The exceptional Great War East London Naval Recruiting Officer of the Order of the British Empire, South Africa Naval Brigade 9th Xhosa War and Zulu War Defence of Eshowe, Sudan Naval Brigade Suakin 1885 group awarded to Lieutenant Commander E. Duffett, Royal Navy, who remarkable career spanned 50 years between 1870 and 1920, he having original made the meteoric rise from Boy 1st Class to Warrant Officer and Gunner in just ten years. In addition to gunnery he was qualified diver, and formed part of the 200 strong Naval Brigade from the corvette Active who operated as mobile artillery and with the Gatling gun during operations against the Galekas, Gaikas and other Kaffir tribes from September 1877 through to June 1878 in what became known as the 9th Xhosa War, including the battle of Quintana. As one of those who then continued on to see service during the Zulu War from November 1878 to July 1879, he was with the Naval Brigade that formed the No.1 Column commanded by Colonel Charles Pearson, as such was engaged on 12th January 1879 at the Battle of Inyezane, driving off an attacking force of Zulus with rockets, Martini-Henry rifles and the Gatling gun, and then found itself besieged for a period of ten weeks during the defence of Eshowe, a period which saw Duffett twice promoted. He became one of only 124 Naval recipient’s of the South Africa Medal with clasp 1877-8-9 - later officially claiming a replacement to this original medal stolen from his uniform during shore policing work at Trinkitat in August 1886. Commissioned as a Warrant Officer and Gunner in January 1884, he then served with the gunboat Cygnet in the the Red Sea and formed part of the Naval Brigade from her during the Suakin 1885 operations in the Sudan in the period from March to May 1885. Commissioned as an officer in October 1908, he was then in charge of recruiting in the East London District, and on his retirement was retained, holding this position throughout the Great War, he was largely responsible for achieving a very high rate of recruits for naval service in that area, and for this work was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and appointed an Officer of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire in April 1919.
Group of 5: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Officer, O.B.E., 1st type, Military Division, hallmarks for London 1918; South Africa Medal 1877-1879, Clasp: 1877-8-9, later issue - 1887 period impressed naming; (E. DUFFET, LDG. SEAN., H.M.S. ACTIVE); Egypt and Sudan Medal 1882-1889, undated reverse, 1 Clasp: Suakin 1885; (E. DUFFETT, GUNR: R.N. H.M.S. CYGNET.); British War Medal 1914-1919; (LIEUT. E. DUFFETT. R.N.); Khedive’s Star, dated 1884-6.
Condition: second with later issue impressed naming, Good Very Fine.
Provenance: ex Captain K.J. Douglas-Morris Collection, and featured and illustrated in his book.
Edward Duffett, surname spelt Duffet on first second medal, was born on 3rd September 1855 in Portsea, Hampshire, and was 14 years and 8 months old when he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (No.11497B) on 13th April 1870, when sent to the boys training establishment Inconstant, being advanced to Boy 1st Class on 18th September 1871. Having then elected to sign on for 10 years ‘continuous service’ when aged 18, when sent to the receiving ship Duke of Wellington on 18th October 1872. Posted to Orontes on 23rd January 1873, he then joined the sloop Spartan on 10th March 1873, and was rated as an Ordinary Seaman and allocated the service No.54937, being then rated as an Able Seaman on 1st June 1875.
Paid off and sent back to Duke of Wellington on 4th July 1875, he was then posted to the gunnery training establishment Excellent on 13th August 1875, and qualified as a Seaman Gunner 1st Class as well as a Ship’s Diver, a most unusual qualification to possess at this period. Duffett was posted aboard the corvette Active from 15th April 1877, and during the two and a half years of service with this ship, he would spend most of the time of shore in South Africa fighting with the Naval Brigade.
In Septemer 1877 a Naval Brigade of 20 seamen and marines from Active, under Commander H.T. Wright, R.N., landed at East London, and then took part in the various operations against the Galekas, Gaikas and other Kaffir tribes from 26th September 1877 through to 28th June 1878 in what became known as the 9th Xhosa War, including the battle of Quintana. During this campaign the 200 strong Naval Brigade was used primarily in a mobile artillery role, and when landed they took with them 6x 12 pdr. Armstrong field guns, 1 Gatling gun, and 2 x 24 pdr. rocket tubes, 50,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, 900 x 12 pdr. shells and 40,000 rounds for the Gatling gun. This was deemed sufficient for a three month expedition. They were no re-supplied for nearly six months and were by this time dangerously low on all stores.
Some 173 men for Active, brigaded together with men from the ships Tenedos, Shah and Boadicea, then served ashore as part of an 858-man Naval Brigade during the Zulu War which lasted from 19th November 1878 to 21st July 1879, with Duffett, by then advanced to Leading Seaman, being amongst that number.
The group from Active comprised 10 officers, 100 seamen, 5 idlers, 42 Marines, 14 Kroomen, and 2 medical attendants. In addition to small arms, they were equipped with two 12-pounder breech-loading guns, 24-pounder rockets, and the Gatling gun. The 12-pounders were exchanged for two of the Army's 7-pounder mountain guns before entering Zululand.
Attached to the No.1 Column commanded by Colonel Charles Pearson, they crossed the Tugela River from Natal into Zululand on 12th January 1879. On 22nd January they saw action in the Battle of Inyezane, driving off an attacking force of Zulus with rockets, Martini-Henry rifles and the Gatling gun. The same day the British main force was defeated at the Battle of Isandlwana, and so Pearson's column advanced to Eshowe, where it was besieged for two months, until relieved on 3rd April. During the campaign, Active's crew suffered only one man killed, and nine wounded in action against the enemy, while nine died of disease during the siege, and one man drowned while crossing the Tugela. Total losses sustained by the 858-man Naval Brigade who fought on land was one officer and 23 men killed, and 124 men wounded, nearly half of the deaths were caused by enteric, dysentery or typhoid.
On 21st July 1879 Active’s Naval Brigade re-embarked off the coast at Tugela aboard the SS City of Venice for a passage to Durban and from there to Simon’s Bay via H.M.S. Shah, and then rejoined their ship. General Sir Garnet Wolseley had on the previous day inspected the Naval Brigade and thanked them for their resolute service throughout the campaign. He made reference to the fact this was not the first time that he owed a debt of thanks to a Naval Brigade, and not unlike those who had served under him during the Ashantee War of 1873, the present members of the Naval Brigade had demonstrated their ability to turn their hand to virtually anything that had asked of them. He continued by stating that throughout the time the Naval Brigade had served on shore they had fought bravely and tenaciously, often against forces that numerically superior and in doing so had brought much honour and glory on their parent service. He concluded by wishing them a safe return home.
Duffett’s service on shore was recognised by the award of the South Africa Medal 1877-1879 with clasp 1877-8-9, one of only 124 medals with this clasp awarded to men of the Royal Navy. In addition his ‘good service’ on shore during the 9th Xhosa War had led to his advancement to Leading Seaman back open 1st April 1878, and his promotion to Petty Officer 2nd Class on 23rd April 1879, followed by his promotion to Petty Officer 1st Class only eight days later on 1st May 1879. Both his latter promotions came whilst he would have been besieged at Eshowe. Throughout this period his character was stared as ‘exemplary’, and it was a rare achievement to have advanced from Ordinary Seaman to Petty Officer 1st Class in just six years.
On his paying off from Active, Duffett was posted to rejoin Excellent at Portsmouth on 26th October 1879, and after further qualifications in gunnery, was then posted aboard Monarch on 12th January 1882, before returning to Duke of Wellington on 24th June 1882, and Excellent on 7th July 1882. On 28th March 1883 Duffett was posted to ironclad turret ship Neptune as a Gunner’s Mate, and on 3rd September 1883 he signed on for a further ten years service. Seeing service aboard Neptune with the Channel Fleet, he was promoted to Gunner on 3rd January 1884, having therefore achieved Warrant Officer status after only ten years adult service, he was only 28 years old. Duffett had in fact been awarded the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 1st November 1883, but would have become ineligible to receive it due to his promotion to Warrant Officer’s frank only two months later.
Duffett’s first appointment as a Gunner was to the gunboat Cygnet, and he sailed with her for the Mediterranean and then the Red Sea, and between 1st March and 14th May 1885 once against served ashore with a Naval Brigade during the operations in and around Suakin, for which he was awarded the Egypt and Sudan Medal 1882-1889, with clasp Suakin 1885, and also the Khedive’s Star dated 1884-6. Towards the end of this three year commission, whilst ashore at Trinkitat in August 1886, Duffett was placed in charge of a party of seamen who were landed from the ship to perform police duties - probably riot control, and it was at this stage that his original South Africa Medal with clasp was stolen from him, having been taken from his uniform jacket. His commanding officer, Lieutenant A.H. Lindesay, R.N., stated that no blame should befall Duffet for this, and and replacement medal was requested and duly issued to Duffett on 16th February 1887. This is the same as the medal above, with a style of impressed naming similar to that issue to the Egypt and Sudan Medal of the period. Duffett left Cygnet and returned to Excellent in March 1887, and was then appointed to Vernon for service in Torpedo Boat No.48 in April 1887, before joining Saint Vincent in September 1887, Excellent in September 1890, Garnet in November 1890, and Excellent again in September 1894, this posting being for Instructional Staff Duties and service in Skylark.
Duffett was then posted to Tamar, the receiving ship at Hong Kong in June 1900, before being posted back to Excellent in June 1902, and to Duke of Wellington for service in Swiftsure in August 1902. Whilst serving in the latter ship he was promoted to Chief Gunner on 1st April 1903, and in this senior warrant officer rank was re-appointed to Excellent for service in the warships Conflict and Hunter. In January 1905 he was appointed to the Fire Queen for service in Torpedo Boat No.115, and three weeks later transferred with this vessel to Vivid, in order to operate from Devonport. In November 1905 he was reappointed to Excellent and three months later in January 1906 he was transferred to President at London.
Whilst with President, Duffett was in charge of recruiting in the East London District and was promoted to the commissioned rank of Lieutenant on 1st October 1908, an then remained in this posting until his compulsory retirement on 2nd September 1910 having reached 55 years of age, and having spent 37 years of adult service in the Royal Navy. Following his retirement Duffett found himself immediately re-employed at the East London Recruiting District, and on the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, he was retained in this posting for the duration of hostilities and during this period was largely responsible for achieving a very high rate of recruits for naval service. During the period that he served in this appointment, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on 1st October 1916, and on his release from ‘active service’ on 1st January 1920 he reverted to the ‘Retired List’. His contribution to the war effort and recruiting in the East London Recruiting District was recognised by his appointment to be an Officer of The Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the award being published in the London Gazette for 1st April 1919. He was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-1919.
Duffett was awarded a Greenwich Hospital Pension of £40 per annum on 27th January 1937, and died from chronic bronchitis on 26th February 1942. From entering the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in 1870 he had served continuously for nearly fifty years until finally retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 1920, and exception period of service.