THE EXTREMELY RARE THE MOST HONOURABLE ORDER OF THE BATH C.B. (MILITARY) COMPANION’S 18CT GOLD AND ENAMEL BREAST BADGE AND 1853 SOUTH AFRICA MEDAL WITH 1877-8 CLASP ‘CAPT H W PALMER 74TH REGT’
Honorary Major General Henry Wellington Palmer was born in Tullagh House County Dublin on the 18th June 1828. He purchased the rank of Ensign on the 7th August 1846 in the 19th Foot. He quickly exchanged into the 74th Foot as an Ensign on 29th December 1846, and subsequently promoted Lieutenant without purchase on the 10th November 1848 on the death of Lieutenant Fellowes. The battalion arrived in South Africa on the 14th March 1851 and were quickly involved in the 8th Frontier War. His 74th Highlanders statement of Service confirms he took part in;
‘Operations at Theopolis, Lower Albany June 1851. Action in the Amatolas 26 and operations of the 27 & 28 June 1851. Operations in the Amatolas 2nd July 1851 as Lieutenant General Somerset Commanding. Action on the Kroomie Heights 8th September 1851, Lieutenant Colonel Fordyce 74th Commanding. Operations in the Waterkloof, Kroomie Heights and Fullers Hoek on October 1851. Action at the head of Waterkloof 6th November 1851. as Lieutenant General Somerset Commanding.’
These were most of the main major actions that the 74th Foot were involved in 1851 and included some heavy fighting against the elusive frontier tribes. (More descriptive details of the 74th Service in South Africa are included with the medals).
He was again fortunate to be promoted to Captain without purchase on the 17th August 1852 on the death of Captain Borton. He purchased the rank of Major on 9th September1864 and then exchanged to the 90th Foot on the 4th October 1864. He was promoted Lieutenant Colonel on 1st April 1873 and Colonel on 1st April 1878. He commanded the 90th Foot from April 1873. In late 1877 he was again sent again to South Africa, this time in Command of his Regiment.
In March 1878 Colonel Palmer commanded column during the Kroome Heights campaign against all Xhosa in the area. His force consisting of a mixed force of regulars of the 90th, burghers, and native levies, in pursuit of chief Tini Macomo, who was ensconced in the depths of the Schelm and Waterkloofs. An area Palmer would have known well from his previous campaigning with the 74th during the 1850-3 Wars. Palmers operations were a great success, as were others Palmer was involved in and he was subsequently three times thanked in General Orders for his conduct in command of the operations in the Fort Beaufort District during the Frontier War.
The Regimental Museum holds in their collection an:
‘Armlet made of ivory (appears to be a section of a tusk) with silver/white metal inscribed plate and three bands, which appear to have been added at a later date.
Inscription: 'Presented to Lieut. Colonel Palmer 90th Light Infty by Bowkers Burghers In memory of the expedition under his command against the rebel chief Tini Macomo in Water Kloof this ring was taken off one of the rebels who was shot by Sergt Heinen of Bowkers Burghers during the skirmish of 12th June 1878.'
Much can be found in the 90th Regimental History on Palmers service and his command /operations in South Africa during the 1878 campaign and a little on India. He is also mentioned numerous times in publications and contemporary accounts/dispatches.
Colonel Palmer was granted the honorary rank of Major General upon retiring on full pay on 13th November 1878 and left South Africa for England. Command of the Regiment being passed the ambitious Colonel Wood VC. The award of the CB was announced in the London Gazette dated 28th November 1878.
Personnel who were entitled to one of the date bars for the 1879 South Africa Medal and who had already been awarded the 1853 South Africa Medal were only to be issued with the appropriate clasp to be worn on the earlier medal. With the suspension of the 1853 medal being to narrow for the clasp, the clasps are found slipped on the ribbon. An article by Gordon Everson published in OMRS Journal 1981 identifies just 23 such recipients. The South Africa 1877-9 medal roll shows just 3 men earned both awards with Regular Forces, the rest being colonial awards.
Condition VF/, SA darkly toned with a couple of EK’s. 1877-8 clasp slipped onto ribbon as is correct. Gold CB, hallmarked ‘C’ for 1878. Both with original ribbons. Ex Warwick and Warwick 2011.