The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 15 No 5 - June 2012


By Sandi Mackenzie
Curator of Medals, Ditsong: National Museum of Military History

Honoris Crux Diamonds, held in the Medal Collection
at Ditsong National Musuem of Military History

It was with great concern that I found a page on an online business stating that the Honoris Crux Diamonds (HCD) had been sold for R5 160 on 7 October 2011. The sole HCD to have been produced is kept under very heavy security at the museum behind lock and key. To the credit of the internet site, they placed a red banner over the picture of this medal with the words 'Hot Item' across the left-hand corner and the following quote at the bottom: 'It goes without saying that this is NOT the original - but an exact replica with exact detailing. For anyone to claim they are selling an original HCD they would either be lying through their teeth or they would have needed to steal the medal out of the museum.'

The first type of Honoris Crux was produced on 6 April 1952 and was awarded for gallantry in action against the enemy in the field. Only five awards were made, all to members of the South African Air Force. The medal was a silver-gilt Maltese cross with eagles between the arms. The obverse was green with an orange-white-blue centre disc framed in a red circle and inscribed 'Honoris Crux'. (There are a few of these with an Elizabeth II cipher).

The first type of Honoris Crux, produced in 1952, five awarded

On 1 July 1975 the HC was reconstituted with four classes and 201 decorations were awarded between 1976 and 2004. This medal was a silver Maltese cross superimposed on crossed swords and a wreath of Protea flowers and leaves. The obverse is enamelled white, with an orange-white-blue centre disc. The reverse displays the national coat of arms. The medals were awarded for bravery in combat action while in danger of life. The HCD was to be awarded to those who showed bravery whilst in danger of life whilst facing an armed enemy. This was never awarded to anyone.

It has been repeatedly said that Lt Arthur Walker (HCG Bar) should have received the HCD as he was awarded the Honoris Crux Gold twice. His first Honoris Crux Gold (HCG) was awarded to him in January 1981 and an extract of the citation is as follows: 'On 15 January 1981 two Alouettes, with Lt Walker assigned as a Flight Leader, carried out close air support operations in support of the SA Army in Southern Angola. During these operations heavy contact was made with the enemy ground forces, resulting in the Alouettes coming under intense enemy artillery and anti-aircraft fire ... Later, ground forces requested an evacuation by air of two seriously wounded troops. Without hesitation, and with disregard for personal safety, Lt Walker acceded to the order to return to the area, to provide top cover for a Puma assigned to the casualty evacuation and in doing so once again he came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. The general air situation had become even more dangerous than before and the Air Commander was again forced to order the withdrawal of the Alouettes. During the withdrawal the second Alouette had trouble while trying to avoid the heavy enemy fire and called for help. Yet again Lt Walker returned to provide top cover despite the fact that virtually all the anti-aircraft fire was now directed at his Alouette. His courageous act prevented the loss of an Alouette and its crew. Lt Walker's actions were not only an outstanding display of professionalism, devotion to duty and courage, but also constituted exceptional deeds of bravery under enemy fire.'

The second HCG was awarded for actions at Ondangwa on 29 December 1981. South African Defence Force soldiers had been attacking the enemy along the river line and one of the helicopters went down. Capt Walker landed his helicopter and attempted to pick up the flight sergeant and his engineer, covering them with fire from behind an anthill, but eventually had to fly out, the enemy attack being too intense and close. A while later he picked up the two men about 500 metres from where the helicopter had previously landed. He was again awarded the HCG, as a bar to his first award. Speculation has it that he was not awarded the HCD because of the politics at the time, which discouraged the promotion of English-speaking people in the armed forces.

Honoris Crux (Silver) 1975, awarded for bravery whilst in action

The Honoris Crux Decoration was superseded by the Nkwe ya Boronse on 27 April 2003, an example of which is also held in the museum's collection.

The Nkwe ya Boronse, which superseded the Honoris Crox Decoration in 2003

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