The exceptional South African Colonial Forces Boer War February 1902 Intelligence Department Scout’s Distinguished Conduct Medal, Natal Rebellion 1906, and Great War Territorial Force War Medal Aden Field Force 1918 group awarded to Captain F.W. Stringer, 7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, Territorial Force. Originally a member of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Hampshire Regiment from 1888 to 1891, he then became a cattle ranger and whilst out in Canada saw service with the Canadian Artillery, before moving to South Africa to continue as a rancher. With the outbreak of the Boer War he saw service as a Trooper with the South African Light Horse, and was present during the relief of Ladysmith in February 1900. Employed between November 1900 and December 1901 variously with the Army Service Corps escorting Government Live Stock, and then as a Ranger with the Corps of Cattle Rangers, his civilian occupation as a cattle rancher meant he was ideally suited for work providing the ‘protection and safe conduct of captured stock’. Having re-enlisted into the S.A.L.H he was specially selected for work as a mounted scout seconded to the Field Intelligence Department, and it was on 5th February 1902 that Stringer distinguished himself ‘for single-handed capture of a Boer under circumstances of gallantry’ whilst on operations in the Cape Colony. It was for this that he was Mentioned in Despatches by Lord Kitchener, and then awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Stringer went on to serve for a number of years with the Colonial Forces, and saw service as a Corporal with the Transvaal Mounted Rifles during the suppression of the Zulu Rebellion in 1906. Commissioned into the Territorial Force in 1912, on the outbreak of the Great War he saw service with the 1st/7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment in India from late 1914, and formed part of the Aden Field Force from January 1918 through to the end of the war. He later settled in East Africa in the Rift Valley of Kenya.
Group of 7: Distinguished Conduct Medal, EVII bust; (TPR: F. STRINGER. S.A. LT. HORSE); Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902, 6 Clasps: Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Laing’s Nek, Belfast; (1169 L.CORPL: T.W. STRINGER. S.A. LT. HORSE.); King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902, 2 Clasps: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902; (GUIDE F.W. STRINGER. F.I.D.); Natal Rebellion Medal 1906, Clasp: 1906; (CPL: T.W. STRINGER, TRANSVAAL MTD. RIFLES.); British War Medal and Victory Medal; (CAPT. F.W. STRINGER.); Territorial Force War Medal 1914-19; (CAPT. F.W. STRINGER. HAMPS.R.)
Condition: note letter ’T’ for first initial on second, light contact wear, overall Good Very Fine.
Together with a copy of the recipient’s Distinguished Conduct Medal, EVII bust, this previously sold as an original back in 1952, having been made to deceive, it is named in an impressed style on the rim: (TRPR. F. STRINGER. S.A.L.HORSE). This copy D.C.M. is a recognised fake which was originally sold by Glendining’s in May 1952, and is described by Purves in his book ‘British Gallantry Awards’ under the section on ‘Copies and Fakes’. The previous owner of Stringer’s awards took it upon himself to put the copy with the original medals in order to take it off the market.
Frederick William Stringer, sometimes shown with the christian name of Thomas, was born on 13th July 1873 in Horton, Dorset, the son of the Reverend Thomas Stringer, of Purbrook, Cosham, Hampshire. Educated at Portsmouth Grammar School, he was still at school when he enlisted into the Volunteer Force, and saw service from 1888 through to 1891 with ‘L’ Company of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, which was stationed at Porchester.
Having emigrated initially to Canada, he is known to have service for one year in the Canadian Artillery, and having then travelled to South Africa, he found work as a cattle rancher, and on the outbreak of the Boer he enlisted into the South African Colonial Forces, joining as a Trooper (No.1169) the South African Light Horse. His unit was raised in the Cape Colony on 8th November 1899, the command being given to Major and Local Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable Julian Byng, 10th Hussars, who would later rise to Field Marshal. One of the officer’s who would serve with the unit was Winston Churchill, the future Prime Minister, who would serve with the unit from January to July 1900.
Formed just one month after the outbreak of the war, by December 1900 it comprised eight Squadrons raised from Uitlanders. The regiment was largely financed by Wernher-Beit & Co - which had a controlling interest in De Beers Consolidated Mines. and together with the Imperial Light Horse they effectively formed a Uitlander army. A small portion were used to protect the railway line to De Aar but they mostly served as a part of the Mounted Brigade of the Natal Field Force, taking part in the relief of the besieged town of Ladysmith. The Boers had encircled Ladysmith trapping a force of 13,000 British troops under the command of Lieutenant General Sir George White inside. The relief effort was dispatched from Cape Town under the command of General Sir Redvers Buller and by early December 1899 this 20,000 strong relieving army was arriving just south of the river Tugela. Stringer formed part of this force on operations in the Cape Colony and during the relief of Ladysmith.
Buller launched his first major offensive against the Boer lines across the Tugela river on 15th December 1899 during the Battle of Colenso and the three squadrons of the South African Light Horse along with the rest of Dundonald’s Mounted Brigade were aligned to cover the right flank of the battle formation. Their orders were to "endeavour to take up a position on Hlangwane Hill", a task in which they made good progress but eventually they were pinned down and lacking any chance of infantry reinforcement they were ordered by the General to withdraw.
The attack on Colenso having failed Buller moved the focus of his army, now swollen to 30,000 men with the addition of Sir Charles Warren’s division, to the west in January 1900. The target was to break through on the enemy's right flank for which they would discover they would need to capture and hold a 430 meter high hill called Spion Kop. A portion of the SALH remained at Chieveley with Major General Geoffrey Barton whose orders were to entrench there and protect the head of the communications line, but four squadrons moved westward with Dundonald, Stringer amongst them.
On 11th January the Earl of Dundonald's Mounted Division which comprised approximately 3000 Cavalry marched to Pretorius's Farm, the South African Light Horse were tasked with protecting the baggage column but they reached their objective by noon. With the exception of the Royal Dragoons the cavalry now advanced to seize a bridge across the Little Tugela River at Springfield, which when they arrived they found unoccupied and none of the patrols found any Boers in the area. With some encouragement from his subordinates Dundonald decided to exceed his orders and push on towards the heights above Potgieter’s Ferry which they reached around 6 pm to find an already fortified position left unguarded and unoccupied. They named their new position Spearman’s Hill and sent back a request for urgent reinforcements. Next day six volunteers of the SALH led by Lieutenant Carlisle swam across the river to capture the ferry and brought the punt back to their side. Churchill described this as a "dashing exploit of which the regiment... are immensely proud" in his book “London to Ladysmith via Pretoria”. On the 13th their position was strengthened by the arrival of two battalions of Lyttelton’s 4th Brigade and Sir Redvers Buller established his headquarters in this camp.
It took almost another week for the rest of the army to get into position and all the while the Boers were preparing their defence. During this period Colonel Byng took two squadrons to the top of a high hill overlooking a road from Colenso to Potgieter's and there attacked five Boer Ox wagons laden with supplies but they escaped. The SALH also went to support a patrol of Bethune’s Mounted Infantry that needed to be extricated. On 17th January Dundonald's Mounted Division with the exception of Bethune's crossed Waggon drift where a Trooper of the 13th Hussars was accidentally drowned. The next day the cavalry set out to discover the western flank of the Boer lines with the Composite Regiment at the head of the column who just after midday were able to ambush a column of about 200 Boers near Acton Homes and successfully trapped about 40 of them. A squadron of the SALH joined in reinforcing the attack and by dusk the Boers surrendered.
Warren's main attack started on 20th January and Lord Dundonald ordered Colonel Byng to seize a hill which they subsequently named Bastion Hill. Byng sent two squadrons of the SALH unmounted to ascend the hill while the remaining squads gave covering fire with rifles and 3 machine guns but they had no artillery support. Major Childe successfully lead the attack as the Boers fled from the summit however, just like at Spion Kop the crest of the hill was exposed to the enemy artillery and Childe was killed by a fragment from an exploding shell. They were relieved that night by two companies of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Spion Kop was attacked and held between the 23rd–24th but ultimately the whole force retreated back across the Tugela River.
In the battle of Vaal Krantz from 5th to 7th February, Lyttelton's brigade successfully captured and occupied the Vaal Krantz ridge but it was deemed unsuitable for the British artillery and further progress without artillery support would be difficult and therefore, another withdrawal was ordered. The regular cavalry led by Colonel John Burn-Murdoch, were to cover the left flank while the irregulars, including the SALH, were to cover the right flank and rear.
Even as they withdrew from the Vaal Krantz attack, moving the army back to Chievely, plans were being made for the next attempt and on 12 February Dundonald's brigade were sent to thoroughly reconnoitre a feature called Hussar Hill, so called because a small post of the 13th Hussars had been surprised on it 6 weeks earlier and had 2 men killed. The mounted irregulars took with them a Colt Battery, the 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers and a battery of Field Artillery, and they successfully occupied the hill giving Sir Redvers Buller the opportunity to reconnaissance the ground until they were ordered to withdraw at 1 pm. As they were making their way back to Chieveley they were forced to engage in a fierce rear guard action in which a young Lieutenant John Spencer-Churchill of the SALH was shot through the leg. Two days later the SALH were back as the advanced party to occupy the hill permanently, once again being backed up by the Welch Fusiliers and eventually by 3 whole infantry brigades and artillery.
The next two days were fought out by the artillery of both sides but on the 17th the general attack began on Cingolo Ridge and Monte Cristo Ridge. Dundonald's mounted brigade left at day break to ride 10 miles east of Hussar Hill through rough and broken terrain eventually turning to ascend the eastern slope of Cingolo hill and thus coming up on the far right flank of the Boer's defences. As two squadrons began to clear the hill they were supported by the Queen’s Royal Regiment of Hildyard’s infantry brigade and the rest of the cavalry descended into the plain of the far side of the ridge to chase the retreating enemy. The following day Hildyard's brigade seized Monte Cristo Ridge and the irregular cavalry rushed forward to occupy its eastern spur. Green hill and Hlangwani hill would fall next. The cavalry now had to wait as the infantry and guns fought a hard action across the Tugela firstly against the Boer's Pieters position then later by a flanking manoeuvre along the Hlangwani plateau.
Stringer saw service right through the operations leading to the relief of Ladysmith in February 1900 including the forcing of the Tugela Heights, followed by operations in the Orange Free State and the action at Laing’s Nek and Belfast later in that year.
After 11 months service with the South African Light Horse, Stringer was discharged in October 1900, and returned to his home at 24 Moor Street, Johannesburg, then immediately re-enlisted for a period of 7 months service attached to the Army Service Corps and escorting ‘Government Live Stock’ in his roll as a cattle ranger, before then enlisting at Pretoria on 21st May 1901 as a Ranger (No.315) into the Corps of Cattle Rangers which was formed for the ‘protection and safe conduct of captured stock’. Stringer remained with this obscure unit through till his discharge on the disbandment of the Corps on 30th November 1901. Stringer then re-attested for service with the South African Light Horse at Elandsfontein on 4th December 1901, and assumed his old service number. However on re-attesting, he found himself seconded for service as an Agent with the Field Intelligence Department, and employed with a ’specially selected scouting corps taken from members of the regiment’, namely the South African Light Horse, and would win distinction during this period.
It was whilst on operations in the Cape Colony on 5th February 1902 that Stringer was Mentioned in Despatches by Lord Kitchener in his dispatch of 8th March 1902, one of three men of the S.A.L.H. to be so honoured in this dispatch, two being for the action resulting in the capture of the laager at Fanny’s Home on 2nd February, with Stringer being decorated for his personal action on 5th February 1902, the award being published in the London Gazette for 25th March 1902. Stringer was then subsequently further recognised by the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, with the citation reading ‘for single-handed capture of a Boer under circumstances of gallantry, on 5th February 1902’, the award being published in the London Gazette for 25th April 1902. Stringer was subsequently paid a Gratuity of £20 on being awarded the D.C.M. by the South African War Branch on 9th March 1903.
Discharged from the South African Light Horse on 31st March 1902, he however then appears to have maintained a connection in a reservist capacity with the unit in some form or other through to its disbandment in 1907, having in the meantime gone back to farming. With the outbreak of the Zulu Rebellion in Natal in 1906, he once again donned uniform, and saw active service in Natal and Zululand as a Corporal with the Transvaal Mounted Rifles, being one of a number of men of the South African Mounted Rifles employed with this unit during the operations as part of the force raised under Lieutenant Colonel W.F. Barker in the Transvaal.
The reasons for the Natal Rebellion came about due to the relationship between white immigrants and the African population of Natal was, like elsewhere in colonised Africa, uneasy as white settlers took over farmland and disturbed traditional ways of life thus imposing economic hardships, and as the colonial powers south to exert their own forms of government over the native population. The situation in Natal was made more fragile as a result of a number of natural catastrophes, including East Coast fever which spread to cattle and a severe hailstorm which had a devastating effect on farming. Failure to improve the economy and shore up a depleted treasury led to the collapse of the government. A new government under the Honourable Charles Smythe introduced new tax, particularly a Poll Tax to be imposed on all adults.
This hit the African population especially hard with the result that most Chiefs failed to collect the tax, although not all refused but asked for more time. In this highly charged atmosphere rumour abounded and take of rebellion soon spread. As the government prepared to take strong action, news was received that two policemen had been killed on 8th February 1906. On the 10th, Colonel Duncan Mackenzie, CB, CMG, raised a force with a view to a ‘drive’ into southern Natal with a further force under Colonel G. Leuchars CMG. These two forces rounded up the Chiefs Ngobizembe, Mskofeli and Gobizembe. At a parade at Mapumulo on 10th March, Colonel Leuchars announced the fines to be imposed in cattle. This brought the first part of the rebellion to a close.
However, on 3rd April, Chief Bambata led his people in the Greytown district in resistance. They ambushed a police column and practically besieged Greytown, Melmoth and Eshowe. A large sum was offered for the capture of Bambata, who crossed the Tugela River into Zululand, where he was joined by Chiefs Sigananda and N’Dubi in the Nkandhla Forests. The authorities now decided to raise more forces and organise a drive through the forests. The Transvaal raised a force under Lieutenant Colonel W.F. Barker and the Cape another, under Lieutenant Colonel J. Dick. In addition to these State forces, Colonel J.R. Royston raised a unit known as Royston’s Horse. The Naval Corps, under Commander F. Hoare, was also mobilised. Sir Abe Bailey raised a small unit from the Lancaster and York Association, and the Natal Indian Congress raised a stretcher-bearer unit. As soon as these forces were ready, the ‘drive’ started and the rebels were driven out of the forests into the mountains. On 16th June, Chief Sigananda surrendered, but on the 19th, a further outbreak was started by Chiefs Ndhlova and Messini. However, on 8th July, the rebels were totally defeated at Izinsimba and both Chiefs surrendered.
Stringer was one of 489 men of the Transvaal Mounted Rifles to subsequently receive the Natal Rebellion Medal 1906 with clasp 1906.
On 10th August 1906, his former commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel W.F. Barker, South African Light Horse and Transvaal Mounted Rifles, wrote of Stringer: ‘Mr F.W. Stringer served as a Trooper in the S.A.L.H. during the late war, under my command from November 1899, when the Corps was raised, until October 1900. He afterwards rejoined and during this second period served in a specially selected Scouting Corps taken from members of the Regiment. During the recent rebellion in Natal and Zululand he served under my command in the Transvaal Mounted Rifles as a Corporal. He is a very steady reliable man, a good soldier, and has on several occasions displayed conspicuous gallantry in the field, on act of his coming under the notice of the Commander in Chief, and his name afterwards appeared as “mentioned in despatches”.
Ultimately discharged from the South African Light Horse in the rank of Sergeant in 1907, Stringer then returned to England, where he worked in farming, and then applied for a commission into the Territorial Force on 23rd December 1911 at which time he was living at Hightown, near Ringwood, Hampshire.
Stringer received a testimonial from his former commanding officer, Major General J. Byng, written on 27th November 1911. Byng wrote that ’Stringer served under my command in the South African Light Horse almost throughout the campaign 1899 to 1902 and I can knowingly testify to his gallant conduct and exemplary character under the most trying conditions. I consider he would make an eligible Territorial Officer in every respect.’ Stringer was duly commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment on 18th January 1912.
By the outbreak of the Great War, Stringer was still with the 7th Battalion, and serving as a Captain, and he then embarked with the 1st/7th Battalion for India, embarking at Southampton on 9th October, and disembarking at Bombay on 10th November 1914, having travelled out aboard the H.M.T “Kenilworth Castle”. Stringer was stationed at Ambala in December 1917. It was then that Stringer got his opportunity for active service during the war, when he joined the Aden Field Force, embarking at Karachi on 3rd January, he disembarked at Aden on 8th January 1918, having travelled aboard the H.M.T. Aronda. He would spend the remainder of the war on service in Aden.
Aden can be seen as a minor campaign in the Great War. Aden is a city in what is now Saudi Arabia, and at the time was also a shipping port, used for stopping at on trips between Asia and the Suez Canal. Britain held a protectorate over Aden; however ever since the outbreak of war in 1914 the Ottomans had threatened this. Troops from the Indian Army were the force behind this protectorate of which they were able to drive off several small attacks from Turkish troops.
In 1918, the 1/7th Hampshire’s reached Aden, where they helped to defuse part of the ‘local war’ between the Turks and troops in Aden, which had been happening since 1915, since Turkey had entered the War. The situation in Aden was worsened due to the employment of troops who were not used to the hot weather. However the arrival of more troops meant that the Turks backed off. Since then the Aden Field Force had kept the Turks at bay, despite the fact they were not the strongest of forces. When the 1/7th Hampshire arrived in Aden in January 1918, they too suffered with the heat.
At once the 1/7th took over all outposts at Sheikh Othman, ten miles from Aden, to cover the water supply. The 1/7th Hampshire remained in Aden in full battalion strength until March 1918, when half the battalion was moved on, but Stringer would remain in Aden. Apart from a few minor attacks by Turkish forces, very little happened after this; even though fighting had finished, influenza had spread to Aden meaning the 1/7th Hampshire lost many men to disease. Stringer was himself admitted to the British General Hospital in Aden on 2nd October 1918, and would remain there till 13th November. He eventually left Aden aboard a ship on 24th January 1919, bound for the United kingdom. On his return home, Stringer was demolished on 20th February 1919, and returned to farming, but soon afterwards in 1922 he travelled to Kenya, East Africa, and settled in Subikia in Nakura County in the Rift Valley. Here he became an estate owner at Prospect Park, and was shown on the Rift Valley Voters List in December 1938. Having married Elizabeth Grace Dodds, Stringer died in Nairobi on 1st October 1947.