Bronze British War Medal, for non combatants and “Native” labourers, 12073 Private Molahlei Ntoma, South African Native Labour Corps, S.A.N.L.C.
Officially impressed: 12073 PTE. M. NTOMA. S.A.N.L.C.”
12073 Private Molahlei Ntona, attested for service on 6th March 1917 at Thaba’nchu, serving his 1 year contract, and was discharged on 23rd March 1918.
He saw service in France with the Basutoland Battalion of the SANLC.
Total men of the roll numbered 2148, however only 1615 were to be issued and 533 were disqualified.
The town of Thaba ‘Nchu, meaning Black Mountain, is in Free State of South Africa. Its population is largely made up of the Tswana and Sotho people, in 1913 it was designated at the Homeland for the Tswana people, the population has for many years been almost entirely made up of Black South Africans.
The S.A.N.L.C. was in existence for only a short time during World War 1.
Formed in 1916, it was disbanded in January 1918.
The men were recruited in South Africa from local volunteers on a 1 year contract, the recruiting starting in September 1916 with a plan to recruit 10,000 black recruits to make up 5 Battalions of 2,000 men with 63 Officers and NCOs.
These men were posted to service in France, the first battalion arriving in November 1916.
The last batch of the 10,000 arrived on 19th February 1917.
By May 1918 all the men were back home in South Africa, but they had since lost 1304 men of the SANLC who died on various duties.
This included 600 Men of the SANLC who went down on the SS Mendi.
Famously on board was the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha, of the SANLC, who gave this speech on board the ship:
"Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do.
"Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers. Zulus, Swazis, Pondos, Basothos and all others, let us die like warriors. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies."
Unfortunately for those proud men that returned home, they were told that unlike the Black Africans who had fought with Regiments part of the British Protectorates, such as the King’s African Rifles, the labourers of the SANLC would be disqualified from claiming the British War Medal.
Fortunately they would at least be then given the Bronze Version of the British War Medal.