Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria to include a Fine Collection of Napoleonic Medals (25 March 2015)

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2015

Sold for £17,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

The rare ‘1848’ Royal Marine M.S.M. pair awarded to Sergeant James A. Bute, R.M., who completed the circumnavigation of the globe with Charles Darwin in H.M.S. Beagle; together with the Arctic Exploration pair awarded to his son, Sergeant George H. Bute, R.M.

Royal Marine Meritorious Service Medal, V.R., dated ‘1848’ below bust (Sergeant James A. Bute, R.M., 8th Dec: 1852.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., V.R., wide suspension (J. A. Bute. Serjt. R.M. 32 Yrs.) mounted as worn from a twin brooch buckle; together with Baltic 1854-55 and Arctic 1818-55, both unnamed as issued to Sergeant George H. Bute, Royal Marines, mounted on twin brooch buckle, good very fine and very rare (4) £8000-10000


Provenance: Lord Cheylesmore Collection, acquired in 1880 and sold at Glendining’s 16 July 1930.

Just 39 Royal Marine M.S.Ms. with ‘1848’ dated obverse issued.

James Adolphus Bute was born in the Parish of St James’s, Aberdeen, in 1800. Apprenticed as a blacksmith, he enlisted into the Royal Marines at London on 7 July 1820. He was allocated to 36th Company at Woolwich, where he served five years as a Private before being promoted to Corporal on 6 March 1825, and to Sergeant on 26 April 1829. He was married in 1824 to Mary Anne and by 1831 had five children, including George Henry. In May 1831 he reverted to Private at his own request, probably in order to become one of Sergeant Baisley’s section who joined H.M.S.
Beagle on 25 July 1831 to take part in Beagle’s second survey expedition which lasted from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836. Originally borne as a Marine 2nd Class, having less than 14 years service, he is shown as a Marine 1st Class in August 1834 and was promoted to Corporal by Captain Robert Fitzroy, R.N., on 30 June 1835. Bute is recorded in the Game Book of H.M.S. Beagle as one of those allowed ashore to hunt. In September 1832, for example, he shot a cavia (wild pig) at Blanco Bay, and in August 1833, at the same place, he shot a deer. Other prey included fawn and guanaco (wild llama). Other hunters included Fuller (Fitzroy’s steward), the Mate and Assistant Surveyor John Hart Stokes, Doctor Benjamin Byrne and Captain Fitzroy himself. Almost certainly Bute would have accompanied Charles Darwin on some of his various expeditions to collect specimens and his skills as a blacksmith would have been invaluable in assisting the Carpenter’s Mate, James May, and Darwin’s servant, Simms Covington, to box the many and various specimens dispatched back to London as the voyage progressed around the world.

Twice, at least, Bute and his fellow marines were called upon to act in a warlike manner: in May 1832, at Rio de Janeiro, when Fitzroy ordered
Beagle’s marines and seamen to assist the civil powers to put down a slave-hunting incident, and in Tierra del Fuego in the Beagle Channel when attacked by natives. In addition he was present in the Falklands when Beagle’s presence was challenged by Argentinians. In December 1834, at Cape Trés Monte, he helped rescue deserters from an American whaler, and in February the following year he helped capture eight escapers from the convict settlements in Van Diemansland in Chile and return them to England. Beagle arrived at Falmouth on 2 October 1836 and reached Greenwich on 28 October. Bute was discharged ‘sick’ to Woolwich Infirmary on 8 November and discharged from Beagle on 18 November 1836. In February 1837 he returned to the Sergeant’s Mess and retained the rank of Sergeant until his discharge at Woolwich on 13 December 1852. He had latterly been employed as Sergeant Schoolmaster of the Royal Marines at Woolwich, whilst his wife had been employed as a schoolmistress to the children at the Depot for some time. Bute secured for himself the post of gatekeeper at Woolwich Hospital after leaving the Royal Marines.

In December 1852 Bute received the Meritorious Service Medal with a £5 annuity, subsequently increased to £10 upon the death of Drum-Major Henniker, R.M., in July 1876, whose annuity then passed to Bute. In January 1861 Bute received his Royal Navy L.S. & G.C. medal engraved with his 32 years service on the edge. He died at St Peter Port, Guernsey on 29 November 1877.

At least six examples of scrimshaw crafted by Bute during the
Beagle voyage have survived, two of them having been sold for in excess of £40,000 each in recent years.

George Henry Bute, born at Woolwich just before his father left for sea in 1831, joined the Royal Marines on 24 July 1840, as a ten-year old drummer boy. He served 20 years before being discharged as a Sergeant on 27 March 1860. He first went to sea aboard
Thalia (September 1841 to August 1846), and then aboard the Phoenix (March to October 1853 and March to October 1854) during which periods he served in the Arctic Expeditions undertaken by that vessel in the search for Sir John Franklin. His last sea-going commission was aboard the Nile (March 1855 to April 1857) in which ship he served in the Baltic in 1855. At the time of his discharge he was suffering from ‘softening of [the] brain contracted in and by the service - unserviceable’. His discharge papers remark ‘Served in the Arctic Expeditions in 1853 & 1854 and wears the medal. Also in the Baltic & wears the medal’.

Sold with copied records of service and other research.