Queen Victoria’s crocheted scarf

artefact

Colour-Sergeant Thomas Ferrett, DCM of D Company 2nd Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment was awarded this scarf in South Africa, August 1901. Mrs Ferrett is seen wearing the scarf after her husband sent it back to England for her.

This unusual award, in the form of a long scarf crocheted by Queen Victoria, was made to selected servicemen during the South African War. It was apparently worn over the shoulder, passing under the shoulder strap, across the chest and buckled on the right hip. The description of the scarf is given as "..crocheted in Khaki-coloured Berlin wool, approximately nine inches wide and five foot long, including a four inch fringe at each end, and bears the Royal Cipher V.R.I. (Victoria Regina Et Imperatrix)..."

This scarf is only one of eight crocheted by Queen Victoria and sent to South Africa in 1900. Four were sent to her grandson Prince Christian Victor for awarding to British servicemen with the instructions that they were each to be given to a brave soldier from the ranks. Four more were sent to Lord Roberts in April 1900 for the most distinguished private soldiers in the Colonial Forces of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The recipients were required to be chosen by a vote of the NCOs and Men of each unit and approved by the Commanding Officer, with the primary qualification being gallant conduct in the field.

The four scarves awarded to the British Army went to men of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, under the command of Sir Henry Hildyard. These were:

Quartermaster Sergeant Henry George Clay, DCM, 2nd Bn. The East Surrey Regiment. Clay was commissioned and ended up as a Colonel awarded the CBE to go with his scarf and DCM
Colour Sergeant William Colclough, 2nd Bn. The Devonshire Regiment
Colour Sergeant Thomas Ferrett, DCM, 2nd Bn. The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Colour Sergeant Frank Kingsley, DCM, 2nd Bn. The West Yorkshire Regiment.

The Colonial scarves were presented to:

Australia - 103 Trooper (Private - later Lieutenant) Alfred Henry Du Frayer, C Squadron First NSW Mounted Rifles
Canada - Private Richard Rowland Thompson, 2nd (Special Service) Bn. Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry (Thompson was in fact an American)
New Zealand - Trooper H D Coutts, New Zealand Mounted Infantry
South Africa - Trooper L Chadwick, Roberts' Horse

Questions have been raised as to whether Queen Victoria had crocheted the scarves herself but it was reported that, during the presentation of the scarf to Dufrayer (a Colonel recipient) in Australia by HRH The Duke of York (later King George V), the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) had informed one recipient that she had helped the eighty-two year old Queen when she had dropped stitches whilst making the scarves.

There has been much speculation as to the exact degree of honour that the award of the scarf carried. It was at one time believed to be equivalent to the Victoria Cross but this is not the case. During 1902 the New Zealand Government requested that the title 'Queen's Scarf' be used in the Army List and other official documents but, in a reply dated 4 June 1902, the Secretary of State refused to grant permission. The question of precedence has continued over the years and, even as late as 1956, it was raised again, when a descendent of one of the holders requested permission to attend the VC Centenary Celebrations. The official reply stated '...while the Queen's Scarf is regarded as a unique and most 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....'.