Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)
Date of Auction: 25th September 2008
Sold for £2,100
Estimate: £800 - £1,000
Sea Gallantry Medal, G.V.R., silver (Commander William Niles, R.N.R. “Delhi” 13 Dec. 1911); Royal Naval Reserve Decoration, E.VII.R., unnamed, hallmarks for London 1908; Royal National Lifeboat Institution, V.R., silver (Mr William Niles. Voted 12th July 1888) this with silver buckle on ribbon, nearly extremely fine (3) £800-1000
FootnoteEx Dawson Collection; ref. Spink Exhibition 1985, No. 108b; Sotheby ‘Rule, Britannia!’ Exhibition 1986, No. 331.
Mr William Niles, Coxswain of the Cardigan Lifeboat, was awarded the R.N.L.I. Medal in silver in July 1888, ‘In recognition of his long and faithful services as Coxswain during which Mr Niles helped save 53 lives from various wrecks. The vessels included the smacks Oliver Lloyd, Turtle Dove and Coronation (1867), the schooner Dollart (1873), the schooner Johanna Antoinette (1875), the brig Wellington (1882), the brigantine Unda (1884) and the fishing boat President (1886)’. (Ref. Lifeboat Gallantry, by Barry Cox).
The P.& O. liner, S.S. Delhi was stranded during a gale on the coast of Morocco, near Cape Spartel, on 13 December 1913. Amongst the passengers requiring rescue were the Duke and Duchess of Fife (The Princess Royal) and their two daughters, Princesses Alexandra and Maud. The Delhi’s lifeboats were smashed on impact but warships in the area, hearing the distress calls, went speeding to the wreck - including the French cruiser Friant - which lost three men in a rescue attempt; the British battleship London and the cruiser Duke of Edinburgh. A boat from the latter managed to take off the royal party but was swamped on the way back not far from shore, throwing everyone into the sea. Princess Alexandra narrowly escaped death by drowning, having to be held up in the water by a sailor. The rescue operations lasted for five days. Amongst the vessels attending was the Gibraltar lifeboat. Captain of the Port, Commander Niles, volunteered as the Coxswain, having had much experience as such. The Gibraltar lifeboat made five trips between the wreck and the shore, taking 10 to 12 passengers each time. Five members of the crew were washed overboard on one trip but were saved. On her penultimate run she was stove in against her own anchor which resulted in her being half full of water on her last trip and in a poor state when she at last came ashore. Commander William Niles, R.D., R.N.R., Captain of the Port, Gibraltar, was awarded the Sea Gallantry Medal in silver for his services at the wreck. Sold with copied research.