This article elaborates on the South African use of the “SR” prefix and naming (or lack thereof) found on Rhodesian WW2 campaign medals. 

Block numbers 597 689 – 602 688 are allocated to Southern Rhodesian who enlisted in the Union Defence Force.

The prefix “SR” is used before these numbers and was impressed on the Africa Service Medal only.   A review these soldiers files in SADF archives will reveal the issue of only a single Africa Service Medal.  No other campaign medals entitlement is ever, nor noted in the SADF service files. 

Extract from the Block Numbers Register

The block numbers to Southern Rhodesians are allocated as follow:

SR 597689-598206      Southern Rhodesian Forces in Union 518 numbers 

SR 598207-598319      1st City Regiment                                113 numbers 

SR 598320-598433      1 Wits Rifles                                        114 numbers   

SR 598434-598513      Artillery                                               80 numbers

SR 598514-598558      Signals                                                 45 numbers 

SR 598576                   Capt Barnett                                       *

SR 598577                   Capt BF Rea                                        *

SR 598578                   A/WOII Tighe                                      *

SR 598579                   Gnr Cluer HP                                       *          

SR 598580                   Tpr Hancock JM                                  *

SR 598581                   Sgt Clark DM                                       *

SR 598582-598600      not allocated                                       **

SR 598601-599100      Union Defence Force                          500 numbers 

SR 599101-602688      Southern Rhodesian Forces in Union 3 588 numbers 

“*” Unusually, we find the direct mention of individual men in the block number roll.  Although the block number roll includes specific individuals in the last few pages, it highly unusual that such detail is recorded.  Six names are explicitly noted in the register including, Gunner HPL Cluer and WO2 MO Tighe and who are both recorded in the nominal roll of Gunners of Southern Rhodesia WW2 by “Tort”.  Tighe is noted for a “MID” in the book but included in “Those Mentioned – The armies” by Michael Maton.

“**”Not allocated does not mean these were not issued numbers, they are issued but not to a specific unit as detailed above. These men could have served in any regiment including the LRDG

Unfortunately, Rhodesians serving in the LRDG are not defined or described within the block numbers roll, however, the SR service numbers for all these men are well detailed a superb book LRDG Rhodesia (Pittaway and Fourie).  A review of the nominal roll contained in the book does, however, show sequential service numbers starting from 599016-599055, but it is not limited to these numbers.  One will assume that many of these men attested at the same time.  

It must be made clear that these block numbers apply to Rhodesian who attested (volunteered) via the Union Defence Force and took the Red Oath to serve outside the Union of South Africa.   It excludes Rhodesians domiciled in South Africa who volunteered in the ordinary course with South African units or Rhodesians who attested with the Rhodesian Army in Rhodesia.   

It is interesting to note the use of the “V” denoting volunteer after their numbers.   A “V” is not stamped after or before the service number on the medal.   All these soldiers received a single officially named South African Africa Service (ASM) medal.  The ASM was the only medal issued by the South African Authorities to these men.

All ASM’s are officially stamped with the service number, initials and surname of the soldier.   No rank or regiment appears on the medal however the “SR” prefix identifies them.  My theory is that all these medals were allocated to one machine and or one operator at the SA Mint because the style of stamping is all similar. 

Herewith is the style of naming.  Note the clear impression of the service number, initials and name.   This particular style of naming and deep impression found on all the of “SR” Africa Service Medals I have encountered other than one, which is detailed later in this article.  As the ASM, being silver is softer than nickel, the strike is always clear and defined.  Note carefully the small square type letters.

Official South African Issue Africa Service Medals correctly named

Below find the interesting OBE, Military Cross and bar group to Lt Col E R Fothergill Southern Rhodesia Artillery.  The medals are mounted incorrectly, but that is a different story.   An early desert war immediate award Military Cross (MC ) followed by a bar for a second immediate award for his bravery at El Alamein.  The Order of the British Empire is awarded post WW2 for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.  Lt Col Fothergill is better known as “Tort” and penned the book “Gunners”, a history of the Southern Rhodesian Artillery in WW2.

OBE MC and Bar ED to Rhodesian

Strangely enough, he wears an MID oakleaf, which is not verified. Both Fothergill and WO Tighe have MID’s which are not listed in the London Gazette.  

A single, named African Service, medal defines this group.

Rhodesian who lived in South Africa or made their way to South Africa and enlisted in South African units were considered South Africans.  They, therefore, received the standard named South African named medals, or did they?

Rules are meant to be broken and SR 68740 H R Perryman is a prime example of this.   Perryman’s group consists of British issue WW2 stars and a single named ASM with an SR Prefix.

“SR” shows him to be Southern Rhodesian, but the service number does not fall within the SR block numbers. 68740 falls within the RNVR (South African) range.   A trip to the SADF archives confirmed that he was Southern Rhodesian, however, had served in the SANF. His SADF Index card shows the allocation of service number 68740 with no prefix. His medal was dispatched in 1952.

HR Perryman
H R Perryman
HR Perryman

Unfortunately, his file, as is standard with many SANF volunteers who were seconded to the Royal Navy, is not very detailed.  It does confirm his Rhodesian address and an unusual request to be repatriated to Southern Rhodesia. See above comments in his file.

I now draw your attention to the style of naming. The naming form is consistent with that found on South African issues and different to the regular style found on SR issued medals. Compare this to the style on Fothergill and others illustrated above. Note carefully there is a no “.” after the SR as is normally found and the type stamp is different.

When Mr Perryman elected repatriation to Rhodesia, he fell into the same category as other SR enlistments, and the SADF washed their hands of him and issued only a single the ASM with no campaign stars.  There is no record of any other campaign medals granted to him from South Africa in his main file, other than his single ASM. His decision earned him repatriation but cost him the coveted SA issue Burma Star.   It would an interesting research topic to find his service records in Rhodesia and how they treated the issue of his “stars” to a “Navy Man.”

Perryman is an original issued medal but in the usual SA style.

Campaign medals issued by Rhodesian Authorities 

The campaign medals issued by the Southern Rhodesia Defence Force are all unnamed British type issue.   An example of such a grouping together with its issue slip to HC Morris, from the Medal Section Defence Headquarters, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia is illustrated below.

HC Morris – Rhodesian Forces

80177 HC Morris was issued three medals.  Note there is no 1939-45 Star as he must have failed to serve the full six months in Italy to gain this star. Currently, nothing is known about Mr Morris, but we are fortunate that he did not sign and return his “Post Free” confirmation slip and we are thus lucky to have preserved this little part of unknown history.

SR -Return Card for Medal Issue
SR Medal Return Slip

It is recorded that Rhodesians who enlisted in the Royal Air Force in WW2 are allocated RAF block number as follows:

710061-710999           Rhodesia for local enlistments 

711000-711999           Rhodesia for South Africans 

776200-776499 Southern Rhodesian in the Middle East 

777600-778999           Enlistments in Rhodesia 

779000-779499           Transfers of Rhodesians in Iraq

779500-779999 Transfers of Rhodesians in the Middle East 

798450-798499           Enlistments for Rhodesia and Basutoland etc 

All the above is detailed on https://www.ab-ix.co.uk/pdfs/rfc_raf.pdf

These medals would have been issued unnamed or can this rule also be broken?

“Official” issue of Southern Rhodesian campaign medals 

Over the years I have noticed some Royal Air Force (RAF) medal groups appearing in South Africa all numbered and named to the RAF.  It became apparent that the style of engraving was similar.  Engraving is like handwriting, and I suspected that these were all done by the same engraver.  I took a chance that this was possibly official, and collected many of these groups.   As WW2 research possibilities improved over time, I discovered that these medals were all named to RAF casualties.   Look carefully at the service number and the style of engraving..

Rhodesian RAF Casualty
Reverse of Casualty Medals showing naming
Close up of “official” engraved style naming

The service number falls into “enlistments in Rhodesia”. Flight Sergeant John William Donaldson was killed on 23rd February 1944, a Rhodesian serving with 211 Squadron (Reference Commonwealth War Graves). All the medals including the Defence Medal and War Medal are engraved in this manner.

I submit a theory that there was an “official’ contractor, possibly a jeweller in Salisbury or Bulawayo engaged in engraving all campaign medals to Rhodesian RAF casualties or was this done by the Rhodesian Mint?

I have not encountered this style of naming on any Rhodesian Army casualties and appears to be unique to the Southern Rhodesians serving in the Royal Air Force or possibly the RhAF.

These groups are always found mounted as worn, which is unusual for a casualty. Therefore I add the possibility that in addition to naming, the medals were mounted for presentation to the families.

In 40 years, I found a single WM to the RAF engraved in this style but with a M/2019 service number. This is a different kettle of fish to the Rhodesians enlisted in the RAF. So who is this man?

Single War Medal – engraved to Casualty with non RAF service number

The Commonwealth War Graves clarifies this man.

Flight Sergeant LOUTH, GEOFFREY WILLIAM MCCALLUM

Service Number M/2019, Died 12/12/1945, aged 24, Southern Rhodesia Air Force, Son of William Geoffrey and Margaret Frances Louth (nee McCallum), of Avondale, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.  

He is buried in Rhodesia and appears to have only served in Rhodesia. I once again draw your attention to the service number which is not an RAF block number. 

The style of engraving is in the same manner as Donaldson.

I now illustrate F/Sgt GWM Louth’s brother, Flight/Sgt LG Louth who served in the RAF as an “enlistment from Rhodesia”.  The naming is period stamped and is entirely different from that found on the casualty groupings I have handled.

Unofficial naming to Rhodesian Enlistment (non casualty)

Recently, a named Air Crew Europe Star Group to Flight Sergeant (Pilot) C. A. Cox, No. 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45 (778769 W/O. C. A. Cox, 166 Sqdn with officially engraved Rhodesian issues slipped past everyone at a DNW auction.  Clive Arthur Cox was killed in action in a bomber raid over Hanover Germany 3 December 1943.

As regards rarity of the “SR” prefix. It is very possible that all the SA block numbers to Southern Rhodesia are not completely allocated. This would suggest that approximately 2000 SR ASM’s may have been issued.  I should, therefore, revise my previous article and elevate the  “SR” prefix on an ASM to rare.   The Rhodesian style engraved naming (to casualties) is and has always been, a great rarity.