Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £13,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

The unique ‘1854’ Conspicuous Gallantry Medal pair awarded to Boatswain’s Mate James Doran, Royal Navy, for gallantry at Sebastopol in October 1854, the first incident to be rewarded with this new award

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, V.R., 1st issue (Jas. Doran, Bo. Mate, H.M.S. Agamemnon 17 Oct. 1854); Naval L.S. & G.C., V.R. wide suspension (Js. Doran, Ships Cook H.M.S. Oberon 30 Yrs.) edge bruising and contact marks, otherwise fine and better (2) £12000-15000


Only 12 first-type C.G.M.s were awarded, all for services in the Crimean war. The medals were adapted from the batch of Royal Marine M.S.M.s dated 1848 below the Queen’s bust by the erasure of the words ‘Meritorious Service’ and the engraving of ‘Conspicuous Gallantry’ in their place. This C.G.M. was purchased by the vendor as a single at Sotheby in May 1982, the L.S. & G.C. medal being acquired subsequently.

This medal was awarded for conspicuous bravery during the Fleet bombardment of Sebastopol and Fort Constantine on 17 October 1854. Lord Lyons’ flagship, H.M.S.
Agamemnon, was in the forefront of the action and when, at 4 p.m., a shell from Fort Constantine started a fire on board, Doran was one of four men who risked their lives to put it out. Although the incident was briefly recorded in the Captain’s log, the names of those concerned were not published until Lord Lyons (in his original V.C. recommendation list dated 10 May 1856) stated:

‘When the Mainsail of the
Agamemnon was set on fire during the general Action of the 17 Oct. 1854, Mr. Spilsbury, Charles Willis, William Allen [and John (sic.) Doran (see below)] immediately ran aloft and remained in the Main Yard under a very heavy fire until they had succeeded in extinguishing the fire - during that time the Mainmast head and Main Yard were struck several times.’

The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal had been sanctioned by an Order in Council dated 13 August 1855, following representations by the naval authorities for the institution of an equivalent award to the Army D.C.M. authorised for the Crimean Campaign the previous December. As a result of this Order, eleven men received the new medal although the one given to James Doran was somewhat retrospective in that he himself had originally applied for a Victoria Cross.

His application was eventually endorsed by Admiral Lord Lyons, C.-in-C. Mediterranean, who had earlier recommended the three other men for the V.C. for the same action, and forwarded to the Admiralty on 11 January 1857. Following its arrival in London, however, the claim does not seem to have been processed as quickly as it might have been and in consequence it missed the vital list of recommendations submitted to Queen Victoria on 15 February 1857. Thus, the first awards of the V.C. (excluding Doran) were announced in the
London Gazette of 24 February, and when a member of the Admiralty Board finally made his decision about Doran on 27 February, the claim was refused with the comment “... Too late for grant of Victoria Cross - to be awarded the medal for conspicuous gallantry and gratuity of £15...”

James Doran was born in Workington, Cumberland, on 19 April 1818, and on 24 November 1836 he joined the navy as a Boy First Class aboard H.M.S.
Carysfort, being promoted Ordinary Seaman the following year. He remained in H.M.S. Carysfort until he was drafted as an Able Seaman into H.M.S. Vanguard in 1841, was paid off to shore in 1843 and then served
with the Coast Guard until rejoining the Navy in 1847 aboard H.M.S.
Volage. After serving on various ships as a Petty Officer 1st Class, he joined the Agamemnon on 5 March 1853 as a Boatswain’s Mate and remained in her for the duration of the Crimean War, until transferring to H.M.S. Brunswick in July 1856. He then continued in the navy until July 1869, when he was finally pensioned off as a Ship’s Cook from H.M.S. Oberon after 30 years and 262 days’ service, receiving his well-earned L.S. & G.C. medal at the same time.

James Doran was additionally entitled to the Naval General Service medal with clasp for Syria, the Crimean medal with clasp for Sebastopol, and the two relevant Turkish medals. In 1843 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving life whilst serving aboard H.M.S.