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Africa General Service Medal , clasp "Kenya"


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Gentlemen,

In a recent auction I obtained in addition to other medals a lone AGS with the clasp "Kenya". The details of the receipient are as follows:

E.862 1/P. ( R ) E. RUNDGREN

I would be grateful if any member could identify the unit and designation of the receipient. It may be of relevance that the medal was obtained in South Africa.

Thank you in advance,

Kind regards,

Owain (OAMOTME)

Edited by oamotme
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Owain

A member of the Rundgren family, whose family was from Kenya, is a well known battlefield guide in Natal. I am sure that he will be interested to hear about the medal and he will probably be able to give information about E Rundgren. If you PM me, I will give you his e-mail address.

Regards

Brett

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Dear Brett,

Thank you for this information. The medal is outside the scope of my collection - Arabia and Ethiopia, and thus if it is something that should be back with the family then I would be happy to facilitate this. Currently the medal is in UK and I will not have access to it again until late August / early September. Perhaps you would be kind enough to explore this possibility with your contact. What a round about saga. I search auctions on line in Riyadh, find a lot in Cape Town, successfully bid, the medals get sent to UK and the story reverts back to Kenya and Natal.....

Regards and thanks, Owain

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Owain

The local representative of the Rundgren clan is very keen to acquire the medal, which belonged to his father's eldest brother. I will pm you the name and e-mail address of Natal's Rundgren so you can contact him directly. He will be very pleased to reunite the medal with his family and I am sure that he will express his gratitude accordingly. My thanks again for your kindness.

Regards

Brett

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Dear Archer,

Many thanks for the information.

Brett,

The medal has not been cleaned for many years and has a dark patina and is in good condition - I wonder where it has been? If it can get "home" to a nephew it would be a good result. I'll keep you and GMIC posted. Thank you for your assistance which is much appreciated .

Regards,

Owain

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  • 9 months later...

Gentlemen,

Returning to this dormant topic I am pleased to advise that through the good offices of Brett I have been in correspondence with Pat Rundgren - the nephew of the late Eric Rundgren, and I was able to send the medal to Pat with a friend of his in the UK who travelled to South Africa in earlier this month and just before Christmas I received confirmation from Pat that he had received the medal.

During my correspondence with Pat he very kindly compiled a resume of his family and their history over the past three generations. Eric Rundgren's life reads as if out of a "Boys Own" adventure story and indeed in later life a biography was published. I detail below an extract from Pat's resume - great reading :

"Eric’s father, Ture Waldemar Rundgren, was born on 27 June 1879 at Odensvei, Sweden, the son of Ture Albert Rundgren and Ida Elizabeth Rundgren, nee Svendson. Pat Rundgren distantly remembers him mainly for his habit of keeping two cheetahs as pets, rather than the conventional dogs. A noted white hunter and coffee planter at Nyeri, family legend has it that he allegedly lost his farm in a card game to Lord Delamere, which forced him to turn to professional hunting. A colourful and resourceful man, he kept his family going during the Great Depression through the proceeds of a fruit-machine (one-armed bandit) at the local club.

Eric’s mother, Emily Elizabeth Roberts, was born on 28 July 1878 in Hackney, Middlesex, England. She was the daughter of Diana Smith and her second husband, James Roberts (1854 – 1890). Emily married Leonard Gorringe, a younger son of Hugh Gorringe, the Lord of the Manor of Kingston Buci, (Kingston by Sea) Sussex. (One of Leonard’s elder brothers was the World War 1 General, Sir George Gorringe.) Leonard and Emily went to Kenya sometime before World War 1, where Leonard was employed as the Head of the Southern Sudanese anti-slavery patrol. However, their marriage appears to have been an unhappy one. She then met Ture Waldemar Rundgren, who had also immigrated to Kenya via China and had become a partner with Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke in the “Swedo - American Coffee Company”. Emily and Ture appear to have had a passionate affair, the result of which was the out-of-wedlock birth of a son, Eric, who was born at Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, on 26 June 1918. (The couple’s other children were Peter Olaf; Britta Elizabeth and Pat Rundgren’s father, John Michael Valdemar.)

Emily returned to Kenya with Eric arrived when he was only 7 months old. His godfather, Baron von Blixen, and his father steered him from the beginning into a life of professional hunting, and he went on his first professional hunt before he turned 16. Successively employed by the Government Forestry Department and the Kenya Game Department, he shot buffalo, elephant and lion on control work in the Aberdare Mountains.

During World War 2 he saw service in Abyssinia with the Kenya Regiment (Regimental Number KR 635 and later KR 1166) attached to the 11th Indian Division. However, the restrictions and regulation of army life were not to his liking, so he offered his “immediate” services to Kenya’s Chief Game Warden, Archie Ritchie. For whatever reason, Ritchie exercised his considerable influence and Eric became a warden at Nanyuki before the end of the war.

Eric became one of the most experienced hunters of all time, having shot more dangerous game than anyone else on earth. According to Brian Herne in his book “White Hunters, the Golden Age of African Safaris” (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1999), Eric’s nickname was “Mchangi”, small coloured beads favoured by the local tribesmen to embellish necklaces, belts and ornaments. If dropped, they roll everywhere – just like Eric.

The nickname did not bother Eric Rundgren – in fact, very little bothered him. He unhesitantly trampled on anybody if he felt like it, and not necessarily for good reason, or any reason at all.

“Mchangi” made no attempt to rein in his explosive nature. He cynically gazed out at the world from heavily hooded Nordic blue eyes. Reddish-haired and fair skinned, Rundgren had a square jaw with lips that could easily snarl as smile. In his prime he was well muscled and big-boned, standing just under six feet in his socks, and weighing in at around 225 pounds. For his size Rundgren moved easily on the balls of his feet, his shoulders hunched like a prizefighter, often with a cigarette in his pudgy fist.

At the height of his volcanic career as a white hunter in the mid 1950s and 1960s, Eric Rundgren was the most controversial professional of his day. People loved him or hated him. He was unpredictable, volatile and to some people he was nothing but a lout, both rude and irresponsible.

On one occasion Rundgren was instructed by Ritchie to shoot five hundred crop-raiding buffalo on Mount Kenya. To meet the challenge, Rundgren developed a specialized dog pack, which became his most important tool for buffalo control. The chances of escaping death or permanent injury from continuous buffalo hunting in thick forests, day after day, is slim at best. Rundgren was tossed, horned and savaged on seven occasions by buffalo. During one pursuit a wounded buffalo charged, slammed hard into Rundgren, and tossed him over a riverbank. He landed in the gravel stream but held onto his ,450 rifle. Above him on the bank was the buffalo looking down at him. Lying in the shallow river Rundgren shot the buffalo in the throat and it collapsed.

By the time Rundgren had personally shot over 3 000 buffalo he had no taste left for control work. This staggering number of buffalo taken on behalf of Government is a greater number than any one man has ever shot. He was not proud of these statistics, and avoided discussing it. In just seven years of control hunting Rundgren also personally shot 434 lion, easily another record, if one’s counting”.

In 1945 he married his first wife, Patricia Borwick (1918 – 1988), who claimed distant royal bloodlines. Their children were Donald Eric, born 1940, who followed his father into the professional hunting game; Carl David, born 1951 and presently living in New Zealand and Brian Robert, born 1955 – current location unknown but he spent most of his life doing unusual things like taking part in polar expeditions to Antarctica.

Late in 1952, at the age of thirty-four, Eric Rundgren resigned from the Game Department after a heated argument with a colleague and joined “Safariland” for his first professional safari. As it turned out, he was charged by an elephant and almost mauled to death by a leopard that he was following up after one of his Mexican clients had wounded it. “Instead of playing dead, Rundgren fought back and tried to strangle the leopard. This is akin to wrestling a chain saw that has run amok. In the blood-soaked battle Rundgren kicked, swore and fought back as the big cat shredded him”. The beast was finally shot by one of his clients and he spent the next two weeks in hospital being stitched back together. (See photograph.)

He served in the Kenya Police Reserve as Inspector (E. 862) during the Mau Mau uprising, being awarded the Africa General Service Medal with “Kenya” bar to add to his World War 2 awards.

He bought a farm at Naro Moru, on the eastern side of Mount Kenya, but sold it and moved to Pat’s grandmother’s plot at Kikambala on the Kenya coast, north of Mombasa. His commercial fishing venture failed, and he returned to hunting. Unfortunately his marriage fell apart, and he later married Harriet, one of his well-heeled female clients.

He once followed a huge elephant tusker over the Kenya border into Tanganyika and illegally shot it. The tusks weighed in at a magnificent 178 and 174 pounds. (See photo.) However, in order to avoid prosecution for poaching the tusks had to be cut up into smaller pieces!

“There would always be sportsmen who would come to Africa to hunt with Rundgren – for his daredevil tactics and incredible hunting ability. One loyal client said “At least he was a great bad ass! You never knew what he would do next. Every moment was a surprise!”

Rundgren will be remembered for many things, not least because he helped a number of young hunters in the early stages of their careers. Back in 1952 one of those hunters was Mike Prettejohn, who accompanied Rundgren on a private rhino hunt on Mount Kenya. During the hunt Rundgren shot the 5th. world record rhino. Prettejohn commented, “Eric had the instincts of a wild animal, and could outwit them all. He was a brilliant bushman, and gave me invaluable experience and advice that no one will ever have the opportunity to repeat. He was, as fellow hunter Bill Ryan said, “a bloody fine hunter. A legend in his own time”.

In 1964 Eric Rundgren left Kenya and moved to the then Bechuanaland (now Botswana), where he started his own hunting company, Bechuanaland Safaris, in partnership with the Henderson brothers, Ian and Alan, of Doddieburn Ranch, Colleen Bawn, Southern Rhodesia. The Hendersons were also from famous stock, their father having won the Victoria Cross during the native uprisings in 1896 in Rhodesia.

Pat’s father was employed as their agent in Victoria Falls, and Pat spent much of my youth growing up amongst the hunting camps in Linyati, Panda ma Tenga, Nunga and the Okavango swamps. He clearly remember Eric once asking him, in front of all his clients, if I was playing pocket billiards (Pat was about 10 years old and had his hands in his pockets at the time). There was a roar of laughter, although he did not understand why, and had to have the joke explained to him.

When the Rhodesian bush war intensified and it was no longer safe to transport his clients by road from Victoria Falls into the hunting camps in Botswana, Eric moved to South Africa and started “Wilderness Safaris” operating photographic safaris out of the Pilansberg north of Pretoria. He finally immigrated to Australia, where he died, if Pat remembers rightly, of a heart attack (although Pat would guess that his liver would have ultimately exploded as well).

Eric still holds the world record for sitatunga and features prominently some 50 years later in other categories of “Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game”. His autobiography was written by Dennis Holman in 1969, entitled “Inside Safari Hunting with Eric Rundgren”.

As members of GMIC will now no doubt have noted the medal in the auction lot was a real sleeper and to satisfy fellow members curiosity on how a deal was done between me and Pat, I calculated the cost I paid for the medal as part of the auction lot - some GBP50 or thereabouts, and as transferring that amount would not be a cost effective exercise Pat has donated an equivalent amount to his local ex-servicemens charity. A good result all round and a great example of how membership of GMIC proves its worth.

Finaly I attach two images admirably illustrating Eric and his life.

A big thank you to Brett for putting me in touch with Pat.

Kind regards, Owain

Edited by oamotme
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Owain

Pat Rundgren has kept me informed of progress in this matter and I am pleased that it has reached such a happy ending.

After reading the account of Eric Rundgren's life, I thought,"They don't make them like that anymore.", but in fact they do, as anyone who knows Pat Rundgren can attest. The family genes have flourished in him.

Regards

Brett

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Owain, you're a good man to make sure the family is reunited with a medal from a family. I've only had that pleasure once and you'll find it interesting a I bought the medal in the souk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was a BEM disc (military) missing it's suspension and named to a New Zealander who had served in Korea in the RNZA. I had done the research on it for a short article that was published in the OMRS Journal back in the 80s and in which I published that he was one of five New Zealanders who had been awarded the BEM (military QEII) for the Korean War. At any rate, the recipient's friend read the article while working in Sabah and wrote me asking if he could get it for his best friend who had returned to New Zealand after working in Borneo. It seems the medal was in a house fire and one of the workers who had helped in clearing up the remains of the house helped himself by taking the medal and eventually he went on Haj and sold it in Jeddah where I bought it at the old airport souk back in '85. I parted with it to the man's friend and he returned it to the man and he sent me a thank you letter and was happy to get at least that medal back. He is still missing the Queen's Korea and the UN Korea. A second somewhat related story is that of my brother who wrote a Canadian dealer just asking him to keep an eye out for a WWI pair to an uncle of ours and who was a Pte. in the RHC; low and behold, about six months later, he came across the BWM, which my brother now has. Talk about needles in haystacks... I love it when the medals go back into the families (when they're truly interested in the relative/ancestor; if it's just for profit, forget it; keep it where it'll be appreciated).

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Dear Brett, Mervyn, Azyeoman and Chris,

Many thanks for your kind words. I have been asked if I had known the story of "the man behind the medal" would I have still parted with it? I hope the answer would still have been yes, but the fact is that without GMIC none of us would have known the story of Eric Rundgren and thus the question is a non-starter. I have enjoyed the correspondence with Brett and Pat Rundgren and this represents a much more fulfilling exprience than just selling the medal.

I noted to Pat that it may well be that my grandfather would have met Eric as my grandfather, a John Edward Arnold Evans (1901-1990), was based in British East Africa from 1933 to 1958 and ended his career with Barclays DCO as manager of the Nairobi office and I remember him telling me how he slept with a revolver under his pillow during the Mau Mau troubles for which Eric received his medal. My mother was brought up in BEA and with my grandmother, and brother, born in Arusha (then in Tangyanika), went on leave by ship to the UK in the summer of 1939 with my grandfather to follow. With the onset of war my grandfather could not join them and they did not see each other again until after the war ended in 1945....but I digress.

Christmas greetings to all and best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous new year, Owain

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  • 4 months later...

Hamish - welcome to GMIC - we are always pleased to have new members from 'down under'. I hope someone will know of a

ref. for this medal - I have never found one. The medals are not uncommon - usually for the KAR (King's African Regt.) or Police

reserves. Please tell us about your medals - and also - what is the uniform ? Police - hopefully. Mervyn

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