The ‘Kruger Medal’, fashioned by a Boer prisoner of war (POW), depicts Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal or South African Republic (SAR) from 1833-1900. After the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and the First Boer War (1880-1881) Kruger became the focal point and personification of Afrikaans independence in South Africa. Throughout his time in office Kruger had dealings with Benjamin Disraeli and Cecil Rhodes in trying to obtain a mutually beneficial agreement with limited success.
Fashioned by a POW, this medal was most likely made during the Second Boer War, also referred to as the South African War (1899-1902), when concentration camps were employed by colonial British forces to combat the guerrilla fighting which broke out in 1900. Despite early Boer successes during the British dubbed ‘Black Week’, by 1900 British colonial reinforcements and weight of arms ensured the British had captured all major Boer cities. With the war transitioning from conventional to guerrilla means, Kruger was forced to flee to Europe and Kitchener was appointed to tackle the increasingly effective Boer guerrilla war by employing scorched earth tactics and concentration camps, sparking vehement protests in Britain after approximately 26,000 non-combatants were killed during their incarceration.
Set within the context of the declining power of the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the Second Boer War, or the South African War, served to highlight both the resolve of the empire and its waning strength. Prior to the Second Boer War, Britain’s prestige and power was seen as unequivocal, with the military inadequacies highlighted by the Second Boer War in terms of leadership and recruitment quality, Britain’s power was beginning to be questioned.