In 1980, the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy instituted a prestigious award to commemorate Brigadier Stokes for his outstanding and unique contribution to the South African mining industry over a period of many years. This award consists of a platinum medal. The award is made to an individual for the very highest achievement in the South African mining and metallurgical industry, and is not necessarily based on technical considerations.
|1980||H F Oppenheimer||2001||T L Gibbs|
|1981||Dr W Bleloch||2002||J Ogilvie Thompson|
|1982||Dr F G Hill||2003||P V Cox|
|1983||Dr A Whillier (Posthumously)||2004||H J Smith|
|1984||Prof. D G Krige||2005||P Motsepe|
|1985||Dr R E Robinson||2006||Prof. G T Van Rooyen|
|1986||Professor M D G Salamon||2007||Dr D H Laubscher|
|1987||Dr T F Muller||2008||Prof. T R Stacey|
|1988||Dr W J (Wim) de Villiers||2009||Dr C J Fauconnier|
|1989||Dr R A Plumbridge||2010||Prof. C T O'Connor|
|1990||W G Boustred||2011||B C Alberts|
|1991||P du P Kruger||2012||R P Mohring|
|1992||E Pavitt||2013||Prof. H R Phillips|
|1993||Prof. D A Pretorius||2014||B Godsell|
|1994||Dr H Wagner||2015||S Nkosi|
|1995||Dr O K H Steffen||2016||M A Hermanus|
|1996||B E Hersov||2017||R Baxter|
|1997||D W Horsfall (Posthumously)||2018||M S Teke|
|1998||B P Gilbertson||2019||D L Hodgson|
|1999||L Boyd||2020||J R Dixon|
|2000||A H Mokken||2021||N J Froneman|
Ralph Shelton Griffin Stokes, son of Francis Griffin Stokes, was born in England on 31 July 1882. Stokes, who was privately educated, interrupted his studies to come to South Africa to take part in the Second Anglo-Boer War as a trooper in Paget's Horse, and after the war went to Johannesburg to try his luck on the gold mines. He joined H. Eckstein and Company (The Corner House) in 1902 and his first appointment was as a sampler and assistant surveyor on the Crown Reef Mine.
An offer from Abe Bailey to work as the part-time mining editor of the Rand Daily Mail enabled Stokes to continue his studies and to tour the mines of the British Empire. A series of articles described his travels and appeared in the Rand Daily Mail between June 1906 and September 1907. His book Mines and Minerals of the British Empire was published in 1908, followed by Text Book of Rand Metallurgical Practices in 1912. His second term of employment with H. Eckstein and Company, commencing in 1907, coincided with a period of intense activity on the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. It was not only the beginning of the great amalgamations, but also of considerable change on many mining properties. Stokes assisted the well-known William Wallace Mein with the valuation of the New Modderfontein Gold Mining Company Ltd, and worked on the Robinson Mine, Crown Mines, and in Eckstein's central administration. During this time he obtained the government's Surveyor's Certificate.
From 1912 to 1914, he was employed as a field engineer by the International Nickel Company of New York. In 1912, while inspecting the newly discovered Arkansas Diamond Mine he met, in one party, Henry Cleveland Perkins, Hennen Jennings, Sidney J. Jennings and Willie Mein, the four American engineers who had played such a significant role in the history of H. Eckstein – Werner Beit and Company and the development of the Witwatersrand gold fields.
Stokes returned to South Africa as superintendent of mines and assistant general manager of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd at Kimberley. Eight years after this, he resigned to join his old firm in Johannesburg which had become the Central Mining and Investment Corporation Ltd. During his term of office as consulting engineer and technical director of Central Mining, he played a major role in the acquisition and development of its gold mines in the Orange Free State. He was chairperson of the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mining Company, and witnessed the sinking of the first boreholes at the Harmony Mine in 1949. He was appointed as director of Central Mining in 1944, a position he held until he retired from the board in 1959. He was also a director of Transvaal Gold Mining Estates Ltd and chairperson of Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd from 1944 to 1947.
In addition to his remarkable capabilities as a mining engineer, Stokes has a distinguished military record. During the First World War he was in France with the tunnelling companies and as controller of mines with the rank of colonel of the First Army. He was chief engineer of the Expeditionary Forces in north Russia from 1918 to 1919. In recognition of his work during the war, he was awarded the Military Cross (MC, 1916), the Distinguished Service Order (DSO, 1917) and the Order of the British Empire (OBE, 1919). Undeterred by the fact that he was 57 when the Second World War broke out, he returned to England to offer his services to the War Office. He was first sent to Narvik, and then to the Western Desert as chief engineer in charge of construction of airfields with Montgomery's Eighth Army. He rose to the rank of brigadier and was honoured as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE 1942). In the course of the two world wars, he was mentioned in dispatches no fewer than seven times. He recorded some of his war-time experiences, entitled 'Our Arctic Campaigns Archangel 1918-1919; Narvik 1940' in the Royal Engineers Journal.
Stokes served on the council of the Geological Society of South Africa from 1929 to 1939, and as its president in 1934; his presidential address was entitled 'The geological surveys and societies of the world'. In 1937–1938, he served as the president of the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society (having been a corresponding member of council since as early as 1913) which became the South then Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. His presidential address dealt with the financial aspects of mining on the Witwatersrand, and he wrote some outstanding papers on various aspects of the Witwatersrand gold mining industry. He was elected as an honorary life member in 1946. He was also a member, and in 1954 president, of the (British) Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, and published material in its bulletin. His presidential address, 'Future Resources and Problems of the Witwatersrand Gold Field' was acknowledged as a remarkable piece of work. After his death on 24 February 1979 (in Dorset, United Kingdom), the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy established the Brigadier Stokes Memorial Award which recognizes outstanding achievement in, and contribution to, the mining industry.
Stokes was a remarkable and resilient man with a superior intellect, inexhaustible energy, and an insatiable curiosity, who travelled widely, had many friends, and was informally known in his later years as 'The Brig'. In 1921 he married Lora Mary (Molly) Bradford, with whom he had four daughters. He retained a dry sense of humour and an agile mind until his death at the age of ninety-six.
Acknowledgements to Don Visser, The Encyclopedia of South African Biography, and the S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science