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19 April 2023

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№ 66


19 April 2023

Hammer Price:

The campaign pair to the Rorke’s Drift defender Sergeant Alfred Saxty, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, who served as a Corporal in “B” Company at the defence and was one of the last few survivors of Rorke’s Drift

South Africa 1877-79, 1 clasp, 1877-8-9 (849 Cpl. A, Saxty, 2-24-Foot,); India General Service 1854-95, 1 clasp, Burma 1885-7 (849 Sjt. A. Saxty, 2-S, W, Bord,) both early 20th century replacement medals officially impressed in small capitals, the I.G.S. struck with ‘Crimea’ dated obverse, contact marks, otherwise nearly very fine and rare (2) £15,000-£20,000

Replacement medals claimed by Saxty whilst an In-Pensioner at Chelsea Hospital, sometime around October 1930, and issued under Authority Chelsea Rep/68/GEN/5160.

Alfred Saxty was born at Buckland Dinham, near Frome, Somerset, and enlisted for 25 Brigade at Newport, Monmouthshire, on 11 September 1876, aged 19, being posted to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot at Brecon two days later. He was appointed Lance-Corporal in April 1877, promoted to Corporal in August 1877, and appointed Lance-Sergeant in February 1878 but reverted to Corporal in July 1878. He served in South Africa from 1 February 1878 to 12 January 1880, and was a Corporal in “B” Company of the 2nd Battalion who defended the hospital at Rorke’s Drift on 22 and 23 January, 1897, against 3,000 Zulus and beat them off. Loopholes were made in the farm buildings, and biscuit tins and bags of corn were used as a breastwork around the main buildings. Outnumbered by thirty to one the gallant garrison fought through the night to repulse the Zulu warriors who left 400 killed before they retreated. His presence at Rorke’s Drift is confirmed on the Chard roll, on Bourne’s rolls, in which he is incorrectly listed as a Sergeant, and on Dunbar’s list. In fact Saxty was promoted to Sergeant the day after the defence.

After 7 months service in the Mediterranean, the regiment moved to India in August 1880 and served in Burma from May 1886 to January 1887, before returning to India again. Saxty was confined on 6 May 1881, charged with being drunk on picquet, and sentenced by District Court Martial to be reduced to Private and to 56 days imprisonment with hard labour and stoppage of pay, in addition being fined £1 and forfeited Good Conduct Pay. He steadily regained his steps in rank to become Sergeant again in December 1885. After his service in the Burma campaign, Saxty re-engaged for the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at Madras on 4 October 1887, ‘for such term as shall complete 21 years service.’ He transferred to the 2nd Battalion of that regiment on New Years Day 1888, and then transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 14 July 1891. Reduced to Corporal in October 1894, he was discharged at his own request at Thayetmyo, Burma, on 28 February 1895.

Saxty had married Mary Copeland on 30 December 1885, at Ootacamund, India, and by December 1894 had issue four children, Albert, Mary, Wilfred and Leo. He was admitted to In-Pension at Chelsea Hospital on 12 June 1930, but reverted to Out-Pension in October 1933 in order to live with his sister in Newport, Monmouthshire.

In 1934 he attended the Northern Command Tattoo, held at Gateshead, County Durham, 7-14 July, when he appeared in the arena with Bourne, Cooper, Jobbins and Wood, all former comrades at Rorke’s Drift. Saxty died of myocarditis and senility at Woolaston House Infirmary, Newport, Monmouthshire, on 11 July 1936. He was buried with military honours at St Wollos Cemetery, Newport, on 15 July. The Royal Horse Artillery provided the gun carriage, the South Wales Borderers Depot the bearers, firing party and bugler. A large number of Officers and other ranks of the Regiment and a strong contingent of British Legion attended. Lieutenant-Colonel Bourne sent a wreath, as did five other survivors of the former Rorke’s Drift garrison.

Sold with a set of original Attestation and Discharge papers, Medical History, full pension record and Chelsea Hospital Death Certificate; together with a contemporary photograph of the ‘Five Defenders of Rorke’s Drift’ at the Northern Command Tattoo at Gateshead in 1934, fully annotated and identified in ink by Lieutenant-Colonel Bourne and accompanied by a manuscript letter from Bourne, dated 14 April 1939, at which time he and six others were the sole survivors of Rorke’s Drift. Together with comprehensive copied research including news cuttings, photographs, and Chard’s report on the defence of Rorke’s Drift.