Orders, Decorations and Medals (8 September 2015)
Date of Auction: 8th September 2015
Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500
Distinguished Service Order, V.R., silver-gilt and enamel; East and West Africa 1887-1900, 2 clasps, 1892, Sierra Leone 1898-99 (Capt. R. J. Norris, D.S.O., 1/W.I. Rgt.), obverse wreath on the D.S.O. with chipped enamel and the centre-piece recessed and off-centre, suspension claw slack on the second, edge nicks, otherwise generally very fine (2) £3000-3500
FootnoteD.S.O. London Gazette 9 August 1892:
‘In recognition of services during the recent operations on the West Coast of Africa, resulting in the capture of Tambi and Toniataba.’
Richard Joseph Norris was born in February 1854, youngest son of Edward Norris, who was a grandson of Jeremiah Norris of Colney Hall, Norwich, descended from a branch of the Norris family of Speke, Lancashire. Educated at Mount St. Mary’s, Derbyshire, Beaumont College, Old Windsor and at Sandhurst, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st West India Regiment in February 1879.
Advanced to Captain in January 1888, Norris was actively employed in the West Africa operations of 1892, when he served in the Tambaku country and distinguished himself at the storming and capture of Tambi in Sierra Leone (D.S.O.; Medal & clasp). Tambi was taken by assault, and destroyed, on April 7th, great numbers of the enemy being killed while endeavouring to escape. On the side of the attackers, two men were killed and six wounded.
After the expeditionary force had been reorganised, another dangerous native stronghold, Toniataba, was attacked. It was well fortified, and it offered a spirited resistance; but it was captured and destroyed on April 28th, and its chief, Suliman Santa, was killed. The British lost Captain Roberts, of the West India Regiment, killed, five men wounded, one of the wounded belonging to the Naval Brigade.
Advanced to Major in April 1894, Norris next saw active service in the Karene Expedition in Sierra Leone in 1898 (clasp), when he commanded the first phase of the operations. On reaching Karene in late February, he assessed the danger of the situation and requested by carrier pigeon that two companies of the W.I.R. be sent to Port Lokko and Karene, and a third for use in offensive operations. Those reinforcements having arrived, he set out for Port Lokko in early March, a trek that witnessed the loss of two of his officers and eight men to hostile attacks launched from the bush. One of his officers later described the difficulty faced by the force in repelling an ‘unseen enemy’:
‘Though the fighting, looked at from the point of view of the pitched battles accompanied by a large number of killed or wounded, may not have been formidable, it was from various causes more trying to the nerves of those engaged than would at first sight be suspected. Firstly, from the nature of the country - narrow paths amidst bush - hiding the enemy, and ... secondly, from the strain caused by having to march under the constant menace of a sudden attack, with the feeling of being shadowed by an enemy who sees you, but whom you cannot see, and who can choose his own moment to attack you, but whom you cannot attack because he is invisible.’
Norris was advanced to Lieutenant-Colonel in March 1902 and placed on the Retired List in July 1905; he served as a Draft Conducting Officer in 1915-16 and died in January 1935; sold with a file of copied research.