The Queens Scarf awarded to A. Du Frayer (AWM File of Research 569)

The following text is transcribed from AWM File of Research No 569, dated 15 August 1956.

Alfred Henry Du Frayer was born in Victoria on 20th September, 1871, educated at Brighton Grammar School, Mellbourne, from 1864 to 1889, and after employment on Airlie Station, Queensland, the property of his uncle, he enlisted in the NSW Mounted Rifles Contingent for South Africa, entering camp at Randwick Rifle Range on 27th December, 1899, taking with him one horse. (1)

Du Frayer embarked on transport "Southern Cross" at Sydney on 17th January, 1900 as a private in "C" Squadron, N. S.W. Mounted Rifles, arriving at Cape Town on 17th February. He saw action with his unit at Poplar Grove, Dreifontein, Karee Siding, Vet River, Zand River, near Johannesburg, Pretoria and Diamond Hill and was awarded the Queen's Medal with four clasps. (2).

Invalided to Australia after enteric fever, arriving at Sydney per S.S. Nineveh on 17th September, 1900, (3) and discharged from NSW Military Forces with rank of Private on 20th September, 1900. (4).

N. S. W. Military Forces General Order No. 141 of 10th October, 1900, contains a list of 24 N.C.O's and men recommended for Distinguished Service, among which appears the name of 103 Private A.H. Du Frayer for bringing in a dismounted comrade under heavy fire on 11th April, 1900, which was some days after the action at Karre Siding on 29th March. A side-note indicates that Du Frayer was "Awarded Her Majesty's Scarf".

Referring to this incident the Sydney Mail of 22nd September, 1900, quotes Capt. Hilliard (Commander of "C" Squadron, N.S.W. Mounted Rifles, of which Du Frayer was a member) as saying:-

"In April last, when the regiment was on outpost duty near Karee a Reconnoitring Patrol was sent out in the early morning in charge of Capt. Legge. When approaching a farmhouse flying the white flag every precaution was taken, but seeing no-one about, the men, numbering about 12, rode within the stone fence enclosure when they were immediately fired upon from within the house and also by a party of Boers concealed in a donga on the veldt. The gateway was narrow but all succeeded in getting away safely except Private Clark of' "B" Squadron whose horse was shot and, in falling, stunned his rider. Du Frayer noticed the predicament and turning back galloped to Clark's rescue. The gateway was only about 150 yards from the farmhouse but Du Frayer dismounted, shook Private Clark into a semi-conscious state and mounting again, got Clark up behind him and finally out of danger. Private Du Frayer was exposed to a heavy fire from both quarters previously mentioned."

Dufrayer later rejoined the Forces, being appointed as 2nd Lieutenant (Supernumerary) in 1st Infantry Regiment N.S.W Military Forces on 21stDecember, 1900. (5) Transferred to the Unattached List 1st July, 1903. (6) Retaining the above rank until 10th December,1904, when placed on the Reserve of Officers as 2nd Lieutenant. (7). He had, in the meantime, been granted leave of absence from 8th March,1902 to 30th June, 1902 (8).


Other than the bare reference to the Scarf in General Order No. 144. of 10th October, 1900, quoted above, little was known of the existence of such an Award, but from mentions in several magazines it appeared that Her Majesty Queen Victoria had at the age of 82 personally worked four scarves for distribution to members of her Colonial Forces then serving in South Africa. Some reports indicated that one Scarf each was for British, Scotch, Irish and Colonial Contingents, while other sources stated that one scarf was to go to each of the Colonial Contingents, i.e., Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African. (9)

The scarves were of thick brown wool, crocheted in a block pattern and were five inches wide, and long enough to be worn as a sash similar to a Colour Sergeant's sash of the period, which was the manner in which it was worn by Du Frayer but whether intended by Queen Victoria to be worn as a sash or a scarf it is not known.

In a letter dated 8th August,1900, from South Africa to Queen Victoria, Lord Roberts informs Her Majesty of the names of the four recipients and states:

'Your Majesty will, I daresay, remember your scarves made by your Majesty to be given to your Colonial private soldiers. There was the greatest competition to become the fortunate possessor of these scarves, and it took a very long time to get the required information which would enable me to decide as to the merits of those eligible for such a coveted reward, on account of the troops being very widely scattered and so constantly on the move. It was finally settled that the following men were in all respects the most deserving of the great honour,viz:

Canadians Private R.R. Thomson
New South Wales Private Du Frayer
New Zealand Private H.D. Coutts
Cape Colony Trooper L. Chadwick

It turns out, as your Majesty will see from the enclosed correspondence, that the Canadian recipient is an American. He is evidently a grand fellow and as he is fighting for us and was unanimously elected by his comrades in Robert's Horse as the man most worthy in all respects to receive the scarf I decided that the question of his nationality need not be considered a deterrence. I hope that this will meet with your Majesty's approval.' (10).

Lord Roberts reference to an American recipient causes some uncertainty, because he states the Canadian soldier to be an American, whereas he also avers that the American was a member of Robert's Horse. Robert's Horse was a unit raised in South Africa, previously known as the South African Light Horse and "composed mainly of South Africans, but with a free sprinklings of other Colonials, Texan cowboys and British yeomen." (11).

A Trooper, L.Chadwick of Roberts' Horse was mentioned in Lord Roberts' Despatch of 31st March, 1900, and Private R. R. Thompson of The Royal Canadian Regiment was mentioned in Roberts' Despatch of 2nd April, 1901. So it would appear that the American recipient was a member of the Cape Colony Forces and not of the Canadian Contingent. Incidentally, Chadwick and Thompson were the only ones of the four "Scarf-Holders" to be mentioned in Despatches and there is no record that any of the four were recommended for a V.C. or any other decoration. (12) Private H.D. Coutts, the New Zealander, returned to South Africa with the New Zealand Seventh Contingent as Captain and Quartermaster. (l3).

In May, 1901, Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York and Cornwall (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited Australia in the course of their World Tour and for the opening of Federal Parliament. During the visit to Sydney, a Royal Review was held at Centennial Park on 28th May, 1901, and after an inspection of the troops on parade, the Duke presented Du Frayer (now a 2nd Lieutenant in 1st Infantry Regiment) with the Scarf.

Although the proceedings were reported fully in the local and interstate Press there is nothing to indicate other than that the Duke handed the Scarf to Du Frayer with "a few gracious words of compliment and congratulation", that the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, dismounted and assisted Du Frayer to adjust the scarf and that Du Frayer "respectfully saluted, mounted his charger and rejoined his Company". (14). The total extent of the reference in the Sydney Bulletin of the presentation is "When the Mighty Atom presented the Queen's scarf to the brave Du Frayer, the recipient didn't know how to put it on, so the Governor-General got off his charger and showed him. Until the scarf was unrolled we all thought it was a folded string bag". (15).

From close examination of the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29th May, 1901, it would appear that the Duchess was not actually present at the presentation but seated in the Royal Pavilion with the ladies of the Royal Party and left the ground shortly after, when the Duke proceeded to inspect the Cadets and veterans of South Africa and other wars. There is certainly nothing available to support the extravagant claims of "Promoted to Captain", "Promises from the Duchess", "Proclaimed to the populace by the Duke that whenever the Scarf was seen or worn within the British Empire it should receive the salute of Present Arms", "Public Holiday proclaimed in his (Du Frayer's) honour", (There was a Public Holiday on the following Monday, but that was on account of that day being the Duke's birthday) or that Du Frayer joined the Royal Household for the remainder of the Royal Tour of Australia. With regard to the latter claim, the papers published daily the names of those ladies and gentlemen in attendance on Their Royal Highnesses. Du Frayer's name does not appear amongst these. He is reported to have been present at a levee held at Government House on the morning of Wednesday the 29th May, 1901, but was not in the "List of Gentlemen having a card of private entry." (l6). In "The Right Hon. the Earl of Athlone" (M.E.Sara) on page 102 is the list of personnel of the Royal Household for the Tour of the Duke of York, including those who Joined and left the Household in the various Colonies.

(The Earl of Athlone, then H.R.H. Prince Alexander of Teck, headed the A D.Cs on the Tour. He was brother of the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary). There is no mention of Du Frayer in this publication nor in records, now in Archival custody, for the period under review of the Department of External Affairs and the Governor-General's Household.

Probably owing to the intense publicity given to the Scarf by the wearer, the "Sydney Bulletin" at this stage waxes somewhat satirical. In its edition of 29th June, 1901, is the following:- "Lieutenant Du Frayer and his Scarf are a much-photoed pair in this town. Sometimes the scarf is pictured without the Lieutenant. Never the Lieutenant without the scarf. It is a homely brown thing - such as any old lady might knit - but it has the merit of being entirely the late Queen's work".

The London Gazette No. 27443 of 17th June, 1902, contains the last South African Despatch of Lord Roberts dated London 1st March, 1902, which ends

"In conclusion, I desire to place on record that, in April 1900, Her late Majesty Queen Victoria was graciously pleased to send me four woollen scarves worked by Herself, for distribution to the four most distinguished Private soldiers in the Colonial Forces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa then serving under my command. The selection for these gifts of honour were made by the officers commanding the contingents concerned, it being understood that gallant conduct in the field was to be considered the primary qualification.

The names of those selected, to whom the scarves have already been presented, are as follows:

Private R. R. Thompson R. Canadian Regt.
Private Dufrayer N.S.W. Mounted Rifles
Private H. D. Coutts New Zealand Contingent
Trooper I Chadwick Roberts' Horse. "(17).

This is the first instance in which Du Frayer's name appears in South African Despatches.

That the Scarf was not intended as an Award is suggested by Lord Roberts' use of the words "distribution" and "selection" in the above Despatch and the phrase "it being understood that gallant conduct in the field was to be considered the primary Qualification" infers that there were other considerations. This is exemplified by the phrase "in all respects the most deserving" (twice) in Lord Roberts' letter to Queen Victoria of 8th August, 1900.

In Colonials in South Africa (Stirling) p.411, under the heading "Honours and mentions gained by N.S.W. Contingents" is enumerated the names of officers and men mentioned in each Despatch and giving the date of the Despatch. Du Frayer's name does not appear until this entry. "Lord Roberts' Final Despatch 1st March 1902 - Pte. Du Frayer, Mounted Rifles got one of the four scarves worked by her late Majesty for distribution among men of Colonial Contingents."

It is noteworthy that this is not the first instance of scarves being presented for service of a martial nature, as seen by the following extract from Orders of the Madras Government:

"Public Consultation.

Fort St. George. Thursday, 30th Decr. 1680.

The Soldyers and Peons having performed a good piece of service in bringing the goods from Pullimelee which were carried there by the Mutineers it is thought fit to gratify them, to the inure Commission Officers each a silk scarfe, and a hhd arrack to the Garrison, to the Chief Peon, 21/2 yards Broad Cloth and 5 Pags amongst the Peons for a feast". (18)

Another point worthy of note is that, without exception, in official orders up to 21st December, 1900 (when commissioned) Du Frayer's rank is given as "Private", whereas in all unofficial references (newspapers, journals etc.) he is described as "Trooper" or "Lieut. - formerly Trooper".

The solitary official instance of the initials "Q S." appearing after the name Du Frayer is found in The N.S.W. Army and Navy List of 1901, where the initials "Q S." appear in one of three insertions of Lieut. Du Frayer's name. They are, however, erased from the next edition of the same List and from any subsequent List, but a footnote added denoting "Awarded Queen's Scarf for service in South Africa".

Du Fayer later settled in South Africa and married there. In the 1914-18 conflict he enlisted in the South African forces and served in South-West and East Africa.

In December, 1938, Du Frayer, then living in Tanganyika, wrote to Queen Mary requesting that she forward to King George VI for consideration, the matter of a pension equal to the V.C. and the grant of a special ribbon which he contended was promised to the recipients of the Scarves. The letter was forwarded by Her Majesty's Private Secretary to the War Office. This Department informed the Private Secretary that "although there are no official records kept at the War Office, during the South African war a number of scarves made by Her late Majesty Queen Victoria were presented to certain selected soldiers as a mark of Her Majesty's personal interest in their welfare" and "There is no question, as far as I know of a special ribbon or pension being granted at the same time of the scarf". This reply was sent to Du Frayer by Queen Mary's Private Secretary, who regretted being unable to send a more favourable reply.

Du Frayer died in 1940, and was buried with military honours at Old Shinyanga in the Lake Province of Tanganyika.

In November, 1951, Du Frayer's son, Mr R.G.H. Du Frayer wrote to the Prime Minister of England on the matter who acknowledged his letter and referred it to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations who informed Mr. Du Frayer that "the matter is not one in which he is able to assist." On receipt of that reply Du Frayer, Junr., who was on leave in England from Tanganyika, wrote to King George VI on the matter, requesting a pension for his widowed mother and asking His Majesty's permission to exhibit the Scarf in a Charity Drive for the Church Mission Society of Tanganyika in England and Australia. His Majesty's Private Secretary acknowledged receipt and transmitted the letter to the War Office. King George VI died before a reply could be sent but in February, 1952, the War Office informed Mr. Du Frayer that the Secretary of State for War "after careful consideration regrets that he is unable to advise Her Majesty the Queen to issue any special instructions in regard thereto" and that he understood a separate reply would be sent by the Private Secretary to Her Majesty in connection with the exhibition of the Scarf. The contents of the latter reply (if any) is not known.

Du Frayer, Junr., immediately wrote to the Queen, petitioning Her Majesty for the grant of a pension for his mother and renewing his desire to exhibit the Scarf for charitable purposes. The reply from Buckingham Palace regretted that it was not possible for Her Majesty to intervene in the matter. Thereupon Mr. Du Frayer wrote to the War Oftice emphasising the hardships incurred by his late father through the necessity to dress and conform to the best traditions of the Royal House whose personal honour was symbolised by public display of the Scarf and asking for full details concerning the Scarf from the date it was first thought of, to the presentation in Australia. He also mentioned in this letter that an offer of 50,000 for the Scarf by a German in 1938 had been rejected. A month later, in March 1952, the War Office replied that it had nothing to add to their letter of 19th February, 1942, and that any application for a widow's pension in respect of his father's military service should be addressed to the Australian Govermnent. It also stated that no records would be held at the War Office of the history etc., of the Scarf.

In August, 1954, a South African visitor to Australia, Mrs. Lintott Pemberton, who knew of the existence of Du Frayer's Scarf, considered that the appropriate place for preservation of the Scarf and its history would be the Australian War Memorial and eventually the matter was brought to the notice of the Director. The subsequent correspondence between the Director of the Australian Mar Memorial and Mr. A. G. H. Du Frayer is included in the file of the subject matter. (AWM 749/26/4 )

The crusade to have the Queen's Scarf considered as equivalent to the V.C. was resuscitated in January,1956, when Du Frayer approached the Administration of Tanganyika inquiring if the recipients of the Scarf or their relatives were to be included in the forthcoming V.C. Centenary Celebrations. The Tanganyikan authorities consulted the Colonial Office who in turn passed the matter on to the War Office. The reply was that "while the Queen's Scarf is regarded as a most unique and distinguished award, relatives of those who received it are not being included in the present ceremony as it does not carry equal status with the Victoria Cross."

During May and June, 1956, Mr. A.G.H. Du Frayer generously forwarded to the Australian War Memorial the papers, news cuttings etc., relating to the Scarf for perusal and photos, for retention, of his father wearing the Scarf and also of the Scarf itself. Contoura reproductions of the letters etc., forwarded by Mr. Du Frayer as well as the photographs are now contained in the records of the War Memorial.

In an endeavour to establish the status and significance of the Queen's Scarf and the conditions of its distribution, extensive and most diligent search has been made of the undermentioned orders and publications, but, apart from the foregoing, no information has been forthcoming.

N.S W. Mill Forces General and District Orders 1900-1904

Commonwealth Mil. Forces General Orders 1902-1904

Correspondence and Minutes of N.S.W. Mil. Forces (Archives) 1900-1902

Australian Mil. Contingents to the war in South Africa (Official)

Sydney and Melbourne Newspapers and Periodicals of 1900-1901

The London Times, Aug. 1900 - May 1901.

London Illustrated News 1900-1901

Punch (London) 1900-1901

Black and White(London) 1900-1901

Sketch (London) 1900-1902

Sphere (London) 1900

Chats on Military Curios (S. C. Johnson)

War Medals and Decorations (Hastings Irwin)

The Medal Collector (Stanley C.Johnson)

British and Foreign Orders,War Medals and Decorations (A. A. Payne)

A.B.C. of War Medals and Decorations (Steward)

War Medals and their History (Steward)

British Battles and Medals (Gordon)

Medals and Decorations of the British Army and Navy (J.H.Mayo)

"Colonials in South Africa" (Stirling)

Official (British)History of the War in South Africa.

"The Times" History of the War in South Africa. (J. S. Amery)

"The New Zealanders in South African (Official History)

"Letters of Queen Victoria" (Buckle)

"The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Athlone" (M. E. Sara)

"Recollections of Three Reigns". (Sir Fredk Ponsonby)

"King Edward VII and His Court". (Sir Lionel Cust)

"Victoria, Her Life and Reign". (A E. Knight)

"King Edward VII." (Sir S. Lee)

"King George V, His Life and Reign" (Harold Nicholson)

"Journal and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher". (Esher)

"Lord Roberts". (David James)

"Life of Lord Kitchener". (Sir George Arthur)

and, in addition, twenty other publications dealing with the war in South Africa.

The Keeper of the Queen's Archives was approached, requesting copies of the "enclosed correspondence" referred to by Lord Roberts in his letter to Queen Victoria of 8th August, 1900.

Part of the correspondence mentioned proves to be a letter from Colonel Beresford, Commanding Officer of Roberts' Horse intimating that the nominee of that Regiment, who was one of the recipients of the scarf, had now proved to be an American, and stating that "owing to the peculiar nature of the gift" he felt that Lord Roberts should know of the man's nationality before he actually received the scarf.

The rest of the "enclosed correspondence" was a letter from Lord Stanley, Private Secretary to Lord Roberts, intimating to Colonel Beresford that Lord Roberts would in no way interfere with the award of scarf to the American, Trooper Chadwick.

The Assistant Keeper of the Queen's Archives states that these are the only other papers in the Royal Archives which refer to this matter. He also encloses an extract from a note made in the Royal Archives 26th May, 1956.

"In a certain sense the scarves may be regarded as a greater honour* stitched as they were by the hands of The Queen herself, and strictly limited in number. But whatever their relative status, they can hardly be treated as the precise equivalent of the V.C. In the first place, they were not (so the Stationery Office informs us) gazetted. Secondly, they were awarded on a different basis from the V.C. One was to go to the bravest soldier in each of the four Colonial contingents fighting in South Africa. To be the bravest soldier in a particular contingent is not, in itself, sufficient qualification for the award of the V.C. Clearly, then, they must be treated as a separate honours"

(* i.e., than the Victoria Cross).

This note to the Royal Archives was made presumably on account of the confusion arising as to the status of the scarf caused by a controversy at the time of the Centenary of the Victoria Cross Celebrations.

It is learned that a New Zealander, Mr. Trevor Campbell, has been trying to find further material on the Scarves among the War Office records at the Records Office, but without success.


1. NSW Military Forces Archives S.P. 1244 (12)

2. Official Records of Aust. Military Contingent to war in South Africa. P.57 on.

3. NSW Military Forces G.O. 133 - 21.9.00

4. NSW Military Forces G.O. 134 - 24.9.00

5. NSW Govt. Gazette 27.12.1900

6. NSW G.O. No. 12.1.1904

7. Commonwealth Gazette No. 73 of 10.12.1904

8. NSW District Order 144 of 4.4.1902

9. Illustrated London News 1.9.1900 London Sphere 19.1.1901

10. Letters of Queen Victoria (Buckle) Vol III p.582

11. Times Hist. of South African Par Vol. III P.97.

12. "Mentioned in Despatches" Published by the Army and Navy Gazette. Contains all M.I.Ds gazetted up to 6.3.02, also recommendations for V.Cs.

13. "The New Zealanders in South Africa", Official History. P.24.

14. Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Argus both of 29.5.01.

15. Sydney Bulletin 1 June 1901.

16. Sydney Morning Herald 30.5.1901

17. N.S.W. District Order 701 8.9.1902.

18. Medals and Decoration of the British Army and Nary (J.H.Mayo) Vol. 1 PP-54,55.


Last updated: 05/03/2017