The rare Great War North Russia Murmansk and Archangel Command 1918 to 1919 Mention in Despatches, Army Meritorious Service Medal and confirmed Imperial Russian Medal for Zeal group awarded to Company Sergeant Major and Acting Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer 1st Class J.A. McCaffery, Royal Engineers, who having enlisted in 1894 and seen service at Singapore and in India, with the Great War then saw home service with the Hampshire Fortress Engineers, before being posted out to North Russia in May 1918, where he was thrice decorated, being Mentioned in Despatches on 5th June 1919, and awarded the Army Meritorious Service Medal on 3rd October 1919, his award of the Imperial Russian Medal for Zeal, which was originally notified to him as being the one to be worn from the neck, was detailed to him in a letter issued at Archangel on 9th July 1919 and sent from Lieutenant General L. Miller, General Staff and Commander in Chief of all the Russian Military and Naval Forces of North Russia, and was later confirmed in a confidential gazette on 16th July 1921. He latterly applied to be a Yeoman of the Guard.
British War Medal and Victory Medal with Mention in Despatches Oakleaf; (28280 A.W.O.CL.1 J.A. MC CAFFERY. R.E.); Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, GVR Fm. bust; (28280 CPL J.A. Mc CAFFERY. R.E.); Army Meritorious Service Medal, GVR Fm. bust; (28280 C.S.MJR - A.R.S.MJR. J.A. McCAFFERY. R.E.); Imperial Russia: Medal for Zeal, Tsar Nicholas II issue, Silver small type, this last on old ribbon with mount as issued.
Together with the original typed letter passed from the Commander in Chief of all the Russian Military and Naval Forces of North Russia - Lieutenant General L. Miller, General Staff, to Sergeant Major 28280 McCaffery British Army… ‘I hearby confer upon you… the St Stanislaus Silver Medal to be suspended on the neck, in recognition of meritorious service’. Its at Archangel on 9th July 1919. James Ambrose McCaffery was born in Middlesborough, Yorkshire, and originally attested for service with the British Army on 2nd July 1894 at Chatham when aged 14 years and 6 months, and joining as a Boy (No.28280) the Royal Engineers. Appointed a Bugler on 15th January 1895, and then, having attained the age of 18, seeing service as a Sapper from 2nd January 1898, he was posted out to Singapore on 9th November 1901. Appointed to Lance Corporal on 24th April 1902, and promoted to 2nd Corporal on 15th January 1904, he re-engaged in order to complete 21 years with the Colours on 22nd November 1904 and was then posted home on 1st February 1905. McCaffery was promoted to Corporal on 4th July 1908 whilst serving with the 34th Field Company, and then transferred to the 1st Sappers and Miners out in India on 2nd February 1909. Posted to ‘H’ Company on 14th October 1909, he was serving with the 1st Sappers and Miners Section at Karachi when he was promoted to Sergeant on 25th November 1912, and then transferred to the 4th Company on 5th March 1913 and was posted home the next day, being graded as an ‘Electrician Superior’ pm 31st May 1913. McCaffery who was awarded the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in Army Order No.117 of 1913, then transferred as a Sergeant Instructor to the Supernumary List for service with the Territorial Force in the Hampshire Fortress Company of the Royal Engineers on 1st April 1914. With the outbreak of the Great War, McCaffery then saw home service, presumedly still with the Hampshire Fortress Company, and was appointed to Acting Company Sergeant Major on 9th August 1915, and was then promoted to Warrant Officer 2nd Class and Company Sergeant Major. Having been up for discharge, he was retained under the War Service Act of 1916, and McCaffery was later transferred to the 1st Reserve Battalion on 26th May 1918. He was then posted out to North Russia, being en-route from 16th June 1918, and present at Murmansk from 23rd June 1918, serving as a Company Sergeant Major and Acting Regimental Sergeant Major and Warrant Officer 1st Class with Archangel Command. It was for his services in North Russia that McCaffery was thrice decorated, firstly being Mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the London Gazette for 5th June 1919, he was then awarded the Army Meritorious Service Medal for his services in North Russia in the London Gazette for 3rd October 1919.
Being ultimately awarded the Russian Medal for Zeal - described variously in his records as the ’Silver Medal on the Ribbon of St Stanislaus’ and in the award letter issued to him on 9th July 1919 as the ‘St Stanislaus Silver Medal to be suspended from the neck’. The neck decoration, correctly described as the Medal for Zeal large silver medal, is a different award from the one shown above and is considerably rare. It was either a mistake in the letter to award his this large medal and the small medal was the intended award, or else McCaffery received the small medal because of the lack of availability of a large medal for presentation with the collapse of Imperial Russian administration and powers in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. What is certain is that his service records states that McCaffery received the ‘Silver Medal on the Ribbon of St Stanislaus vide LG (Confidential) Russian Decorations d/- 16/7/21’ namely his awarded was gazetted to him in a confidential non-published London Gazette on 16th July 1921.
In the meantime, McCaffery had been posted home from North Russia on 2nd September 1919, and was then discharged on 23rd December 1919. McCaffery had lost his wife during the war, and he went to live in Colliers Wood in London and struggled to look after his ‘six motherless children to provide for whose welfare is my great ambition.’ Due to his continued service in Russia after the war, his qualifications as an electrician came to nought as all the jobs had already been taken, and this led McCaffery to re-apply for service with the army, namely with the Territorial Army whom he re-enlisted into on 12th June 1923 as a Company Sergeant Major and Acting Regimental Sergeant Major (No.2209437) with the Royal Engineers, he having requested to rejoin the Hampshire Fortress Company. McCaffery then applied to be appointed to the King’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard, his name being added to the list on 20th April 1926, though whether this appointment was taken up is unclear.