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

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Date of Auction: 19th & 20th March 2008

Sold for £1,400

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,400

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Albuhera, Vittoria, Toulouse (George Holmes, 13th Light Dragoons) edge bruising and light contact marks, nearly very fine £1200-1400


George Holmes, a carpenter from Leigh, Lancashire, enlisted in the 13th Light Dragoons in April 1801, aged 18 years.

Subsequently embarked for Lisbon in one of six squadrons of the 13th allocated to Sir Rowland Hill’s Division, and which arrived there in February 1810, he would have wintered with his comrades around the Lines of Torres Vedras. Thereafter, as made clear by his discharge papers, he served with distinction, most probably first going into action at Campo Mayor in March of the following year, when two squadrons of the 13th covered several miles and Corporal Logan famously killed a French Colonel in single combat. For his own part, Holmes ‘always conducted himself well and on many occasions behaved with distinguished bravery in the Field when engaged with the enemy’ (WO 97/96 refers).

Next in action at the battle of Albuhera that May, the 13th, one of only three cavalry regiments present, was given the task of patrolling the banks of the river to deter any French advance from that direction, a task which was successfully accomplished as the enemy were kept at arm’s length throughout the day - whilst the savage infantry and artillery battle continued to the south. A day or two later, Holmes and his comrades took part in the ‘combat of Usagre’, a model cavalry action in which three enemy regiments were boxed-in around a bridge - 250 of them being killed or wounded and a further 80 taken P.O.W. - while in October, as a result of their conduct in the action at Arroyo dos Molinos, the whole received special praise in Sir Rowland’s ensuing despatch.

Yet further accolades were won by the 13th at Vittoria, not least when Captain Doherty led a party of the regiment in capturing some of King Joseph’s carriages - and since Holmes was a member of the Captain’s Troop, we must assume he shared in the booty. But in his very next engagement, at Toulouse, in April 1814, and probably whilst serving as escort to a Staff Officer for the 13th were not generally engaged, he suffered ‘The loss of two fingers on the left hand while gallantly skirmishing with the French ... and [was] wounded [in the] right hand and head’ (WO 97/67 refers).

As a consequence of his wounds, the gallant Holmes was discharged in September 1814, after 13 years with the Colours, and was awarded a pension of 9d. a day, increased to 1/- in May 1853.