Lot Archive


№ 309


27 September 1994

Hammer Price:

A Boer War D.C.M. pair awarded to Corporal F.W. Palfrey, Warwickshire Imperial Yeomanry, for gallantry at Kheis Drift

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL, V.R. (260 Corpl. 2nd Imp. Yeo.); QUEEN'S SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902, 4 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, S.A. 1901 (260 Shg.-Sth., 5th Coy. 2nd Imp. Yeo.) co ntact marks, therefore nearly very fine and better (2)

This lot was sold as part of a special collection, Medals from the Collection of the late Mike Minton.

View Medals from the Collection of the late Mike Minton


D.C.M., London Gazette, 27 September, 1901.

The following extracts of an eye-witness account are taken from 'The Warwickshire Yeomanry in South Africa,' and relate to the attack on Kheis Drift which a squadron of Warwicks under Major Orr-Ewing had been ordered to hold: 'A narrow cutting through the trees led down to the drift, which according to the guide, ran straight across the river to a large island a quarter of a mile long, well wooded, and of such a height as to entirely shut out of view the opposite bank. The distance to the island was some hundred and fifty yards, the stream running strong and the water about five feet deep in places. The river being low, twenty yards of rough stones lay bare on the near side of the water immediately below the opening through the trees.

'The men having taken up their position, Major Orr-Ewing, Lieutenant Paulet and Sergeant-Major Smart walked out on to the stones the better to examine the position. They were immediately fired upon, but although all had narrow escapes fortunately none of the bullets took effect. After this it was obvious that the rebels were in force upon the island and desultory firing was kept up on both sides. About eleven o'clock orders came for a patrol of the Warwicks to cross the drift, with the view of subsequently putting the whole squadron over the river. Lieutenant Forbes immediately volunteers to try the drift alone, but Major Orr-Ewing insisted upon his taking at least one man with him. Corporal A. Baxter at once offered to go with Lieutenant Forbes, and both mounted ready for the word to start. Even before they moved out from the trees several shots were fired at them, and it is impossible to express in words the cool bravery with which both officer and man undertook their perilous enterprise.

'A few minutes later and Lieutenant Forbes and Corporal Baxter galloped down the bank and were immediately exposed to the rebel fire. They pushed on, crossed the stones, and were soon some distance out in river. The Warwicks in cover had ordered to fire volleys into the island in order, if possible, to check the enemy's fire, but in spite of this the bullets could be seen splashing in the water round the brave pair. But both seemed to bear charmed lives until some ten yards from the island, when a regular storm of bullets fell round them, and almost simultaneously both horses were shot and their riders struggling in the water. There was nothing for it now but an attempt at return. The depth of the water, almost up to their necks, can only account for their not being shot immediately. Wading slowly back they came, bullets splashing on every side of them. Lieut. Forbes fell twice in re-crossing and all thought that he was wounded, but each time he was up again and struggled on, eventually gaining the bank some forty yards below the drift, exhausted, but unharmed. Corporal Baxter was less fortunate. He appeared to be wounded first about midstream, but he regained his feet and managed to wade into shallow water some three feet deep. Here he was again hit, and was unable to move. The firing from the island continued unabated, although it must have been obvious that Corporal Baxter was severely wounded. From the depth of the water it was plain that unless assistance came quickly he would be drowned. And now there followed quickly one upon the other many acts of bravery, which led to the heavy list of casualties amongst the Warwick Yeomanry.

'Grasping Corporal Baxter's perilous position, Major Orr-Ewing, Sergeant J. Moncreiff, Lance-Corporal Walker and Private Ashley rushed out across the stones to his assistance. The enemy's fire was now redoubled, but in spite of this on ran the four, reached the wounded man, and lifting him carried him slowly out of the water. Grouped round Corporal Baxter they formed a fatal mark to the rebels, and just as the water edge was reached all four of the rescue party fell wounded. Not content with this work the fire was still kept up upon the five prostrate forms, and it immediately became plain that no respect was to be paid by the rebels to the usages of civilised warfare.

'Lieutenant Paulet, Surgeon-Captain Dunn (medical officer to the 2nd Battalion Imperial Yeomanry), Lance-Corporal Palfry, and Private Toon then went out to attempt to bring in Major Orr-Ewing. Their efforts were successful, though Lieutenant Paulet, Lance, Corporal Palfry, and Private Toon all had narrow escapes, their clothes being torn by bullets. Surgeon-Captain Dunn was wounded almost immediately after reaching Major Orr-Ewing, and particular praise is due to Lance-Corporal Palfry, who assisted him to the bank, and to Lieutenant Paulet and Private Toon, who were thus left to carry in the Major unassisted. Private T. Nevill was severely wounded in the arm when assisting Surgeon-Captain Dunn after he had reached the bank. Privates P. Reid and Stovin received serious wounds when exposing themselves most bravely to help a wounded comrade and Private F. Lane was killed while going to assist the wounded under fire. Shortly after this Sergeant-Major Smart had his helmet shot through while giving water to one of the wounded, and it was then considered inadvisable to risk any more casualties, and strict orders were given that no one should expose himself for the purpose of aiding the wounded.'

The action at Kheis Drift was the first major action for the Warwick Yeomanry and the loss of their commanding officer, Major Orr-Ewing was sorely felt. Three men of the regiment won the D.C.M. for gallantry at this action. Corporal Palfrey later received the Q.S.A. from the hands of the King in England.