The medal is known world wide and, many would claim, the most prestigious. it has been awarded 1358 times. Three of these times it was awarded twice to the same hero.
Many blogs in this space over the years have brought you the story of another, less known but probably as valuable an award and called the Queens Scarf. These blogs have told that there were only EIGHT of these Scarfs awarded, and each was hand stitched by HRH Queen Victoria. Each also contained the 3 lettered Royal Cipher VRI (Victoria Regina Imperatrix) also stitched onto the end of the garment.
A Scarf was presented to each of the Canadian, South African, Australian and the New Zealand contingents who fought for the commonwealth in the later Boer War. Four would also be split between two of the British regular force regiments also battling in that conflict.
Each was to go to the bravest of the bravest in each of the above, and was to be voted on and selected by the men of the units. Not their officers!
The last three blogs have brought images of 7 of the 8 recipients and also shown Scarfs of all but one received.The missing Scarf and image have yet to emerge to this writer. The blogs also shared actual news clips that directly quoted the Duchess of York, and her father-in law, King Edward Vll shortly after the death of Queen Victoria. Quotes containing details of the Royal Order stating that the Scarfs were not only equal to the Victoria Cross but were also to come with a Gold Clasp to be worn on less formal occasions.
King Edward Vll would also add that, the wearer was to be saluted, that each could use the post nominal initials ..QS.. and that each would be receiving an autographed letter from the King, giving the details of the awarding of the scarf and that such a letter would become a family heirloom in the years to come.
For those not reading the past three blogs, you may not fully grasp today's material and I suggest these be read before moving on to today's.
I can find no information suggesting that any of the 8 recipients knew the others, nor had a chance to speak to the others about their own Scarf. They came from many parts of the world and may well have thus returned after their war duties were over. Some may not have even learned of the stir-up re the further promises made by the King. Nor can I find any info verifying the Gold Stars promises were awarded, or letters of keepsake, clasps and ribbons existing, as noted in past blogs.
But lack of discovery does not equate to their non-existence!
The promises above mentioned repeatedly appeared in Australian and New Zealand papers of the day. But of the eight recipients it appears that the Australian recipient Private Alfred Dufrayer led, if not alone, the battle to have the promises fulfilled.
It was his Scarf, as readers will recall, that was noted with frayed ends by the Duchess, who later asked her husband's father, the King to issue the Gold Star, From that, within weeks came the King's promise for the Star and other items above noted.
While New Zealand recipient Henry D Coutts had his Scarf listed in formal documentation in that country for some time, things changed in 1902. The government wrote to London requesting permission to list the Queens Scarf in their official Army List of decorations and other formal documents. The Secretary of State apparently refused the request.
Think back to a past column where I discussed the authority of the Crown, not government, as having the final say on matters involving the Victoria Cross. Since reports exist that the King had declared the Scarf equal to the VC, would it not be fare to assume that the Kings orders of one equaling the other, would trump the government's denial re the requested listing?
Moving on and back to Australia, their War Museum website has some very interesting details on the subject of the Queens Scarf. From these I borrow the following paragraph...
"In December, 1938, Dufrayer, then living in Tanganyika, wrote to Queen Mary requesting that she forward to King George VI for consideration, the matter of a pension equal to the V.C. and the grant of a special ribbon which he contended was promised to the recipients of the Scarves. The letter was forwarded by Her Majesty's Private Secretary to the War Office. This Department informed the Private Secretary that "although there are no official records kept at the War Office, during the South African war a number of scarves made by Her late Majesty Queen Victoria were presented to certain selected soldiers as a mark of Her Majesty's personal interest in their welfare" and "There is no question, as far as I know of a special ribbon or pension being granted at the same time of the scarf". This reply was sent to Dufrayer by Queen Mary's Private Secretary, who regretted being unable to send a more favourable reply."
Most interesting! In reply I say...
As noted in the last blog, the King apparently told his son, the future George V, and the son as Duke, told Dufrayer that there would also be a ribband (ribbon) that would be issued with the Gold Star.
THIRTY SEVEN years later we see a response to an inquiry, and the writer says that the answer it is based on the fact that the office itself has… “no official records (kept) at the War Office.”
The response continues with... "there is no question..”AS FAR AS I KNOW” of a ribbon or pension…" There is no source provided for this OPINION, and as such seems little more than preserving the Status Quo.
Is the history of the Queens Scarf, the heritage and pride of country and family, to be based on opinions when, at the same time, the writer admits that no files are held about the subject matter????
The writer further states that certain conditions did not exist at the time of the Scarf. If talking about the date of award, or early date of creation of the very Scarfs, and prerequisites put in place by the Late Queen Victoria, the response is correct.
However, the argument is mute!
No longer was it the time of the Scarf. It was a year later. And in that year, the queen passed away, and the King issued a new order. One that then ordered that the Scarf was equal to the VC, called for the ribbon, right to use the Post Nominals QS, right of a salute, Gold Star and hasp, and a letter personally signed and to be provided to each recipient.
"There is certainly nothing available to support the extravagant claims of "Promoted to Captain", "Promises from the Duchess", "Proclaimed to the populace by the Duke that whenever the Scarf was seen or worn within the British Empire it should receive the salute of Present Arms", "Public Holiday proclaimed in his (Dufrayer's) honour", (There was a Public Holiday on the following Monday, but that was on account of that day being the Duke's birthday) or that Dufrayer joined the Royal Household for the remainder of the Royal Tour of Australia."
Searching for the quoted article, the one I found makes no references to most of the above.
The newspaper article only appeared the day before the recipient received his Scarf. Its frayed condition was not noticed until a month later by the Duchess, and thus could not have added anything meaningful to the quoted source.
And the justification was presented almost 60 yrs later, from an office with no records.
Noteworthy is also the fact that the argument was introduced that The King could not have made such promises of Dufrayer being due a salute in 1901. While claimed not entitled to such honour of respect, He in fact was promoted to Lieutenant prior to getting the Scarf and was CLEARLY entitled to the salute like any other commissioned officer.
Yet further, a claim, the source of which is unknown, that he was to be promoted to captain, may also be mute..as HE WAS PROMOTED TO CAPTAIN SEVERAL MONTHS LATER.
On 29 May the Duchess or Duke had not yet noticed the frayed condition of the Scarf. That happened on or about 24 June..a month later. And the promises, did not come from the Duchess.,. but the King through his son the Duke.,. and around 6 July to boot.
And finally, another point regarding the writer's claims that the news article calls for “the salute of present arms..” and that same was never promised Dufrayer or the other recipients.
The non military readers of this blog should recall first, that is was not the Duchess,,,but the Duke who passed on the information to Dufrayer. Yet further, the promise called for EITHER a salute OR a Present Arms. Two different forms of salute. The writer just quotes one.
I can find no source of any claim by Dufrayer of the announcing of a public holiday in his favour, nor the authority to join in with the Royal Tour. Here's the news article I could find of the same day and paper above quoted.
From the US site I again take the liberty to borrow a paragraph which is as enlightening as most of the above materials. Here it is...
"This is the sixth accounted for and identified Queen's Scarf of the original eight. This scarf has not seen the light of day since an attempt in 1965 to place it on loan with either the Canadian government or the Devonshire Regiment. Over the years there has been some confusion with the status of the Queen's Scarf in the hierarchy of British military awards, with an attempt to compare it to the Victoria Cross. Indeed, there were 78 awards of the Victoria Cross during the Second Anglo-Boer War against the award of 8 Queen's scarves. However, the Queen's Scarf was never intended to be a substitute for any valor award. The Assistant Keeper of the Queen's Archives states that the only papers in the Royal Archives which refer to this matter come from an extract from a note made in the Royal Archives dated May 26, 1956. In reads in part: "In a certain sense the scarves may be regarded as a greater honour stitched as they were by the hands of The Queen herself, and strictly limited in number. But whatever their relative status, they can hardly be treated as the precise equivalent of the V.C. In the first place, they were not (so the Stationery Office informs us) gazetted. Secondly, they were awarded on a different basis from the V.C. One was to go to the bravest soldier in each of the four Colonial contingents fighting in South Africa. To be the bravest soldier in a particular contingent is not, in itself, sufficient qualification for the award of the V.C. Clearly, then, they must be treated as a separate honours." (* i.e., than the Victoria Cross). This note to the Royal Archives was made presumably on account of the confusion arising as to the status of the scarf caused by a controversy at the time of the Centenary of the Victoria Cross Celebrations."
From the above I am pulling a few quotes and offering comments for consideration.
"Over the years there has been some confusion with the status of the Queen's Scarf in the hierarchy of British military awards, with an attempt to compare it to the Victoria Cross."
Existence of confusion is not evidence of non equality.
Further, why is their a need to compare one with the other? It falls not to the Secretary of State of War, or the Prime Minister or a Lt Governor or Governor or you or I to make a determination. The head of the Monarch makes that determination.
While HRH Queen Victoria laid out the initial qualifications for the Scarf, after her death her heir, King Edward Vll clearly stated, as widely published in the papers of the day, that the Scarf was equal to the Victoria Cross. Period !
I can find no evidence in the same papers that the Monarch, regardless of ANY other opinion, had declared the press wrong.
"However, the Queen's Scarf was never intended to be a substitute for any valor award."
The records are not clear on this. Regardless, it was not the Queen, but the Monarch’s heir AFTER SHE DIED that made the change, and thus her intentions were not the deciding factor, it was those of the current Monarch when the change was made. Surely the above posted US auction house opinion seems to simply repeat the status quo.
"The Assistant Keeper of the Queen's Archives states that the only papers in the Royal Archives which refer to this matter come from an extract from a note made in the Royal Archives dated May 26, 1956"
Surely this ought to be a red flag to any reader. It screams.. Hey, our re records or sparce and probably do not contain all the details needed.
"...whatever their relative status, they can hardly be treated as the precise equivalent of the V.C."
Evidence tells us that HRH King Edward Vll ordered that was exactly what they were. Other than lots of opinion, I can not find any EVIDENCE that he did not say this. Nor evidence from a head of Monarch saying that Scarfs are not equal to the VC. Not then, and not now, unless I am missing something.
"In the first place, they were not (so the Stationery Office informs us) gazetted."
The first four words (2 para's up) clearly say that there IS A RELATIVE Status. They just don’t know what. Lack of knowledge does not in itself remove the status.
Regarding the lack of gazetting, most if not all of the recipients had MID’s.. Mentions in Dispatches, for their bravery. Deeds in which many other received the VC for.
These entries are obviously GAZETTED. At least two of Lord Roberts’ gazette entries in the London Gazette, had the names of the Scarf recipients. Clearly they WERE GAZETTED.
Furthermore with the King’s statement of equivalency , there was no requirement for gazetting. They received a Scarf that did not call for gazetting.. like the VC.
"Secondly, they were awarded on a different basis from the V.C. One was to go to the bravest soldier in each of the four Colonial contingents fighting in South Africa. To be the bravest soldier in a particular contingent is not, in itself, sufficient qualification for the award of the V.C. Clearly, then, they must be treated as a separate honours." (* i.e., than the Victoria Cross)".
These comments are offered by the Assistant Keeper of the Queen’s Archives about 55 years after the fact. The claim that the Scarfs were awarded on different circumstances is irrelevant because the Monarch later ordered that the Scarf was equal to the VC. Period!
Further in checking the war records of each of the 8, 4 will be found to have received the DSC for their heroism, several had more than one MID’s and files suggest that at least 3 were recommended for the Victoria Cross.
The actions performed by at least 7 that I can find details on, were very similar and probably equivalent to the same deeds that others performed and later awarded the VC for.
So the argument about qualifications calling for bravery is simplistic. It called for the bravest of the bravest. To say bravery does not equate to valourism, under the circumstances that resulted in the awarding of these Scarfs is a disservice to each of the recipients.
Much more in depth research is needed on this issue, but from the materials presented over the past several weeks I hope you will agree that there is far more to the story than the old cop out.. the one we call the Status Quo.
Comments are always welcome.
I am taking two weeks off, to do more research and a little relaxing. I will return with the blog on the 31st
Let's meet again on the 31st...
And to all a very merry Christmas and to all a good night...