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

Date of Auction: 23rd September 2011


Estimate: £7,000 - £8,000

An outstanding El-Teb D.C.M. group of four awarded to Private Frank Hayes, 10th Hussars, a noted pugilist who, being surrounded and unable to wield his sword effectively on horseback, dismounted and dispersed his assailants with his fists, a feat which inspired a remarkable poem published shortly afterwards in Punch magazine

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (1588 P... Hayes, 10th Hussars. 29th Feby. 1884); Afghanistan 1878-80, no clasp (1588 Pte. F. Hayes, 10th Rl. Hussars); Egypt & Sudan 1882-89, 1 clasp, El-Teb-Tamaai (1588 Pte. F. Hayes 10th Rl. Hussars); Khedive’s Star 1884-6, suspensions generally slack, some loss of detail to naming in parts from contact bruising, heavily pitted and worn, therefore fine only but a rare group (4) £7000-8000


Frank Hayes was born at Island Bridge, Dublin, in 1856, and joined the 10th Hussars as a Musician on 29 December 1877. He served in India from November 1878, and took part in the campaign in Afghanistan in 1878-79. The 10th Hussars left India for home in February 1884, but were diverted to Suakin, where they arrived on 18 February. They then possessed no horses but General Valentine Baker Pasha, their former commanding officer, handed over 300 of his Egyptian Gendarmerie horses, for which British sailors made nosebags, head and heel ropes. On 29 February the 10th Hussars fought at the battle of El-Teb where they made two brilliant charges against the enemy.

There are various published accounts of Trooper Hayes’ gallantry in the battle. Cassell’s History of the War in the Soudan states: ‘Private Frank Hayes of the 10th Hussars showed great courage in the second charge here, in dismounting, attacking, and killing a chief who was endeavouring to escape. Finding that his horse would not face the spear, he undauntedly attacked the Arab on foot, and killed him in single combat.’ Other accounts state that Hayes, a noted pugilist, found himself surrounded and, being unable to wield his sword effectively on horseback, dismounted, and dispersed his assailants with his fists.

Hayes went on to fight with his regiment at the battle of Tamaai on 13 March 1884, and two days later a remarkable poem about him was published in Punch magazine entitled ‘A Tale of the Tenth Hussars!’:

When the sand of the lonely desert has covered the plains of strife,
Where the English fought for the rescue, and the Arab stood for his life;
When the crash of the battle is over, and healed are our wounds and scars,
There will live in our island story a Tale of the Tenth Hussars!

They had charged in the grand old fashion with furious shout and swoop,
With a “Follow me, Lads!” from the Colonel, and an answering roar from the troop;
On the Staff, as the Troopers past it, in glory of pride and pluck,
They heard, and they never forgot it, one following shout, “Good luck!”

Wounded and worn he sat there, in silence of pride and pain,
The man who’d led them often, but was never to lead again.
Think of the secret anguish! think of the dull remorse!
To see the Hussars sweep past him, unled by the old White Horse!

An alien, not a stranger: with heart of a comrade still,
He had borne his sorrow bravely, as a soldier must and will;
And when the battle was over, in deepening gloom and shade,
He followed the Staff in silence, and rode to the grand parade;

For the Tenth had another hero, all ripe for the General’s praise,
Who was called to the front that evening by the name of Trooper Hayes;
He had slashed his way to fortune, when scattered, unhorsed, alone,
And in saving the life of a comrade had managed to guard his own.

The General spoke out bravely as ever a soldier can-
“The Army’s proud of your valour; the Regiment’s proud of their man!”
Then across that lonely desert, at the close of the General’s praise,
Came a cheer, then a quick short tremble on the lips of Trooper Hayes.

“Speak out,” said the kindly Colonel, “if you’ve anything, Lad, to say;
Your Queen and your dear old country shall hear what you’ve done to-day!”
But the Trooper gnawed his chin-strap, then sheepishly hung his head:
“Speak out, old chap!” said his comrades. With an effort, at last, he said-

“I came to the front with my pals here, the boys, and the brave old tars,
I’ve fought for my Queen and country, and rode with the Tenth Hussars;
I’m proud of the fine old regiment!”- then the Colonel shook his hand-
“So I’ll ask one single favour from my Queen and my native land!

“There sits by your side on the Staff, Sir, a man we are proud to own!
He was struck down first in the battle, but was never heard to groan;
If I’ve done ought to deserve it,”- then the General smiled “Of course,”-
“Give back to the Tenth their Colonel- the Man on the old White Horse!

“If ever a man bore up, Sir, as a soldier should, with pluck,
And fought with a savage sorrow the demon of cursed ill-luck-
That man he sits beside you! Give us back, with his wounds and scars,
The man who has sorely suffered, and is loved by the Tenth Hussars!”

Then a cheer went up from his comrades, and echoed across the sand,
And was borne on the wings of mercy to the heart of his native land,
Where the Queen in her Throne will hear it, and the Colonel Prince will praise
The words of a simple soldier just uttered by Trooper Hayes.
Let the moralist stoop to mercy, that balm of all souls that live;
For better than all forgetting, is the wonderful word “Forgive!”

The “Man on the old White Horse” was of course General Baker Pasha, who had been dismissed from the British Army in 1875, for allegedly indecently assaulting a young lady in a railway carriage. The appearance of this poem in Punch, which was widely reprinted throughout almost every paper in the country due to the very opportune references to him, did much for his rehabilitation in the last years of his life.

The following year, on 13 March 1885, Hayes was personally given the Distinguished Conduct Medal by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. It was the only D.C.M. won by the 10th for the battle of El-Teb. Hayes was appointed Lance-Corporal in March 1887 but reverted to Private three months later. He was discharged from the 10th Hussars at his own request on 6 August 1887, on payment of £21. He joined the Scots Guards shortly afterwards as a Musician, for 12 years. He was discharged medically unfit on 21 April 1899, and died sometime in about 1926. The group is sold with two original copies of The Illustrated London News for 15 March and 22 March 1884, both in original dust wrappers and both containing Melton Prior engravings of the battle of El-Teb including the charge of the 10th Hussars.