South Africa Medal with Zulu War clasp awarded to Pte Robert Adams of the 24th Foot, who died at the defence of Rorke’s Drift – £58,000 at Spink.

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He said: “While researching his remarkable story I was drawn to the fact that he shared a room in the hospital with Private Robert Adams, ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, who was one of that gallant Band of Brothers who lost their lives during the defence. It seems incredible that less than three years later that Adams’ medal should be entrusted to my charge.”

The South Africa medal with clasp for 1877-8-9 awarded to Adams duly appeared in the Spink auction in London on April 27, selling for £58,000 against an estimate of £40,000-50,000, underlining the endless appeal of honours earned by the gallant Rorke’s Drift defenders from January 22-23, 1879.

It was believed to be the first time the medal of a British casualty of the battle had been sold at auction in 26 years. Consigned by a private collector, it had sold at Spink back in 1994. Budgen said: “It was purchased by a UK internet bidder who has coveted a Rorke’s Drift medal for many years and was thrilled to add this to his collection.”

No fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses and four Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded for the actions.

Adams’ remains were buried with his comrades in the cemetery at Rorke’s Drift and his name inscribed on the memorial which stands there to this day. He was one of 17 British soldiers killed in the battle. His effects, which included his medal, were claimed by his family.

Howard’s medal had sold for £38,000 to a room bidder who travelled over from Australia.

Roll call

Several Rorke’s Drift South Africa medals have come to auction in the past few years. For example (all hammer prices):

• Private John Waters, 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, severely wounded, £44,000 at the Dix Noonan Webb sale on May 21, 2020.

• Driver Charles Robson, batman to commanding officer Lieutenant John Chard, £110,000 at DNW in 2018.

• Survivor 1524 Private Joseph Bromwich of the 2nd/24th Foot, £39,500 at Fieldings of Stourbridge in 2017.

• Corporal James Bushe, 2nd/24th Foot, one of only 10 survivors of the 24th Foot who were wounded in the defence, four of whom won the Victoria Cross, £60,000 at DNW in 2017.

• Kaffir and Zulu War medal awarded to Private Michael Minehan, 2nd/24th Foot, right-hand man of the front rank of B Company at the defence, sold for £70,000 at DNW in 2016 (a record price for a Rorke’s Drift medal awarded to a defender who did not receive the VC).