Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £1,500

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,200

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Badajoz, St. Sebastian, Nivelle (Owen Connor, Corpl. Royal Sappers & Miners) carriage repaired and top clasp re-fixed at one side, edge bruising and some scratching overall, otherwise very fine £1000-1200

Footnote

First recorded for sale by Debenham’s in March 1898.

Owen Connor was born in 1787 in St Maryann, Shannon, County Cork, and trained as a carpenter. He enlisted on 27 September 1808 and joined the Spike Island Company in Ireland on 1 January 1809, where he served until the end of May 1811 when he was transferred to the 7th Company 2nd Battalion and embarked for Portugal. He served with this Company in the Peninsula for 3 years and two months. After taking part in the siege of Badajoz from 16 March to 6 April 1812, and carrying out important bridging work on the Esla, he was present at the siege of St Sebastian from 11 July to 8 September 1813, where it was stationed in the trenches on the isthmus. Following intense bombardment of the Hornwork by artillery batteries on the Chofre Hills, a mine was exploded under the Hornwork at 5am on 24 July, blowing a large length of the counterscarp. A storming party of raiders, including Owen Connor and several other sappers, then dashed at the breach, and succeeded in forcing their way to its summit, driving the French back into the ruins. Lieutenant H. D. Jones RE, with some of the more intrepid of the party, followed them. However, supporting British assault troops were slow to advance, and the French defenders, realising the weakness of the force to which they had yielded, rallied and poured fire upon the handful of men in their front. Major Frazer, of the Royal Scots, was killed, throwing his men into confusion, many of whom retreated. Although Lieutenant Jones stood undaunted on the breach, he was only able to retain with him a few others as determined as himself, including Owen Connor. They strove vainly to establish some kind of cover, behind which they might hold their ground until the advance of their supports. Before they had time to accomplish this, however, Lieutenant Jones and most of his small party were shot down, Owen Connor being wounded in the head. The French then returned to the breach and the three surviving sappers, including Owen Connor and Lieutenant Jones, who himself was wounded, were taken prisoner and carried into the fortress where they remained incarcerated throughout the rest of the siege. According to Porter’s
History of the Corps of Royal Engineers:

“At 10am on September 8th 1813, fifty-nine (British) guns and mortars opened fire, and the bombardment proved of so crushing a nature that the enemy were scarcely able to return a shot. After the fire had been kept up for two hours the Governor demanded a parley, and consented to surrender himself and garrison as prisoners of war. Part of the works were delivered up at 4pm on September 8th and the imprisoned party of Lieutenant Jones and the three sappers were returned to the Corps. The remainder of the defences at St Sebastian were given up the following morning.”

Later, 10 miles east of St. Sebastian and three miles up the Bidassoa River from lrun, at the foot of the Pyrenees, the sappers constructed a trestle bridge, as related in the Corps history
The Royal Sappers & Miners, by Connolly:

“They also constructed a trestle bridge with a roadway of sleepers, covered by fascines and earth under Captain Dickens RE. This bridge was also washed away by the violence of the current, and with it Privates Owen Connor and John Nowlan, who, at the time were under the superstructure, fastening ropes from the land to the trestles, to give stability to the bridge. Both these intrepid bridgemen, after a hard struggle, gained the shore.”

Connor was also present at the battle of Nivelle on 10 November 1813. During the winter of that year, the 7th Company 2nd Battalion, was detached to St Jean de Luz to prepare a chasse marée bridge for the River Adour crossing. This was ready for the passage of troops on 26 February 1814, and the company was then withdrawn to Bayonne to take part in the siege there which ended in April. In May the company marched from their cantonment, and on 22 June 1814 they sailed from Pauillac and landed at Portsmouth in mid-July. Connor received War Prize money for the Peninsula and afterwards sailed with the Company for the West Indies in December 1817 on the
Thames of London freight-ship, and served in Barbados from 18 January 1818 to 6 July 1822. He was promoted to 2nd Corporal on 1 May 1825, and Corporal on 1 September 1826. He was discharged with ‘exemplary conduct’ at Chelsea on 9 April 1834, with 28 years 3 days service, his West Indies service counting as double. The Regimental Discharge Board stated that Corporal Connor’s health ‘had been injured by wounds received on service.’ His intended place of residence was Dublin, and he died in Carlow on 23 February 1867, aged 80. Sold with full research