Belfast Telegraph

War medals belonging to Belfast soldier auctioned for £2,000

By Dick Barton

Eight medals awarded to a Northern Ireland war hero have sold for nearly £2,000 at auction.

They were presented to Company Sergeant-Major Francis James Joyce, affectionately known as Paddy, who was born in Belfast in January 1877.

The sale price was more than double the sum expected.

Mr Joyce overcame a difficult start - at 13 he was staying at the Caistor Union Workhouse in Lincolnshire - and, at the age of 20, he joined the Army by enlisting in the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

He fought in numerous battles in the Boer War in South Africa.

In one of these battles, at Bakenlaagte on October 30, 1901, he was wounded after taking a bullet in his left arm.

He later recalled: "I took cover behind an ant-heap but it did not stop the bullet through my left arm, just a sharp twinge, that's all, not enough to stop me firing whenever I could get my man.

"They were now within 50 yards. I had visions of them rushing us and felt for my sword-bayonet. I had left it behind - the only time I had ever left any kit behind.

"However, the loss of my sword saved my life. For I know that with it I would have stood up to attack."

Attached to the ribbon of Mr Joyce's Queen's South Africa 1899-1902 medal are six clasps, one for each of the major battles at which he fought during the Boer War. They are Talana, Defence of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Laing's Nek, Cape Colony and, by coincidence, Belfast.

Mr Joyce fought at the Battle of Belfast, which took place in the Mpumalanga Province in August 1900.

After surviving the horrors of the Boer War, Mr Joyce went on to serve in Malta, Greece, Egypt and India.

Then in 1915, during the First World War, he was in action in France.

He spent more than 20 years in the Army before returning to England and settling at Winchester, where he died at the age of 59 on April 27, 1936.

Yesterday his eight medals sold at Spink in London for £1,920, more than double the £700-£900 they had been expected to fetch.

The medals were his Meritorious Service Medal, his Queen's South Africa 1899-1902 Medal, his King's South Africa 1901-1902 Medal, his British War and Victory medals, his 1914-1915 Star, his Delhi Durbar Medal and his Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

His Meritorious Service Medal, with its distinctive crimson and white-edged ribbon, was awarded for "meritorious service by those members who are of irreproachable character with at least 20 years of service and already hold the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal".

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