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

Date of Auction: 22nd July 2015

Sold for £2,000

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,500

A fine C.B., C.M.G. group of seven to Colonel T. J. Atherton, who commanded the 12th Lancers during the Boer War

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels, this added for display purposes; The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, C.M.G., neck badge, silver-gilt and enamels; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 6 clasps, Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen (Lt. Col. T. J. Atherton, C.B., 12/R. Lcrs.) small official correction to surname; King’s South Africa 1901-02, 2 clasps, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Lt. Col. T. J. Atherton, C.B., 12/Lancers); 1914-15 Star (Bt. Col. T. J. Atherton, C.B.); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaf (Bt. Col. T. J. Atherton) together with portrait photograph and forwarding letter for Great War pair, some light contact marks, otherwise good very fine (7)


Thomas James Atherton was born on 19 August 1856, and educated at Charterhouse. He entered the 12th Lancers in 1880, and succeeded to the command of the regiment in South Africa, during the Boer War, after the death in action of Lieutenant-Colonel The Earl of Airlie. The 12th Lancers were heavily engaged at Magersfontein where, with the 9th Lancers, they fought dismounted on the right flank. After taking part in the Relief of Kimberley they fought conspicuously at Diamond Hill, where they charged to save the guns of “Q” Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. It was during this charge that the Earl of Airlie was killed and Atherton was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and assumed command. Atherton led the regiment in the sweeps around Rustenburg and Magliesberg that took place at the end of 1900, including the actions at Eland’s River and Wittebergen.

At the end of November 1900, Atherton handed over command of the regiment and, in July 1901, was given command of a cavalry column, comprising 480 12th Lancers and two guns of “Q” Battery R.H.A., newly formed by General French to combat the menace of Kritzinger who had re-invaded Cape Colony in May 1901. The sweep by the eleven columns along a line of 150 miles was reasonably successful and, once they had turned round and gone back on themselves, even more so. By the end of August 80 Boers had been killed, and on 12 August Kritzinger was driven out of Cape Colony. Over the following three months Atherton’s column was one of five that ceaselessly chased and harried Gideon Scheepers over Cape Colony. Scheepers was eventually captured, condemned and executed as a rebel. The remnants of Scheepers’ men headed west to join up with Smuts, and Atherton’s column was broken up in November 1901.

Atherton was created a Companion of the Bath on 27 September 1901, and mentioned in Lord Roberts’ despatch of 29 November 1900, London Gazette 10 September 1901. During the Great War he served in the rank of Colonel with the Reserve Regiment of Cavalry and with the Labour Corps in France. He was twice mentioned in despatches, London Gazette 4 January and 11 December 1917, and created a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, London Gazette 1 January 1918.