An abdicated King and the Sword of Honour

Detail of Sword of Honour and the gold Sovereign’s Medal, 1936
Detail of Sword of Honour and the gold Sovereign’s Medal

For many years, the Sovereign of the United Kingdom has awarded two very special prizes to British Army Officer Cadets at Sandhurst. These are the Sword of Honour, awarded to the Cadet considered by the Commandant to be, overall, the best of the course, and the gold King’s or Queen’s Medal, awarded to the Cadet who achieves the highest scores in military, practical and academic studies.

Very occasionally these are awarded to the same cadet. This happened in 1936 when Gentleman Cadet Hugh Acton Jefferies, from County Wexford, was commissioned into The Royal Irish Fusiliers during the Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military College Sandhurst*. He was awarded the Sword of Honour and the King’s Medal by King Edward VIII, who was King for less than one year before he chose abdication. These are the only prizes Edward VIII presented and both are on display in the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum.

Captain Jefferies, aged 24, was killed on 19 May 1940 when the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers was in the fighting to hold back the Germans during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches at Dunkirk. He is buried at Outer Communal Cemetery in Belgium.

Royal Military College Sandhurst amalgamated in 1947 with Royal Military Academy Woolwich and, remaining at Sandhurst, Berkshire, was retitled Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.