Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)
Date of Auction: 25th September 2008
Sold for £1,100
Estimate: £800 - £1,000
FootnoteOnly 7 clasps for Egypt were issued to the Royal Sappers and Miners.
David Fife was born in 1776 at Arbroath, Angus, and was attested in Dundee for the Royal Sappers and Miners as a Wheeler on 4 August 1797, aged 21. In April 1800 he joined a special detachment of 33 sappers, under Major Mackerras RE, accompanying the 17,000-strong force to Egypt, which was then occupied by Napoleon.
The force from Britain, led by General Sir Ralph Abercromby, assembled at Marmorice Bay, in Turkey, on 2 January 1801. Prior to the landing in Egypt, Major Mackerras RE, the Commanding Engineer, with a party of sailors from HMS Peterel, led a reconnaissance party on the night of 27 February to select a landing beach on the Egyptian coast at Aboukir Bay. They were attacked on their return by a French gunboat and Major Mackerras was killed, and the rest of the party taken prisoner. Captain A. Bryce RE was then appointed the new Commanding Engineer, and the assault fleet arrived in Aboukir Bay on 1 March 1801, during a heavy storm. Early on the morning of 7 March, ships' boats were rowed to the shore, and the infantry of the 1st Division were landed, with seven sappers from H.M.S. Ajax. The remaining 26 members of the sapper detachment, aboard the Asia transport, were landed the next day from ships' boats and dispersed in small parties of about four each to the several brigades of the army. The opposed landing was successful but British casualties were high, 500 men having been killed or wounded.
The troops then advanced towards Alexandria, and the French took up a position at Mandora Tower which was attacked on the 13th. The French withdrew to the west towards Alexandria itself, which lies on a thin neck of land with the sea on the north and Lake Mareotis on the south. The two armies faced each other on this strip from 13 to 21 March, on which latter day the French attacked the British position and broke through. Wheeling left, it encircled the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment, which, attacked both in front and rear, earned its right to wear two badges on the head-dress, one in front and one behind. After severe fighting though, the French surrendered to Major Stirling of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, and the French handed over their Standard. General Abercromby was wounded in this battle and Lieutenant-General Hutchinson assumed command; he contained the French garrison in Alexandria and attacked Cairo. On 21 May, the day after the investment of Cairo by the British, the French force of 14,000 men surrendered. General Menou, still besieged in Alexandria, refused to surrender, so a landing was made to the west of the town. After the destruction of Fort Marabout and the surrender of the garrison there to the 54th West Norfolk Regiment on 21 August, a massive bombardment began of the the French forces in Alexandria on the 26th. Severe fighting ensued both to the west and east of the town, which finally capitulated on 2 September, and the last French troops then evacuated Egypt. Some of the sapper detachment returned to England in February 1802, the remainder in August 1803. Fife received War Prize Roll payment for service in Egypt.
After nearly 12 years service, Fife was promoted 2nd Corporal on 1 December 1808. In 1816 he was serving with the 2nd Company 3rd Battalion,and was discharged at Woolwich on 23 January 1817, suffering from debility, having served for 19 years 207 days. He was pensioned at 1s. 4d. per day and returned initially to Dundee, in Angus. He eventually lived in Portsmouth, where he died on 27 March 1858, aged 82. Sold with full research.