Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (26 March 2009)

Date of Auction: 26th March 2009

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £1,600 - £1,800

The rare first type Pollock Gold Medal awarded to Aeneas Robert Ranaldson Macdonell, the most distinguished Addiscombe Cadet of the 1854 season, a promising engineer who died in a tragic boating accident the following year

Addiscombe Military Seminary, Pollock Medal, 1st type (1848-55), by B. Wyon, obverse: bust of Major-General Sir George Pollock facing left, in uniform, wearing the star of the Knight Grand Cross of the Bath and the Cabul Medal 1842, with a circumscription in four bands, (inner) ‘Major General Sir George Pollock G.C.B. Bengal Artillery’; (intermediate 1) ‘Treachery avenged - British honor vindicated - Disasters retrieved - British captives delivered’; (intermediate 2) ‘Kyber Pass Forced - Jellalabad relieved - Victories of Mamoo Khail - Jugdulluck - Tezeen - Istalif’; (outer) ‘To commemorate eminent services; Cabul 1842’; reverse: ‘Military Seminary Addiscombe Pollock Prize, Presented by the British inhabitants of Calcutta and awarded by the Court of Directors of the East India Company to the Most Distinguished Cadet of the Season’, (Aeneas Robert Ranaldson Macdonell, 1854), 22 carat gold, 58mm., 84.31g. (2.97oz), in B. Wyon, Regent Street fitted case of issue, ref: B.H.M. 2058, Mayo p.249-255, extremely fine and rare £1600-1800

Footnote

The East India Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Croydon, was established in 1809 as a college for engineers entering the E.I.C. Service, and continued until 1861 when was superseded by the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich following the amalgamation of the Company’s forces with the British Army. The Pollock Prize was instituted as a result of a fund donated by the British inhabitants of Calcutta, to mark the services of Field Marshal Sir George Pollock (1786-1872). Major-General Pollock came to fame in relieving Jellalabad and Cabul during the First Afghan War in 1842 and latterly he served in Calcutta as a military member of the Supreme Council of India. In 1848, the Court of Directors to the Government of Bengal consented to become trustees of the fund, ‘for the purpose of presenting prizes to the most distinguished Cadet of the season at Addiscombe, as a mark of the high sense entertained by the subscribers of the great and successful military services and worth of Major-General Sir George Pollock, G.C.B., and stimulate young Indian Soldiers to follow his distinguished example’.

The first ‘Pollock Medal’ was presented in June 1848 and was subsequently awarded to the most distinguished Cadet passing the half-yearly (June and December) examinations at Addiscombe. The 1st type medal was awarded on sixteen occasions between 1848-55, when it was replaced by a slightly modified medal in which the word ‘Seminary’ was replaced by ‘College’, reflecting a change in the title of the institution. The 2nd type was last awarded in June 1861 after which it was replaced the smaller, redesigned medal awarded by the Royal Military Academy.

Aeneas Robert Ranaldson Macdonell was born in 1835, the second son of Aeneas Ranaldson Macdonell, 16th Chief of Glengarry and 6th Titular Lord Macdonell. Entering Addiscombe Seminary with the intention of joining the H.E.I.C. Engineers, he was the winner of the Pollock Medal in December 1854. Sadly, a promising career in the Company’s Engineers was not to be; his life was cut short, dying in a boating accident on the River Medway on 15 December 1855. Ensign Macdonell, in company with two other officers based at Brompton, went on a fowling expedition on the marshland along the Medway, travelling downstream by boat. An extract from The Times of 26 December 1855 provides the known facts:

‘“The Missing Engineering Officers” - The officers missing from the Engineer Barracks, Brompton are believed to have perished. Their boat was found at marshland near “Kits Hole”. An officers’ regimental cap said to be belonging to Lieut. Battine was found. It appears that on the 15th December at about half past four (p.m.) Lieuts. Macdonell, Eden and Battine and Battine’s brother called at the White Horse Inn at Rainham and purchased refreshment. Mrs Conningsby, the landlady, said they left the house at 10 minutes to 6 o’clock. She wished them to remain and go to Chatham by the Sittingbourne omnibus as the night was cold, dark and foggy. They said no they would row home as Macdonell, Battine and his brother were all good rowers.’

Macdonell’s was the only body recovered from the accident. His funeral, with Military Honours, took place at Gillingham, Kent on 1 January 1856.