The man and his medals

Richard Walford Stevens as a young man and an old man with his medals and the battlefield at Isandlwana.

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After the Police ◄ ●

Richard Walford was 167cm tall with grey eyes and had a tattoo of a rose on his right arm.

He grew up in a more than comfortable, well-connected, middle-class household in the semi-rural environment of Witham, Essex, England. He attended a prestigious school that numbers Oliver Cromwell’s sons amongst its alumni. He was surrounded by the law with his grandfather, father, two brothers and two brothers-in-law all being lawyers and his third brother-in-law being the son of a local magistrate. He and his next eldest brother chose a more adventurous option and headed to the colonies. Richard Walford to South Africa and his brother to Australia.

Although he didn’t choose the law, he chose the next closest thing. He joined the Natal Mounted Police – with the endorsement of two very influential Victorian establishment figures. This led to his direct involvement in one of the seminal events of South African history, the battle of Isandlwana, but apart from that, his police career was uneventful and fairly short.

He then went adventuring again to the diamond fields of the Orange Free State along with similarly minded comrades from the NMP. This enterprise failed and he moved on. Which seems to have been a pattern to his life. He was entrepreneurial and opportunistic, but not particularly successful. This, coupled with a desire to keep up appearances led him to two bankruptcies and what should have been a criminal conviction. He was lucky that he had a sympathetic judge. His behaviour also appears to have broken his marriage.

His letters about Isandlwana show him to be an articulate and perceptive communicator. His letters to courts and administrators show him to be an articulate and persuasive communicator with a Victorian eloquence and an elegant cursive hand. The benefits of six years at a public school and immersion in a legal family.

He may not have had a successful life, but he did have a long one and he clearly enjoyed the company of his comrades from his first great adventure.

His only surviving possessions are his fob watch chain and his medals. Both of which can be seen in the photographs of him. It is fitting that the chain survives because a fob watch was, by family accounts, his pride and joy and he mentions his then watch in his second Isandlwana letter. The chain is rose gold and is now used by one of his great-great-granddaughters as a necklace. The medals are still mounted as he wore them. They are the South Africa (1877-79) Medal with 1879 clasp 45   and the British War Medal:

The “Zulu” medal has the incorrect regimental number which he quoted in his letter to Nonqai in 1936 and is probably the reason he used it. The WWI medal reflects his very short war time service (seven weeks) with the Camp Commandant’s Staff (CCS) at Roberts’ Heights.

And to conclude as he would have:

After the Police ◄ ●

©Alun Stevens 2023

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