Orders, Decorations and Medals (21 September 2007)

Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £9,500

Estimate: £6,000 - £7,000

An Afghan War D.C.M. group of four awarded to Private John Dennis, 92nd Highlanders, for gallantly saving the life of his officer commanding at the battle of Kandahar during which he was dangerously wounded

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (Pte. J. Dennis, 92nd Foot); Afghanistan 1878-80, 3 clasps, Charasia, Kabul, Kandahar (1163 Pte. J. Dennis, 92nd Highrs.); Kabul to Kandahar Star 1880 (1163 Prive. John Dennis 92nd Highlanders); Army L.S. & G.C., V.R., small letter reverse (1163 Pte. J. Dennis, 2nd Bn. Gor. Highrs.) together with original Parchment Certificate of Discharge signed by Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. White [V.C.], contact wear and pitting, therefore good fine or better (4) £6000-7000


D.C.M. recommendation submitted to the Queen 23 November 1880 - Kandahar 1 September 1880, ‘behaved with distinguished gallantry.’

The 92nd Highlanders, under the command of Colonel Parker, was one of the regiments selected to form part of the force under Sir Frederick Roberts which, in the month of August 1880, performed its memorable march from Kabul to the relief of Kandahar. In the crowning defeat of the enemy at the battle of Kandahar on the 1st September, the regiment, as one of the two leading battalions in the right attack, played a conspicuous part, being engaged in the successive captures of the villages of Gandi Mullah Sahibdad, and Pir Paimal, and finally carrying at the point of the bayonet the entrenched position on which the enemy had taken up their last stand. The casualties on this day numbered 14 non-commissioned officers and men killed 2 officers and 70 non-commissioned officers and men wounded. In the engagement Captain Menzies' life was saved by Privates Dennis and Roddick, who both received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for their gallantry. The following account, is taken from The Life of a Regiment and was related to the author by Lieutenant Menzies and Drummer Roddick:

‘Two companies of the 92nd under Major G. S. White, and two of the Gurkhas under Lieut.-Colonel A. Battye, carried the village [Gundi Mulla Sahibdad], the Highlanders and the hillmen of Nepaul rivalling each other in their efforts; the Gurkhas on the left, having the shorter distance to go, were the first within the walls. The enemy retired slowly, fighting, but a number of Ghazis stood to receive a bayonet charge of the Highlanders, while many shut themselves up in the houses and fired on our men as they passed, and some splendid hand-to-hand fighting occurred. In the melée Lieutenant Menzies found himself in a courtyard, at the end of which was an open door, and beyond it another door which was locked, but, voices being heard within, the lock was burst by a shot from the officer's pistol, and the door swung open; instantly a shot from the inside hit Menzies in the groin, and he fell. The only man near at the moment was Drummer Roddick, whom he asked not to leave him. "You're all right, sir, as long as this blade lasts,” replied Roddick, as with his drawn claymore he stood over his wounded officer. A number of Afghans rushed out, and the leader fired, the bullet knocking off Roddick's helmet; the man then made for him with the muzzle of his rifle, but the stalwart drummer parried the blow, and ran him through with his sword. At this moment Private Dennis came up; not liking to put the wounded man in the house, where a lot of bags of grain might conceal a foe, they laid him in the slight shade given by the wall of the court. Just as they had done so, an Afghan rushed from behind the bags, making a slash at the officer as he passed and cutting his shoulder; but, fortunately, his blade hit the wall, which broke the force of the blow, and the man was shot by Dennis. More men joined them, Roddick and Dennis carried the lieutenant to a doolie, and immediately rejoined their company.’

John Dennis was born at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, in about 1845, and enlisted at Glasgow into the 92nd Highlanders on 31 July 1863, aged 18 years 7 months, a collier by trade. During his service he was 13 years in India and Afghanistan, and accompanied the regiment to South Africa in January 1881, where he served in the First Boer War. He was recommended for his L.S. & G.C. medal on 1 October 1881, and took his discharge at Devonport on 5 August 1884. His discharge papers note that he ‘Specially distinguished himself by gallantly saving the life of the O/C his Company at the action of Kandahar 1st Septr. 1880.’ Medals and decorations, ‘For distinguished conduct in the field in recognition of his conduct at the Battle of Kandahar on 1st Sept. 1880 - Medal (Afghan) 3 Clasps & Bronze star - Medal for Long Service & Good Conduct.’ Wounded, ‘Received Sword Cuts of “Head”, “Wrist” and “Knee” in action at Kandahar Afghanistan 1 Sept. 1880.’ Sold with copy discharge papers and full muster details.