Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (22 July 2015)

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Date of Auction: 22nd July 2015

Sold for £3,400

Estimate: £3,500 - £4,000

A fine inter-war C.B., Great War Mesopotamia operations C.M.G. group of eleven awarded to Major-General S. R. Davidson, Indian Army, who served as a second-in-command of the 47th Sikhs with the B.E.F., in which capacity he distinguished himself in the desperate fighting at Neuve Chapelle in August 1914: having then been wounded, he transferred to Mesopotamia and led his Sikhs in the attack on the Dujaila Redoubt during the second attempt to relieve Kut, prior to service as a Brigade Commander in Palestine

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel: The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, C.M.G., Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel; India General Service 1895-1902, 3 clasps, Tirah 1897-98, Punjab Frontier 1897-98, Relief of Chitral 1895 (Lieutt. S. R. Davidson, Bhopal Bn.); Africa General Service 1902-56, 1 clasp, Somaliland 1902-04 (Capt. S. R. Davidson, 47th Sikhs); 1914 Star, with clasp (Maj. S. R. Davidson, 47/Sikhs); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Brig. Gen. S. R. Davidson); Coronation 1902; Jubilee 1935, privately engraved, ‘Maj. Genl. S. R. Davidson’; Coronation 1937; Russia, Order of St. Anne, 2nd Class neck badge, with swords, by Eduard, St. Petersburg, 44 x 44mm., gold and enamel, manufacturer's mark on reverse of lower arm, 'kokoshnik' marks for 1908-17 on reverse of sword hilts, with replacement suspension rings for breast wear, mounted court-style as worn where applicable, enamel slightly chipped on the second, and one sword blade and inter-arm decoration detached from the St. Anne badge, otherwise generally very fine or better (11)
£3500-4000

Footnote

C.B. London Gazette 1922.

C.M.G. London Gazette 1917.

Sisley Richard Davidson was born in August 1869, the son of Major-General A. G. Davidson, Indian Army and spent most of his boyhood in New Zealand, where he attended Nelson College.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry in 1890, he transferred to the Indian Army two years later and first saw action in the relief of Chitral operations in 1895, as a Lieutenant in the Bhopal Battalion (Medal & clasp); his subsequent role in the operations of 1897-98 was as a Transport Officer, firstly with the Mohmand Expedition and latterly on attachment to the Tirah Field Force, in which capacity he was present at reconnaissance of the Kharmana Defile and the action of 7 November 1897 (2 clasps).

Having then been advanced to Captain and appointed a Company Commander in the 47th Sikhs, he commanded the 7th Somali Camel Corps in Somaliland in September-November 1903, and afterwards served as a Transport Officer at Berbera (Medal & clasp); he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 2 September 1904, refers) and was advanced to Major in 1908.

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he went to France as second-in-command of the 47th Sikhs, leading the left wing of the regiment with great courage and dash at Neuve Chapelle on the 28th. Merewhether’s and Smith’s The Indian Corps in France takes up the story:

‘When our men were about 100 yards from the outskirts of the village, the Germans in the front trenches began to bolt, pursued by the gallant Sikhs and Sappers with the bayonet, a few being killed and some captured. The Indians then tore on into the village, Sikhs and Sappers mixed together and worked in parties up the streets, fired on by the enemy from the roofs of houses.

By degrees the houses were cleared after desperate hand-to-hand fighting, in which a man of the 47th is reported to have captured three Germans out of eight in a house, having previously killed the other five. From another house the 47th recovered a wounded British soldier (a relic of the previous hard fighting) and two wounded Germans. The latter were searched, and one of them lifted up his voice and wept bitterly, evidently thinking that our men were feeling for a soft place in which to insert a bayonet. He refused to be comforted until a stalwart Sikh patted him kindly on the back and said, “Be not afraid!”

On reaching the cross-roads in the centre of the village, the troops came under a frightful machine-gun fire. Captain McCleverty, always in advance, cheering on his men just as he had cheered on the regimental hockey team, dashed across the roads, the rest following close on his heels, but he was shot dead at a corner house by a German concealed only a few yards away. Major Davidson and others tried to stalk the man with revolvers, but he was not to be drawn.’

The Indian Corps in France continues:

‘The fighting went on, counter-attack following counter-attack, the Germans using the dead bodies of their own men as cover. Major Davidson was collecting his men for a final charge, when the enemy brought up an overpowering counter-attack from the north and east, and at the same moment the machine-gun fire redoubled its fury down the main street.

Without immediate reinforcements, the position of the 47th was now quite untenable, as their losses had been very heavy. Reinforcements there were none, and Major Davidson was compelled to give up all he had won at such fearful cost, and retire. The line of retreat lay over about 500 yards of open ground exposed to a tornado of shell and machine-gun fire, and the bodies of our men soon lay thick on the ground, but eventually the remains of the half battalion got back to comparative safety, only 68 out of 289 actually collecting on the La Bassee road.

The men were suffering terribly from want of water and were absolutely dead beat, but the enemy was counter-attacking all along the front, and every man was required. Major Davidson was ordered to collect at Rouge Croix as many of the battalion as were left, with a view to holding the cross-roads, which were almost certain to be attacked. He asked his men whether they could do it, exhausted as they were, and to his delight found that they clearly resented being asked such a question. Off they marched again towards Rouge Croix, but were met by orders to go into billets.

Such was the spirit which animated officers and men of the Indian Corps, and it is on record that during the retreat from the village, under a fire described as hellish, the men were laughing and joking with each other, Captain Brown, afterwards killed, standing up at the halts to fire, his example being copied by many of the men. Major Davidson had throughout this confused and ding-dong fighting shown the highest qualities of bravery and leadership, and was awarded a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy in recognition of his services.’

He was also mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 17 February 1915, refers).

Having then been wounded in March 1915, Davidson took command of the 47th Sikhs in Mesopotamia at the end of the same year and led them at the attack on the Dujaila Redoubt during the second attempt to relieve Kut; and again in the third attempt. In the Spring of 1916, he was appointed to 7th Indian Brigade, which he commanded at the Battle of Kut and in General Maude’s further advance on Baghdad. He was awarded another “mention” (London Gazette 19 October 1916, refers).

After the occupation of Baghdad, he commanded the Falluja Column in the operations of March 1917, gaining the Brevet of Colonel and the C.M.G. He then took his brigade to Palestine and was present at the Battle of Megiddo, gaining his third “mention” (London Gazette 5 June 1919, refers). As confirmed in standard reference works, Davidson was also awarded Russian Order of St. Anne, 2nd Class, with swords.

Post-war, he served as C.O. of the Jhansi Brigade (1919-21) and the Delhi Brigade (1921-22), in which latter year he was awarded the C.B. and placed on the Retired List in the rank of Major-General.

He subsequently acted as Commissioner for the Boy Scouts Association and as a County Director of the British Red Cross Society, in Somerset and Sutherland. He was also credited with organising the Home Guard in Sutherland and Caithness. The General died in Oxford in March 1952, aged 82; sold with an original portrait photographs, and Times obituary cutting.