Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2013)

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Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2013

Sold for £20,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The important Defence of Silistria and Crimean campaign group of five awarded to Major Charles Nasmyth, Royal Horse Artillery, late Bombay Artillery

Crimea 1854-56, 3 clasps, Alma, Inkermann, Sebastopol (Major Chas. Nasmyth, Asst. Qr. Mr. Genl.) contemporary engraved naming and additionally inscribed in two lines on either side ‘Presented by / Her Majesty in person’ and ‘London / 18th May 1855’, fitted with silver ribbon buckle; Order of the Medjidie, 3rd class neck badge modified for breast wear, silver, gold and enamel, the reverse with additional silver plate inscribed ‘Charles Nasmyth Meer Allai’; Turkish General Service Medal, gold, glazed with gold suspension bar and gold ribbon buckle, the edge inscribed ‘Charles Nasmyth. Meer Allai’; Turkish Medal for Silistria 1855, silver, glazed with silver suspension bar and silver ribbon buckle, the edge inscribed ‘Charles Nasmyth. Meer Allai’; Turkish Crimea 1855, Sardinian issue, unnamed, glazed with silver suspension bar; together with Scottish Naval and Military Academy Prize Medal, silver, Edinburgh hallmarks, ‘1st Prize Hindustani Mr. Chas. Nasmyth 20th July 1843’, good very fine or better (6) £4000-5000


Provenance: Bought Hayward 1969, ex Sotheby January 1969, the property of Brigadier D. J. Steevens, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., R.A.

Charles Nasmyth was born on 22 September 1825, the son of Robert Nasmyth, F.R.C.S. (Ed.), of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. He attended the Scottish Naval and Military Academy, where he was awarded the First Prize in Hindustani (silver medal) on 20 July 1843. In 1843-44 he was at the E.I.C. Military Seminary at Addiscombe, and on 13 December 1845, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Bombay Artillery, and promoted Lieutenant on 4 February 1850. During this period he had served with 4th Troop, Bombay Horse Artillery. In 1851 he was appointed Second Assistant in the Bombay Trigonometrical Survey.

Service in Guzerat was said to have ruined his health and in 1853 he returned to England on a sick certificate, where he was recommended to take a change of air in the Mediterranean. After a short stay in Malta he went to Constantinople and it was probably at this time that he was commissioned by The Times as a correspondent. He went to Omar Pasha’s camp at Shumla and from there proceeded to the province of Dobrudscha after it had been evacuated by the Turks. From there he provided information for Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, H.B.M. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and for The Times.

Nasmyth arrived at the town of Silistria on the Danube before it was besieged by the Russians on 28 March 1854, and, with Captain Butler of the Ceylon Rifles, offered his services to the garrison. These two young officers were said to be ‘exercising a strange mastery over the garrison’ and were ‘obeyed with touching affection and trustfulness by the Ottoman soldiers.’ Throughout Nasmyth contributed a narrative of the siege to The Times. The Russians were forced to raise the siege on 22 June 1854, their advance thus suffering its first check, which probably spared the Allies a campaign in the marshes of the Danube. The following extract from Nasmyth’s report to The Times is dated from Silistria, 29 June:

‘The Turkish army may well talk with pride. Their opponents had an army on the right bank of the Danube which at one time amounted to 60,000 men. They had sixty guns in position, and threw upwards of 50,000 shot and shell, besides an incalculable quantity of small-arm ammunition. They constructed more than three miles of approaches, and sprang six mines; yet during forty days not one inch of ground was gained, and they abandoned the siege, leaving the petty fieldwork against which their principal efforts had been directed a shapeless mass from the effects of their mines and batteries, but still in possession of its original defenders.’

The hardships of his service in Silistria again affected his health and he returned to Constantinople having lost all his personal property. He was rewarded by the Turkish Government with the award of the Order of the Medjidie, 3rd Class, the Turkish General Service Medal in gold and the Medal for the Defence of Silistria. At the same time he was transferred from the East India Company’s service to H.M. Army on 15 September 1854, in the rank of Captain, unattached, and was awarded a Brevet of Major ‘for his distinguished services in the Defence of Silistria’. The H.E.I.C. allowed him Half Pay as a Lieutenant.

With the threat of invasion of Turkey now removed by the gallant defence of Silistria and repulse of the Russian forces, in which Captain James Butler, Ceylon Rifle Regiment, and Lieutenant Charles Nasmyth, Bombay Artillery, as volunteers, so distinguished themselves and captured the imagination of all in Britain, the way was clear for the Allied expedition to the Crimea.

Nasmyth served in the British Army in the Crimea as Assistant Quartermaster General at Headquarters and was present at the battle of the Alma, 20 September 1854, the battle of Inkermann, 5 November 1854, and the early stages of the siege of Sebastopol. He was made substantive Major on 2 December 1854, but a further deterioration in his health necessitated his being invalided to England. On 18 May 1855, he was among those to whom Queen Victoria presented Crimea Medals at a parade in Hyde Park. The Freedom of Edinburgh was also conferred upon him in what are stated as ‘flattering terms’.

Nasmyth was subsequently appointed to the Staff in Ireland, serving as Assistant Adjutant General, Kilkenny District, in 1856, Brigade Major to the 1st Infantry Brigade at the Curragh in 1857, and to the 2nd Infantry Brigade at Dublin in 1858. On account of his continuing poor health he was in August 1858 transferred to Australia as Brigade Major, New South Wales, where he served until finally invalided home at the end of 1859. He then settled at Pau in Southern France, where he remained until his death. He obtained a Majority in the 4th Foot on 25 May 1860 and retired by the sale of his commission on the same day. He died at Pau on 2 June 1861.