Forgotten Rorke’s Drift South Africa medal sells for £39,500 at Auction


In August 1877 a young lad at the tender age of 18 from Birmingham enlisted into the British Army.  1525 Private Joseph Bromwich from Warwick, was enlisted into the 28th Brigade 24th Foot (2nd Warwickshire) stating that his civilian trade was that of a Porter. He transferred the following day to the 1st Battalion 24th Foot (2nd Warwickshire's) and on the 31st January 1878 to B Company of the 2nd Battalion 24th Foot (2nd Warwickshire's).

He was present at the Defence of the Rorke's Drift Mission Station - 22/23 January 1879 - and his name appears on the roll completed by Lieutenant John Rouse Merriott Chard VC, Royal Engineers, completed just days after the action. Eleven Victoria Crosses were won in this historic battle which saw approximately 150 troops, mostly from B Company of the 2nd Battalion 24th Foot, defend the mission station for twelve hours against repeated attacks by a Zulu force of between 4,000 and 5,000 troops. At the end of the battle the Zulu Impis (Zulu word = armed body of men) withdrew from the field leaving over 400 dead - of the defenders 17 had been killed and nearly all those still standing were wounded. Private Bromwich was discharged from the Army in 1882 suffering from Hepatitis he died on the 25th February 1916 and is buried in an un-marked grave in Bilston Cemetery, West Midlands.

Skip forward to February 2016, 137 years later and Fieldings sold the very medal awarded to Private Joseph Bromwich for his gallant service at Rorke’s Drift. 

The medal came in to our Stourbridge saleroom on a routine Tuesday valuation day at the end of 2015, the current vendor had seen a similar medal on that Sunday’s episode of the Antiques Roadshow.

Militaria specialist and Director Nick Davies, could not believe what had just walked through the door, and immediately knew its potential significance.  The medal had been passed through several generations and had resided for years in a drawer, it’s history and importance never known by the family that owned it.

Fieldings carried out the full research on Private Bromwich and found he had returned to the Midlands at the end of the 19th Century, worked as a cobbler, but sadly died in 1916 and was sadly buried in an unmarked grave in Bilston cemetery.  Money was then donated by Fieldings Auctioneers, the vendor and purchasers of the medal, to see that Private Bromwich received the service and headstone befitting of such a brave and important man from the black country.


Posted on 1 April 2019 in: Auction life

News story

Meet our people

Will Farmer

Contact Will

Be in the know

Sign up for auction email alerts so you never miss another sale at Fieldings!

Register now