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MEDAL INFORMATION

Abyssinia Medal  (4 October 1867 to 19 April 1868)

Face
A coroneted and veiled bust of Queen Victoria surround by an ornamented, nine-pointed star.  Between the points of the star are the letters of the word ‘ABYSSINIA’

Reverse
Within an encircling laurel wreath the plain central disc bears the Number, Name and Regiment of the recipient in embossed lettering, the pattern of which varies.  Most of the native Indian troops received medals with engraved naming.

Size
The disc of the medal is approx 32 mm in diameter.  The length of the medal over the ring suspender is approx 69mm.  The medal is of silver.

Ribbon
Approximately 39 mm wide red with white edges, each approx 9 mm wide.

Suspension
The ribbon is threaded through a ring approx 18 mm diameter fixed by a swivel fitting to the top of an Imperial crown.  Beneath the crown, and integral with it, is an ornamental connecting piece which is sweated on to the top edge of the disc.  Medals with signs of repair to this joint are quite common.

Naming
Embossed in square capitals on the reverse of the disc for British recipients (see above).

Awarded
To all Royal Navy and British and Indian Army personnel who took part in the campaign against King Theodore of Abyssinia. The King had imprisoned the British Consul, the British Political Resident at Aden and a number of missionaries and other Europeans because of an imagined slight on his Sovereignty by Queen Victoria and the British Government.  The small expedition under Lieutenant General Sir Robert Napier was sent from India in December 1867. Following its incompetence in organisation and generalship displayed in the Crimean Campaign, the British Army was ‘on trial’ before its European contemporaries.

The isolated position of Theodore’s stronghold at Magdala meant constructing a base port on the Red Sea coast and supplying the Army on its march of almost 400 miles to Magdala through virtually unknown barren, mountainous country in the face of unfriendly natives and possible dangers from wild animals.  To be a success the expedition had to be completed in six months, before the rainy season made the normally inhospitable terrain completely impassable.  This depended largely on the efficiency of the logistical support.

The expedition set out at the end of January 1868 and after the decisive battle of Arogie on Good Friday, 10th April, Magdala was stormed and taken on the Easter Monday.  Theodore shot himself on sight of the first troops breaching the defences, whereupon opposition ceased and the prisoners were freed.  On 19th April the Army began its long march back to the coast, where it arrived at the end of May, having executed a campaign notable for the fact that its purpose was not the occupation or colonisation of a country.  Moreover, its success and the manner in which it was achieved served to re-establish the reputation of the British Army in the eyes of the World.

The King’s Own
The 1st Battalion, 4th (The King’s Own Royal) Regiment left Bombay in mid-December 1867 and disembarked at Zoulla on the African Coast on 3rd January 1868.  Along with the 33rd (Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment, their great rivals in India, they were to take the leading roles in the expedition.  In the main action of the campaign, at Arogie, The King’s Own, were the only regiment armed with the new Snider breech-loading rifle and the only European Regiment  with the Advanced Force.  They took the leading role supported by a wing of the 27th Baluchi Regiment and detachments of Royal Engineers and Bombay Sappers and Miners.  After a day’s march without drinking-water, due to the muddy state of mountain streams in flood, they were resting in the late afternoon on the heights opposite Magdala when they were attacked by at least 5000 of the enemy, many of whom were mounted.  “Fourth to the Front” ordered the Brigadier and The King’s Own plunged down the hill, passed through the native regiments of the Brigade and opened out in skirmishing order.  When they were within about 150 yards of the enemy they opened fire and, despite some stubborn resistance, continued to advance and fire until darkness fell, when the enemy was finally routed.  The King’s Own were in reserve at the subsequent storming of Magdala and the 33rd Regiment, which lead, took the stronghold comparatively easily against an army completely demoralised three days earlier.

Abyssinia Medals in the museum's collection

The Abyssinia Medal

© 2006 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum