Orders, Decorations and Medals (19 & 20 March 2008)

Date of Auction: 19th & 20th March 2008

Sold for £1,200

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,200

Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Sahagun & Benevente (J. Rippen, 18th L. Dgns.) one or two minor edge bruises, otherwise extremely fine £1000-1200


Ex Spink, 1897; just 26 Military General Service 1793-1814 Medals are known to the 18th Light Dragoons with this clasp, 10 of them as single clasps.

James Rippen, a clockmaker from Nottingham, enlisted into the 18th Light Dragoons in February 1808.

That September, eight Troops of the Regiment were sent to Portugal to assist in Sir John Moore’s Corunna campaign, and were quickly in action at Valladolid, and again at Benevente on 29 December, prior to being re-embarked in January 1809, a day or two before Sir John’s last stand and the final evacuation. And while the Regiment did not take an active part in the battle of Sahagun, which was largely an affair conducted by the 15th Hussars, it did, like the rest of the Brigade, receive the clasp.

At Benevente, the 18th closely engaged General Lefebvre-Desnouettes advance guard of cavalry, which had crossed the Esla hot on the heels of the retreating British. Indeed Rippen and his comrades, about 130 strong, charged the numerically superior French force the moment it was observed. Having then broken off the action in good order, and tied-up with a Troop of the 3rd Dragoons, K.G.L., the augmented British force, still outnumbered, charged forward once more, but was forced back to the village of Benevente, where, unbeknown to the French, the 10th Hussars lay waiting out of sight. The combined British force, in the very capable hands of Lord Paget, this time was superior, and sprang upon the unsuspecting French, who were put to flight, being chased all the way back to the Esla for some two miles. The French lost 55 killed and wounded and 72 prisoners, including Lefebvre-Desnouettes himself. British casualties were about 50, mostly in the 18th Hussars.

The 18th Hussars went back to the Peninsula in January 1813, but Rippen was not among their ranks, having deserted from Captain Underwood’s Troop back in July 1811 (WO 25/1463 refers). There is no further trace of him on the regimental rolls, and details of his desertion clearly evaded those charged with processing his subsequent claim for the Military General Service 1793-1814 Medal.