Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £60,000

Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000

The Fourth Class Order of St George awarded to Colonel Sir Colin Campbell, K.C.B., 2nd Foot Guards, Aide-de-Camp to the Duke of Wellington and at his side throughout the battle of Waterloo

Russia, Imperial Military Order of St George, 4th class breast badge in gold and enamels, circa 1815, 32mm, the original ribbon rather frayed, some minor old restoration to outer circumference of obverse centre, white enamel flaked on one reverse arm and with hairline cracks elsewhere, otherwise very fine and very rare £15000-20000


Formerly in the private Waterloo collection of John Hayward (dispersed circa 1978), the complete group of awards to Sir Colin Campbell was offered by The Armoury of St James’s in their 1984 catalogue.

Colin Campbell, who was born in Scotland in 1776, the fifth son of John Campbell, of Melfort, by Colina, daughter of John Campbell, of Auchalader. In 1792 he rejected the formal education of the Perth Academy and ran away to join a ship bound for the West Indies when he was just 16. He arrived to find his brother, Patrick (who became an Admiral), in the fruit market at Kingston, Jamaica. Patrick dragged his brother home but the willful Colin was not to be persuaded of the pleasures of narrow-minded suburban life and in 1793 he became a Midshipman and made two voyages on an East Indiaman. Two years later he was serving as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Breadalbane Fencibles, and in 1799 he was appointed Ensign in a West India Regiment. He subsequently exchanged into the 35th Foot and then into the 78th Highlanders, then stationed in Poona. It was at the storming of Scindiah's hilltop fortress at Ahmednuggur on 8 August 1803, that Colin Campbell came to the attention of Arthur Wellesley:

“Stubborn, arrogant Campbell had been thrown off the scaling ladder, immediately picked himself up and, determined to be the first man into Ahmednuggur, started running up the ladder again".

Wellington raised him to Brigade Major and made him his private secretary. Colin Campbell's future seemed assured but his perverse distaste for serenity made sure he was again in the thick of the action. Young Campbell lost three horses and was badly wounded at the battle of Assaye, Wellesley’s greatest victory in India, but Campbell went on to Argaum where two more horses were shot from under him. He then took part in the storming of Guzzulgaum, which was his last action for the time being and he was given a company of the 75th before Wellesley invited him to be Brigade Major to his brigade.

A quick tour through Hanover, Denmark and the battle of Kioge, and Campbell was raised to be Wellington's Senior Aide-de-Camp. 1808 saw Campbell at his Chief’s side bound for the Peninsula; he was given the Roleia despatch but hearing the guns at Vimiera, disembarked, was present at the battle and then took the Vimiera despatch also back to London. Promotion to Lieut-Colonel by brevet followed and, having been present at Talavera, Busaco and Fuentes d'Onor, he obtained the post of Assistant Quarter-Master General to Wellington's headquarters. Colonel Campbell's supervision was meticulous and he retained this appointment until the end of the Peninsula War. He was naturally present at the storming of Badajoz and for his nine actions received the Gold Cross with six clasps. So insistent had Wellington been on Colin Campbell's appointment as Quarter-Master that Torrens in the Horse Guards nick-named Campbell "Gods Curse". When Waterloo dawned, therefore, Campbell was again Commander of Wellington's Staff Head-Quarters, riding up and down the line with the Duke as orders were being issued. He was one of the very few of the Duke's aides who survived the day unscathed. So concerned was Campbell at the Duke's frequent exposure to fire that he rode up to the Duke in the thick of the fray urging him to take greater care. The request fell on deaf ears.

Colin Campbell remained with Wellington throughout the occupation of Paris which lasted until 1818, at which time he chose a half colonelcy in the 65th Regiment which he held until 1825 when he became a Major-General. As General Campbell's fame spread, so too did the offer of attractive appointments and in March 1828 he became Lieutenant-Govemor of Portsmouth and received the same appointment for Nova Scotia in 1833. The following year, His Majesty King William IV conferred on him the colonelcy of the 72nd Highlanders. In 1839, he was promoted from the Gvemorship of Nova Scotia to that of Ceylon, where he remained until 1847. It was whilst in Ceylon that the Duke of Wellington wrote to him: “We are both growing old, God knows if we shall every meet again. Happen what may, I shall never forget our first meeting under the walls of Ahmednggur”. In the famous painting at Apsley House in London, the London residence of the Duke of Wellington, which is of the banquet given for the senior officers who fought Waterloo, Sir Colin Campbell can be seen standing to the far left of Wellington who himself is at the center of the table.

Sir Colin Campbell returned to England in June 1847 and died on the 13th of that month at his home in King Street, St James, after a short illness of only two days.