There were 3 VCs linked to campaignd for which the BSACM was issued.
Herbert Henderson, Bulawayo Field Force. Awarded for the Matabeleland Rebellion, 30 March 1896
Frank Baxter, Bulawayo Field Force. Awarded for the Matabeleland Rebellion, 22 April 1896. Issued 1907.
Randolph Nesbitt, Mashonaland Mounted Police. Awarded for the Mashona Rebellion, 19 June 1896
VC (the suspension bar eng. Trooper F. W. Baxter, Bulawayo Field Force; the reverse of the cross eng. 22. April 1896), light bronze as is usual for the 1907 retrospective issues.
BSACM reverse Rhodesia 1896 (0) (Troopr. F. W. Baxter, Grey’s Scouts).
London Gazette: 15 January 1907 (and previously 7 May 1897). “The late Frank William Baxter, of the Bulawayo Field Force, on account of his gallant conduct in having, on 22nd April, 1896, dismounted and given up his horse to a wounded comrade, Trooper Wise, who was being closely pursued by an overwhelming force of the enemy, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had he survived.”
Earlier notice of Baxter’s actions had appeared in Major-General Carrington’s Despatch to Lord Rosmead, the South African High Commissioner, dated Umtali, 12 Dec. 1896: “Trooper Baxter . . . gave up his horse to a wounded comrade, Corporal Wiseman (s/c), when closely pursued. He was himself then wounded, overtaken and assegaied (killed).”
The most comprehensive account of what happened on the Umguza River appears in F.C. Selous’ book Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia.
“When the Scouts were recalled, and commenced to retire from the Umguza, after having driven a body of natives from its shelter, as I have already related, they were suddenly fired on by a party of Matabele who had taken up a position amongst some bush to the left of their line of retreat. The foremost amongst the Scouts galloped past this ambush, but Captain Grey, with a few of those in the rear, halted and returned the enemy’s fire. Trooper Wise was the first man hit, and seems to have received his wound from behind, just as he was mounting his horse, as the bullet struck him high in the back, and, travelling up the shoulder-blade, came out near the collar-bone. At this instant Wise’s horse stumbled, and then, recovering itself, broke away from its rider, galloping straight back to town, and leaving the wounded man on the ground. A brave fellow named Baxter at once dismounted and put Wise on his own horse, thus saving the latter’s life, but, as it proved, thereby sacrificing his own. Captain Grey and Lieutenant Hook at once went to Baxter’s assistance, and thus got him along as fast as they could, but the Kaffirs had now closed on them, and were firing out of the bush at very close quarters. Lieutenant Hook was shot from behind, the bullet entering the right buttock and coming out near the groin, but most luckily, though severing the sciatic nerve, just missing both the thigh-bone and the femoral artery. Nearly at the same time, too, a bullet just grazed Captain Grey’s forehead, half stunning him for an instant. “Texas” Long, a well-known member of the Scouts, then went to Baxter’s assistance, and was helping him along, when a bullet struck the dismounted man in the side, and he at once let go of Long’s stirrup leather and fell to the ground. No further assistance was then possible and poor Baxter was killed by the Kaffirs immediately afterwards . . .
The splendid gallantry and devotion to one another shown by Captain Grey and his officers and men on this day will ever be remembered in Rhodesia as amongst the bravest of the brave deeds performed by the colonists in the suppression of the present Rebellion . . .
As soon as Grey’s Scouts and the Colonial Boys had reached the guns, these latter were limbered up, and the whole patrol retired slowly on Buluwayo, the Matabele making no attempt to follow. Indeed, their loss must have been severe, and had Grey’s Scouts and the Colonial Boys only been supported instead of being recalled, the Matabele would never have rallied, but would have been kept on the run and killed in large numbers by the mounted men. At least this is my view, and it has been thoroughly borne out by the experience gained in subsequent fights during this campaign.
Our loss on this day was, Baxter killed, and Wise and Hook wounded amongst Grey’s Scouts, while five or six of the Colonial Boys were wounded, but none dangerously.”
It is of equal interest here to note the penultimate paragraph of Selous’ account where he clearly views this particular action as one of the most decisive of the rebellion. It is his opinion that had Captain Grey’s men not been recalled, the revolt might well have been suppressed, thereby preventing the further bloodshed which occurred later in the year as the result of the Mashona Rising in June. Some background information to the events in Rhodesia following the failure of the Jameson Raid can be found in the catalogue of Glendining’s sale held on 28 March 1990 (lot 324, p. 54).
F. W. Baxter, V.C., was born on 29 December 1869, emigrated to South Africa in 1887 and accompanied the Pioneer Column into Rhodesia in 1890. Discharged in 1891, he owned a farm at Umtali as well as several mining claims in and around Bulawayo. He joined Grey’s Scouts as soon as the rebellion broke out and was one of the members of Captain Bisset’s patrol which went out to remove the threat to Bulawayo posed by the Matabele warriors based on the Umguza River barely five miles out of the town centre. This was the fourth attempt to dislodge them and although ultimately successful, it resulted in the death of Baxter and the wounding of several comrades who went to help him. These included Captain Grey himself and Sergt. Long whose campaign medal is offered in the following lot.
Baxter’s V.C. was first offered for sale in 1909 when it realised £45; its most recent appearance on the market was in J. B. Hayward’s Gazette of June 1967 (item 103).