Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (23 September 2011)

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Date of Auction: 23rd September 2011

Sold for £8,200

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

An extremely rare Umbeyla operations D.C.M. group of five awarded to Private W. Malcolm, 71st Regiment, who assisted Major Harding in the retirement of his piquet under a murderous fire, thereby gaining a recommendation for the award of the Victoria Cross in Brigadier-General Sir Neville Chamberlain’s despatch dated at Umbeyla on 25 November 1863

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (Wm. Malcolm, 71st Regt.); Crimea 1854-56, 1 clasp, Sebastopol (No. 4010 Wm. Malcolm, 71 Hd. Lt. Infy.) contemporary engraved naming; Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Central India (Wm. Malcolm, 71st Highd. L.I.); India General Service 1854-95, 1 clasp, Umbeyla (4010 Pte. W. Malcolm, H.Ms. 71st Regt.); Turkish Crimea 1855, Sardinian issue (No. 4010 Wm. Malcolm, 71 Hd. Lt. Inf.) contemporary engraved naming, edge bruising and contact marks, otherwise generally nearly very fine £8000-10000


D.C.M. awarded for the action in the Umbeyla Pass, 6 November 1863; details London Gazette 19 March 1864: ‘This man was specially mentioned by Captain Rogers, 20th Regiment Native Infantry for having distinguished himself on the occasion Major Harding was killed on the 6 November 1863.’

In a despatch from Brigadier General Sir N. B. Chamberlain, K.C.B., commanding, dated Camp, Heights above Umbeyla Pass, 25 November 1863 (London Gazette 19 March 1864, page 1693) it states:

‘I annex to this report a nominal roll of three Privates of the 71st Highland Light Infantry (Privates William Clapperton, George Stewart and William Malcolm) and of one Sergeant, one Lance Corporal and four Privates of the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers who are recommended by the officers commanding those Regiments for their distinguished gallantry. If the acts of gallantry for which they are recommended are not deemed by the Commander in Chief of a nature to give all of them a claim to the Victoria Cross, I trust his Excellency will be able to find some other means of rewarding them’.

The final movements of Major Harding are described in a despatch from Lieutenant-Colonel A. Wilde, C.B., commanding the right defensive flank, dated Camp, Umbeyla Pass, 8 November 1863:

‘At about 2p.m. on the day in question Lt Col Taylor, C.B., Royal Engineers, and myself directed the return of the working and covering parties on the new road towards camp. This order was issued on account of the distance these parties necessarily were from camp, and not with the knowledge that any attack was contemplated by the enemy. The order appears to have reached the late Major Harding and it is impossible to say what his reasons were for not acting upon it. At about 3.30p.m. I received reports that Major Harding was being attacked in force by the enemy and proceeded immediately to the advanced piquet’s, sending to H.Q. for reinforcements. In less than an hour the Peshawur Mountain train and 350 riflemen of the 4th and 5th Goorkha Regiments reached me at Major Keye's piquet.

Before my arrival Major Brownlow had sent out every available man to reinforce the supports to Major Harding's piquet... about sunset Major Harding commenced to retire up the ridge to his supports, and the whole force gradually returned to camp. Major Harding I regret to say was wounded in the retirement and was eventually lost in the darkness as his piquet fought its way up the ridge. He was the last man to leave the piquet, and his bearing throughout the day was that of a brave and gallant soldier.'

William Malcolm attested in the Dundee district to serve as a Private in the 71st Foot on 21 April 1855 aged 25. He first appears on the muster rolls at Perth and in June 1855 had arrived in Malta en route for the Crimea. Malcolm left for the Crimea on 2 August 1855 arriving at Yenikale, Crimea in October. He remained in the Crimea until July 1856 when he embarked for Malta serving there until 5 January 1858, when he embarked for service in India, arriving on 7 February 1858. Malcolm's muster entries record between July 1858 and March 1859 he was at Gwalior and on field service in April 1859 arriving at Morar and in March 1861 he was serving at Sealkote, Punjab until December 1862 when he was based at Nowshera. The musters October to December 1863 record he was still serving at Nowshera then Umbeyla Pass and returning after the campaign to Peshawur. Malcolm re engaged to complete time for pension at Camp Delhi 31 December 1864 and on 5 February 1865 embarked for England and then to Edinburgh Castle by September 1865. In March 1866 he moved to Aldershot and in December 1866 the Regiment went to Dermoy, Ireland returning to Aberdeen in March 1869. Malcolm is recorded as being in hospital in July 1869 in Aberdeen but returned to duty, he became sick again and died at Fort St George on 24 May 1873. A brave and good soldier he forfeited his Good Conduct pay twice in October 1866 and June 1869.

A total of 16 D.C.Ms. awarded for Umbeyla, including six to the 71st Highland Light Infantry.

Sold with full research including copied muster rolls and London Gazette extracts.