This award was granted for operations against various local tribes between September 1877 to December 1879 consisting of the following:
- Operations against the Galekas and Gaikas, under Chiefs Kreli, Sandile, Macomo etc, the Tambookies and other tribes, 26th September 1877 – 28th June 1878
- Operations against Chief Pokwane, 21st – 28thth January 1878
- Operations against the Griquas, 24th April – 13th November 1878
- Operations against the Zulus under King Cetshwayo,The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between Britain and the Zulus, and signalled the end of the Zulus as an independent nation. It had complex beginnings, some bad decisions and bloody battles that played out a common story of the Colonisation of Africa. It was precipitated by Sir Bartle Frere High Commissioner for Southern Africa who manufactured a cassus belli and prepared an invasion without the approval of Her Majesty’s government.At the Battle of Isandlwana (22 January 1879), the Zulu overwhelmed and wiped out 1,400 British soldiers. This battle is considered to be one of the greatest disasters in British colonial history. Isandlwana forced the policy makers in London to rally to the support of the pro-war contingent in the Natal government and commit whatever resources were needed to defeat the Zulu. The first invasion of Zululand ended with the catastrophe of Isandlwana where, along with heavy casualties, the main centre column lost all supplies, transport and ammunition and the British would be forced to halt their advances elsewhere while a new invasion was prepared. At Rorke’s Drift (22 January – 23 January 1879) 139 British soldiers successfully defended the station against an intense assault by four to five thousand Zulu warriors.
- The Battle of Intombe was fought on 12 March 1879, between British and Zulu forces. The Siege of Eshowe took place during a three-pronged attack on the Impis of Cetshwayo at Ulundi. The Battle of Gingindlovu (uMgungundlovu) was fought between a British relief column sent to break the Siege of Eshowe and the Impis of Cetshwayo on 2 April 1879. The battle restored the British commanders’ confidence in their army and their ability to defeat Zulu. With the last resistance removed, they were able to advance and relieve Eshowe. The Battle of Hlobane was a total disaster for the British; 15 officers and 110 men were killed, a further 8 wounded and 100 native soldiers died. The Battle of Kambula took place in 1879 when a Zulu army attacked the British camp at Kambula, resulting in a massive Zulu defeat. The Battle of Ulundi took place at the Zulu capital of Ulundi on 4 July 1879 and proved to be the decisive battle that finally broke the military power of the Zulu nation.
- Operations against the Basutos under Chief Sekukuni, 11th November – 2nd December 1879. During the same year, the British forces under Sir Garnet Wolseley in the Transvaal, sought Swazi help to defeat the Pedi King Sekukuni who had resisted the Boers a few years earlier in 1876. The Pedi, having harbored another Prince who was a pretender to the Swazi throne eventually faced a British attack backed by a 10000 strong Swazi force which led to the capture of Sekukuni and the destruction of that kingdom. Mbandzeni’s support for Britain was rewarded with Britain’s recognition for Swaziland’s independence and a promise to protect Swazis against Zulu and Boer encroachment.
- Operations against Chief Moirosi, 25th March – 20th November 1879. A new wave of discontent spread amongst the different Xhosa tribes on the colonial frontier, and there was another uprising in Basutoland under Moirosi after the Gaika-Galeka War. The Xhosa under Moirosi were put down with severe fighting by a colonial force, but their defeat notwithstanding, the Basutos remained restless and aggressive for several years. In 1880, the British colonial authorities attempted to extend the Peace Preservation Act of 1878 to Basutoland, attempting a general disarmament of the Basutos. Further fighting followed the proclamation, which did not have a conclusive end, although peace was declared in December 1882.
As the War office had no clear understanding relative to the different tribes, it was eventually decided to issue a one bar medal to denote the year or years during which the recipient was employed against an enemy.
1877-8 – 52 Medals attributable to Keiskamahoek Vol Mounted Corps
1879 – 923 medals attributable to 91st Regt – The 91st were present at the Battle of Gingindlovu where at daybreak on 2 April 1879, the morning sun revealed a muddy and sodden ground and a heavy mist. Chelmsford could not move his wagons until the ground dried out, and so sent out the Natal Native Contingent to provoke the Zulus into an attack while he held a strong position. Once the mist lifted, the left horn of the impi was seen advancing eastwards over the river towards the British laager before disappearing into tall grass. A long burst of fire from one of the Gatling guns saw the warriors disappear into the long grass. When the left horn re-emerged it had joined the rest of the impi and the left horn, chest and right horn were advancing over Umisi Hill. The whole charging buffalo formation came in at a run on the three sides of the laager. This was the scenario Chelmsford had planned for, at a range of between 300 and 400 yards (300 to 400 m), the British infantry opened fire, supported by the Gatling guns and rockets. Zulu marksmen caused a few casualties within the laager, but the defenders kept the Zulus at bay and Chelmsford’s defence was working. Though the Zulu regiments made persistent rushes to get within stabbing range, their charges lacked the drive and spirit that had pushed them forward at the Battle of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. The only Zulu to reach the laager was a 10-year old boy, who was taken prisoner by members of the naval brigade and later served as a kind of mascotte on their ship, HMS Boadicea. After 20 minutes, the Zulu impi began to crumble away. Seeing this, Chelmsford ordered pursuit by the mounted troops and the native contingent. Large numbers of Zulu warriors were killed in this chase. By 07:30, the Zulus had fled and the grim task of killing Zulu wounded was undertaken.
Around the laager itself, 700 Zulu bodies were counted and 300 more were killed in the mounted chase of the retreating warriors. The British took eleven dead, including a Lieutenant-Colonel, and 48 wounded.
1877-8-9 532 medals attributable to 90th Regt
The 90th regiment proceeded to the Cape in 1878, and was employed oil the eastern frontier during the Kaffir War of that year; after which it formed part of the force under the command of Sir Evelyn Wood, sent overland from King William’s Town to Natal, which was engaged in the Zulu War of 1879. It fought at Kambula and Ulundi. Kambula: The Zulu chief, Cetawayo, launched three impi (fighting divisions) against Colonel Wood’s lager, defended by 2,000 British troops and native auxiliaries. Repulsed, the Zulus were pursued for seven miles. The defeat practically broke Cetawayo’s power. The British lost 81. Ulundi was the base of Cetawayo, the Zulu chief, who had 20,000 warriors. He was attacked by 5,000 British led by Wolseley and Chelmsford and, in a fierce fight, lost 1,500 warriors. The defeat broke his tribe. Cetawayo himself was captured the following month. British casualties, 15 killed, 78 wounded.
No Bar – 229 Medals attributable HMS Himalaya (extract relative to G Withers below).