COUTTS, Henry Donald
96, Trooper, 1st and 7th Contingents, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, South Africa
33022, Captain, Auckland Mounted Rifles, WW1
Legion of Frontiersmen, Dargaville, New Zealand

Coutts and the Queen's Scarf
On 31 March 1900, a British column from Bloemfontein set out tocapture the water supply at Sannah’s Post from the Boers. A New
Zealand contingent was attached to the column as scouts, and this included Trooper Henry Coutts from Canterbury. When the
columnwas surprised at Koornspruit, Sergeant Edgar of the Burmese Mounted Infantry, was badly wounded and fell from his horse. The
British column withdrew in the face of accurate rifle fire, leaving the wounded sergeant behind. However, Trooper Coutts refused to
leave the wounded man and galloped back to him under heavy fire. Trooper Coutts managed to get the sergeant on his horse and rode
him about nine miles to an ambulance station. Unfortunately Sergeant Edgar later died of his wounds. Trooper Coutts’ action required
extreme bravery as the Boers were noted sharpshooters, and a man who stopped to pick up a wounded soldier was a stationary target
and in real danger.
Trooper Coutts was awarded an unusual and unique recognition of his actions in that he was presented with a woollen scarf crocheted
by Queen Victoria. Eight scarves were crocheted by the Queen, four of which were awarded to imperial troops and four to colonial
soldiers. Each scarf was awarded for an act of bravery and came with a gold star and clasp ordered by King Edward VII following Queen
Victoria’s death. The Queen’s initials, VRI, (Victoria Regina Imperatrix) are embroidered in cotton in one corner of the scarf. Field
Marshal Lord Roberts, the Commander in Chief in South Africa, later wrote a letter in which he laid out the qualifications for receiving
the scarf:
“...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... it being understood that gallant conduct in the field was to be considered the primary qualification.”
There is some debate about the status of these scarves. Some writers contend that they are the equivalent of a Victoria Cross
and some consider that they were awarded instead of Victoria Crosses. Unfortunately there is no evidence of medal
recommendations for the Queen’s Scarf recipients, although the Australian recipient spent most of his life fighting for recognition
of his award on the same basis as a Victoria Cross.
Whatever the status of the scarves, according to the words of Lord Roberts quoted above, Trooper Coutts was considered the
most distinguished and gallant private soldier from the New Zealand forces then in South Africa. He is therefore a worthy choice
as the first example in this column of a soldier going above and beyond his duty.
After completing his service in the 1st Contingent, Trooper Coutts returned to New Zealand and re-enlisted in the 7th Contingent
as Captain and Quartermaster. He served another tour before returning home where he was in great demand as a celebrity
speaker at functions. Captain Coutts remained in the New Zealand Militia until 1910.
In 1913, he presented his scarf to the New Zealand Government and it was displayed in the General Assembly Library before
being presented to the Army Museum Waiouru, in the 1980s. In 1916, Captain Coutts, then aged 50, gave a false birth date and
enlisted as a corporal in the Auckland Infantry Battalion for service in World War I. He served in England until his discharge on
medical grounds in April 1918. Presumably the Army finally discovered his real age. After spending many years farming near
Kawhia and in Taranaki with a side interest in sawmilling, Henry Coutts became a member of 'F' Squadron, Legion of Frontiersmen
in Dargaville, New Zealand and became the unit Sergeant Major in 1913
[* Article courtesy of the NZ Army website, 2007]

Queen's Scarf
Mention in Despatches in South Africa (May 1900)
Queen's South Africa Medal
Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Relief of Kimberley
King's South Africa Medal
South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902
British War Medal

Born 14 November 1866, Kaiapoi, New Zealand
Died 30 April 1944, Auckland, New Zealand
Buried Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland (SOLDIERS BURIAL E, Row 3a, Plot 22)
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