The No Number (NN) Prefix for South African WW2 medals
Every soldier that ever served in the armed forces or uniformed services will always remember one thing – his service number. In the uniformed service, an individual is always reduced to a number and that number stays forever imbedded in the person mind.
Over all the years of collecting, it has been a quirk of mine, when dealing with a veteran to ask him or her for their service number. I have never been disappointed in the result. It sometimes takes a while, but they always remember it.
So, what happened if you did not qualify for a service number? The Union Defence Force had a novel idea – a no number number. Yes, only the military could come up with such a term. It is from this idea that the NN prefix was born.
Individuals who performed services for the military when they had no military service number and applied for WW2 campaign awards, received service awards with an NN(no number) Prefix. Approximately 100 applied and the majority thereof received a single Africa Service Medal.
These individuals would have signed the Africa Service Oath and thus qualified for the Africa Service Medal (ASM) and of course wore the famous “Red Tabs” on their epaulets. In addition a limited few also qualified for Campaign Stars and the War Medal. For the later the standard qualification criteria for the Campaign Stars and War Medal applied. A few, however, qualified under visits of less than 30 days duration to areas in the “fire zone”, for service classified for unusual importance to actual operations. The balance qualified for their Campaign medals under normal conditions and time periods as required by the regulations.
A list of applications for service medals by these No Number Number Individuals, was prepared by the late Gordon Bickley and appears below.
There are a few that deserve special mention
Lt Col Frank Fredrick Stewart BARLOW DSO – who received British Campaign medals but had also signed the Africa Oath and received a NN ASM. It’s a special award because strictly speaking, he did not attest into the UDF. On UDF Special List as an Officer holding military and other appointments not remunerated out of Army funds. He served with the South Wales Borderers and received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Major Louis Flavian LEZARD – A solicitor by profession, he served with the Kimberley Regiment in the Bechuanaland Rebellion in 1896, the Defence of Kimberly in the Boer War, German South West with the Kimberly Regiment and finally as a recruiting officer and honorary liaison officer between the SAAF and RAF. He qualified for both the SA War Services Medal and the ASM. Kimberley is regarded as the cradle of aviation in South Africa and boasts South Africa’s first flying school in 1913. We will assume Lazard’s connection the RAF would be via SA’s flying school or via his son Rex Edward Lezard, who qualified as an RAF pilot in 1933.
It must be noted that the list of 104 names was compiled from the applications and is not the roll of all medals issued. A few did not get any medals and a few escaped the list, notably Miss Lucy Bean. However, the list is an invaluable asset and our thanks must go to Gordon for his efforts.
Lucy BEAN – SAWAS Cape Town. Her services are well detailed in a book “Strangers in our Midst”, the story of the SAWAS in Cape Town and Italy. The story of Lucy Bean in detailed in a superb article in Journal 31 (March 1989) by Dr Frank Mitchell JCD. Her group consists of a 1939-45 Star, Italy Star and War Medal with MID emblem (all impressed N/N L Bean), Voluntary Medical Services Medal with bar, engraved L M Bean, SA War Services Medal with Protea emblem for a Kings Commendation and a Dutch Kruis van Verdienste of the Nederlandsche Roode Kruis.
On the medal application list, there is a WN Craib. I believe this to actually be W (William) H (Hofmeyer) Craib MC and bar. His prominence in SA Medical circles would have required his specialised services with the UDF. During World War 2 he served as a consultant physician to the South African Forces with the rank of Colonel. His obituary and citation for his bar to the Military Cross are placed, for reference, at the end of the article.
I trust that this article will raise interest in these medals and we can complete the roll for a very unique item – the NO NUMBER NUMBER.
No Number Medal Applications WW2 as complied by Gordon Bickley
Dr. William H. Craib MC and bar
WH Craib’s Obituary makes interesting reading – Dr. William H. Craib, a pioneering investigator in the theory of electrocardiography, died in his hometown of Somerset East, South Africa on April 10, 1982 of a myocardial infarction after an emergency operation for a perforated appendix. He was one month short of his eighty-seventh birthday. Dr. Craib came from a family with long associations in South Africa. Dr. Craib, known as Don, matriculated at Gill College with the highest marks in the Cape Colony. A Gill Bursary enabled him to study engineering at the South African College in Cape Town where he passed his B.A. degree with honors in mathematics, applied mathematics and physics and was awarded the Jameson Bursary for postgraduate study overseas. However, the outbreak of World War I intervened, and he served under General Botha in the South-West African Campaign. On his return from active service, he was offered and accepted a post as lecturer in applied mathematics at Rhodes University, Grahamstown. The thought of what was happening to others of his generation in the trenches of Flanders and France at that time made him resign his post and in 1915 he sailed for England and enlisted in the London Territorial Regiment of the British Army. He spent 24 years in trench warfare and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar and twice mentioned in dispatches. In 1919, while serving in the Army of Occupation, he was appointed Burgomaster of Bergish-Gladbach, Germany. By the end of the war, Dr. Craib had decided to study medicine and entered Caius College, Cambridge, and Guy’s Hospital. London. He graduated M.B. in 1923 and a year later was elected M.R.C.P. He then studied and conducted research on the electrocardiogram at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore with a Rockefeller Fellowship for Research in 192551926 and at University College Hospital, London under Sir Thomas Lewis from 1927-1930. He earned the M.D. degree from Cambridge in 1930 and then returned to South Africa to practice as a consultant physician in Johannesburg. He was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1932 and was elected F.R.C.P. in 1936. During World War II he served as a consultant physician to the South African Forces with the rank of Colonel. The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research appointed him Vice-President in charge of promoting medical research in 1963. He performed this task with particular success and satisfaction. Among the honors he received were the degrees of LL.D. (Hon. Causa). Cape Town, M.D. (Hon. Causa), Witwatersrand (1966) and Stellenbosch (1976) and D.Sc. (Hon. Causa) Natal (1969), Port Elizabeth (1978) and Rhodes (1978). The Prime Minister of South Africa appointed him to the Scientific Advisory Council in 1972, and in 1974 he was awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the South African College of Physicians. He was also a Lifetime Member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars and an Honorary Life Member of the South African Association of the Advancement of Science. In 1975 Professor Craib was unanimously elected the first Freeman of Somerset East, his hometown.
Gazette Issue No. 30780 – Bar to M.C. – With reference to the awards conferred as announced in the London Gazette dated 4th February, 1918, the following are the statements of service for which the decorations were conferred. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. With another officer he organised a party of infantry, and himself led a counter-attack which drove the enemy out of a village. He then advanced further, and came upon a party of the enemy at very close quarters. The other officer was wounded, but he maintained a determined resistance, and succeeded in driving back the enemy. It was entirely due to the efforts of these two officers that an advanced dressing station was recaptured.