swiftly north-westward all the 14th and early 15th, and as day of the 15th broke, struck the first outposts of Colonel Plumer’s force at the Kaffir kraal known as Jan Masibi’s.  As the column from the south appeared on one side, that from the north marched in amid clouds of dust from the other.  The two columns combined to form :-
    • 350 soldiers of the Rhodesian Regiment, who for seven weary months had been incessantly skirmishing with the Boers
    • 200 Queenslanders
    • 6 quick-firing guns of the C Canadian Battery, manned by militiamen of the Canadian Far West.  Their guns were an invaluable reinforcement to Mahon, who could now dispose of 1,500 men and 15 pieces of artillery
    • Though both forces were eating their last rations, and retreat was out of the question, the men were absolutely determined to force their way into Mafeking or perish trying.
  • On the 16th the combined force struck south-westward down the Molopo, on the last stage of its great march – Mafeking came into sight.  At mid-day a halt was called, 7 miles from Mafeking, on the northern bank of the Molopo, while the mules were watered.  An artillery dual ensued and the Boers broke before they could dig in / entrench.
  • The rapidity and energy of the British attack stood Mahon in good stead. Spades and picks were found in numbers just to the rear of the line which the Boers had held, whence it was plain that they had intended to entrench themselves. Behind earthworks, such as they were capable of constructing, with the advantage of superior numbers, their defeat would have been no easy task, especially when it is remembered that the British had not sufficient supplies or provisions to permit of any elaborate maneuvering. Even now the tenacious Cronje did not feel thoroughly beaten.

The siege was finally lifted on 17 May 1900, when British forces commanded by Colonel B.T. Mahon of the army of Lord Roberts relieved the town after fighting their way in.  Among the relief forces was one of Baden-Powell’s brothers, Major Baden Fletcher Smyth Baden-Powell.

  • In all, 212 people were killed (10%) during the siege, with over 600 (30%) wounded.
  • Boer losses were significantly higher.

The British made a huge propaganda campaign out of Mafeking and, the event occurring at the beginning of the Edwardian postcard craze, there are hundreds of different picture postcards depicting the Second Boer War and these too are very collectible – albeit at much lower prices than the stamps and banknotes illustrated earlier in this post.

Boer War - Pro-British Postcards, Raphael Tuck & Son

Boer War – Pro-British Postcards, Raphael Tuck & Son

Major-General R.S.S. Baden Powell, Defender of Mafeking

Major-General R.S.S. Baden Powell, Defender of Mafeking

Postcard showing Colonel Baden Powell

Postcard showing Colonel Baden Powell

Military Medals

In addition to the above memorabilia, there was also a range of military medals associated with The Second Boer War.  Four medals were issued and there is a large variety of clasps available.

The Queen’s South Africa Medal (QSA) was awarded to military personnel who served in the Boer War in South Africa between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902. Units from the British Army, Royal Navy, colonial forces who took part (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and South Africa), civilians employed in official capacity and war correspondents. The QSA (without bar) was also awarded to troops who guarded Boer prisoners of war at the POW camp on the island of St. Helena.

  • Troops on the Mediterranean islands were awarded the Queen’s Mediterranean Medal
  • and, some personnel on troopships got the Transport Medal.


There are twenty-six different clasps added to the medal indicating each action and campaign of the Second Boer War. A “state” clasp was issued for service within that state when no “battle” clasp was issued to the recipient for a specific action within the same state. This meant a QSA medal could not carry both a “state” clasp and a “battle” clasp for actions within the same state. Recipients could not get both the “Defence” and “Relief” clasps for Mafeking, Kimberley or Ladysmith. The “Rhodesia” clasp was not issued with the “Relief of Mafeking” clasp, nor were the “Cape Colony” and “Natal” clasps issued together (except for Pte. Wingell, a Royal Marine attached to the Army

State Clasps

  • CAPE COLONY – 11 October 1899 – 31 May 1902
  • NATAL – 11 October 1899 and 11 June 1900
  • RHODESIA – 11 October 1899 – 17 May 1900
  • ORANGE FREE STATE – 28 February 1900 – 31 May 1902
  • TRANSVAAL – 24 May 1900 and 31 May 1902
  • SOUTH AFRICA 1901 – Awarded to those not eligible for the King’s Medal although they had served at the front between 1 January and 31 December 1901.
  • SOUTH AFRICA 1902 – Awarded to those not eligible for the King’s Medal although they had served at the front between 1 January and 31 May 1902.

Battle Clasps (showing which ‘state’ the battle was in)

  • DEFENCE OF MAFEKING 13 October 1899 – 17 May 1900 (Cape Colony)
  • DEFENCE OF KIMBERLEY 15 October 1899 – 15 February 1900 (Cape Colony)
  • TALANA 20 October 1899 (Natal)
  • ELANDS-LAAGTE 21 October 1899 (Natal)
  • DEFENCE OF LADYSMITH 3 November 1899 – 28 February 1900 (Natal)
  • BELMONT 23 November 1899 (Cape Colony)
  • MODDER RIVER 28 November 1899 (Cape Colony)
  • RELIEF OF LADYSMITH 15 December 1899 – 28 February 1900 (Natal)
  • TUGELA HEIGHTS 12–27 February 1900 (Natal)
  • RELIEF OF KIMBERLEY 15 February 1900 (Cape Colony)
  • PAARDEBERG 17–26 February 1900 (Orange Free State)
  • DRIEFONTEIN 10 March 1900 – Awarded to troops serving with Army Headquarters and LtGen French’s column which advanced from Popular Grove on 10 March 1900 (Orange Free State)
  • WEPENER 9–25 April 1900 (Orange Free State)
  • WITTEBERGEN – 1 July – 29 July 1900 (Orange Free State)
  • RELIEF OF MAFEKING 17 May 1900 (Cape Colony)
  • JOHANNESBURG – Awarded to those troops who, on 29 May 1900, were north of an east and west line through Klip River Station and east of a north and south line through Krugersdorp Station (Transvaal)
  • DIAMOND HILL 11–12 June 1900 (Transvaal)
  • WITTEBERGEN 1–29 July 1900 (Orange Free State)
  • BELFAST – Awarded to troops who, on 26 or 27 August 1900, were east of a north and south line drawn through Wonderfonein, and west of a north and south line through Dalmanutha Station, and north of an east and west line drawn through Carolina (Transvaal)
  • LAING’S NEK 12 June 1900 (Natal)

The King’s South Africa Medal (KSA) was awarded to all troops who served in the Boer War in South Africa on or after 1 January 1902, and completed 18 months service before 1 June 1902. The medal was not issued alone but always with the Queen’s South Africa Medal or QSA; and was never issued without a bar, except to nearly 600 nursing sisters.


The KSA was awarded only to those troops who fought in 1902, and who had served for 18 months. Service did not have to be continuous, but even with continuous service the recipient would have had to serve from December 1900 to have 18 months service before the war ended in May 1902 (and commencing before the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901). Hence the majority of participants qualified for the QSA only.


  • SOUTH AFRICA 1901 – Awarded for service during 1901 towards the required service of 18 months.
  • SOUTH AFRICA 1902 – Awarded to those who served during 1902.

Queen’s Mediterranean Medal

The Queen’s Mediterranean Medal was authorised by King Edward VII and was awarded to volunteer and militia troops who had replaced their regular Army counterparts in the various military garrisons across the Mediterranean. This allowed regular troops to be available for the Second Boer War.  However troops on the island of St. Helena who were guarding Boer prisoners of war in the POW camp were awarded theQueen’s South Africa Medal without bar.  The medal is almost identical to the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 except the inscription ‘SOUTH AFRICA’ has been replaced by the word ‘MEDITERRANEAN’ on the reverse.


QUEEN’S MEDITERRANEAN MEDAL Approximately 4,951 medals were awarded. The units present and the approximate number of medals issued are:

  • Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (579)
  • West Yorkshire Regiment (855)
  • Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (231)
  • Royal West Kent Regiment (1153)
  • King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (768)
  • Seaforth Highlanders (817)
  • Royal Munster Fusiliers (548)

Transport Medal

The obverse of this medal bears the head of King Edward VII facing left with the legend ‘EDWARD VII REX ET IMPERATOR’. The reverse depicts a map of the world with a transport vessel and the inscription ‘OB PATRIAM MILITIBUS PER MARE TRANSVECTIS ADJUTAM’ (For services rendered in transporting troops by sea). The medal is attached to the ribbon by a plain straight swivelling suspender as found on the Queens South Africa Medal.

  • Two clasps were awarded and a recipient could receive one or two clasps. The clasps were ‘SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902’ and ‘CHINA 1900’.
  • The ribbon is 1.25″ wide and is red with two broad dark blue stripes at either side.
  • The naming is in impressed square capitals.

The recipient’s rank is not given except for Masters who had the words ‘IN COMMAND’ appended after the name.

DCF 1.0

Anglo Boer War Transport Medal

  • This medal was awarded to ship masters, first, second, third and chief Officers, first, second, third and chief Engineers as well as Pursers and Surgeons.
  • The medal was also presented to those who served in 11 hospital ships employed during the two conflicts.
  • 1,822 medals were issued.

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