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Auction: 18002 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 236


Sir Harry Smith's Medal for Gallantry 1851 (John Keiberg), engraved naming, fitted with riveted claw and bar suspension and old engraved riband buckle for wearing, edge bruising and a little polished, otherwise very fine and rare

31 such medals are believed to have been awarded and, of the 22 known surviving examples, 11 are unnamed; this suggests that they were issued thus.

When the war started in December 1850, Sir Harry Smith was Governor and Commander-in-Chief at the Cape. Early in the campaign he was blockaded in Fort Cox, inland from King Williams Town, by Gaikas under Chief Sandilli. Attempts to relieve the fort were unsuccessful and the future of the beleaguered garrison appeared bleak. But there were wider issues than the survival of the garrison itself. The war had just started, and the fact that the Governor was being cooped up was adversely affecting the Colony's morale and could only result in the defection of additional tribes.

Sir Harry therefore decided to make a break for it, and, escorted by about 250 men of the Cape Mounted Riflemen - a unit which at that time was predominantly Cape coloured - succeeded in getting through enemy lines, and reached King Williams Town in safety. The story goes that he was so impressed by the showing of the C.M.R. on this side, and by other feats of the Cape Colonial troops during the campaign, that before he was replaced by Sir George Cathcart in April, 1852, he decided to show his high regard for the men under his command by awarding a special medal.

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