Battle of Rorke’s Drift medals in London sale

A pair of campaign medals that belonged to one of the last remaining survivors of the renowned 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, Alfred Saxty, a corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, has sold for a hammer of £22,000 in Noonans’ recent sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria.

The medals were being sold by a collector and were purchased by a private collector with strong African roots and who has visited the site of Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana, immortalised in the iconic 1964 film, Zulu.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison at Noonans, commented: “Alfred Saxty of 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot served as a Corporal in “B” Company at the defence, and was one of the last few survivors, of Rorke’s Drift. He was just 22 years old when he was involved in one of the most famous battles in British military history, which saw just over 150 British and colonial troops defend the South African hospital against attacks by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors in January 1879, and in fact Saxty was promoted to Sergeant the day after the defence. Medals linked to this conflict always attract substantial attention.”

Alfred Saxty was born at Buckland Dinham, near Frome, Somerset, and enlisted for 25 Brigade at Newport, Monmouthshire, on September 11, 1876, aged 19, being posted to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot at Brecon two days later. He served in South Africa from February 1, 1878 to January 12, 1880.

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 May 6, 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 October 4, 1887, ‘for such term as shall complete 21 years’ service.’ He transferred to the 2nd Battalion of that regiment on New Year’s Day 1888, and then transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on July 14, 1891. Reduced to Corporal in October 1894, he was discharged at his own request at Thayetmyo, Burma, on 28 February 1895.

He was admitted to In-Pension at Chelsea Hospital on June 12, 1930 but reverted to Out-Pension in October 1933 to live with his sister in Newport, Monmouthshire. He died three years later, at the age of 77 years in 1936, and was buried with military honours at St Wollos Cemetery, Newport, on July 15.