Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (24 & 25 February 2016)

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Date of Auction: 24th & 25th February 2016

Sold for £13,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

‘Colonel Keyes at once answered this appeal. Taking with him an officer and ten of his own men, he proceeded to join them, directing his adjutant, Lieutenant Pitcher, to bring up more men as fast as they could be got together.

By dawn he had with him some seventy-five men at the foot of the rocks, on whom the enemy poured a continuous and heavy fire, hurling down at the same time huge stones, which caused several severe hurts.

As soon as it was light enough to distinguish friend from foe, and his left flank was covered by Colonel Brownlow's corps, who moved out into the ravine below, he divided his force into two parties, gave the order to fix swords, and sounded the charge. The Pathans gave a wild shout of 'Allah! Allah!' (in the name of God) and rushed at the Crag, scrambling like cats from rock to rock, by ways through which but one man could pass at a time, in the face of a hot fire and heavy shower of rocks and stones.

This daunted some of the men, and Lieutenant Pitcher who was leading at the time being stunned by a heavy stone, but two officers, Colonel Keyes and another, and about twenty-five men, arrived at the summit where they became engaged in an exciting hand-to-hand conflict. Colonel Keyes was severely wounded, but the place was won.

The nature of the struggle may be judged of from the fact that sixty of the enemy's killed and wounded were left on the ground, three standards captured, and the rest of their force was so much discouraged by the action as to retire from that flank altogether.’

Captain G. V. Fosbery, V.C., describes the gallantry of Charles Keyes in the fighting at Craq Picquet during the Umbeyla Campaign, for which the latter was recommended for the V.C. - for a second time
The outstanding G.C.B. group awarded to General Sir Charles Keyes, Indian Army, the veteran of at least a dozen action-packed North-West Frontier expeditions in the period 1850-78: twice recommended for the V.C. - and thanked by the Government of India on countless occasions - he will best be remembered for his outstanding leadership of Coke’s Rifles in the savage fighting at Crag Piquet during the Umbeyla operations of 1863 - during which he was severely wounded - and for his leadership of the Jowaki Expedition in 1877-78: he was the father of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Roger Keyes, G.C.B., K.C.V.O., C.M.G., D.S.O., Baron Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover, and the grandfather of Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, V.C., M.C., leader of the Commando raid on Rommel’s H.Q.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, G.C.B. (Military) Knight Grand Cross set of insignia, comprising sash badge, silver-gilt, gold and enamel, and breast star, silver, silver-gilt and enamel, the reverse of the latter engraved, ‘General Sir Charles Patton Keyes’, in its Garrard & Co. case of issue; India General Service 1854-95, 3 clasps, North West Frontier, Umbeyla, Jowaki 1877-8 (Major C. P. Keyes, 1st Punjab Infy.), contained in an old Hunt & Roskell leather case, enamel wreaths slightly chipped in places on the Bath insignia, otherwise very fine and better

Together with:

Bengal Photographic Society Prize Medal, silver, 50mm., the reverse engraved, ‘Lieut. Col. C. P. Keyes, C.B., for the second best series of landscapes, Decr. 1864’; Simla Fine Art Exhibition Prize Medal 1869, silver, 43mm., the reverse engraved, ‘Society Medal for Photographs, Col. C. P. Keyes, C.B., Mds. S.C.’; London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company’s Medal, for Amateur Photographic Exhibition, bronze, 40mm., the reverse engraved, ‘Maj. Gen Sir Chas Keys (sic)’, these very fine or better (6) £8000-10000

Footnote

G.C.B. London Gazette 30 May 1891.

Charles Patton Keyes was born in India in 1822, but his mother brought him home to England when his father died in 1825, where he was educated at Harrow and the Royal Naval School at New Cross. At the age of twenty-one, he was given a cadetship in the East India Company and appointed an Ensign in the 30th Madras Infantry, of which he became Adjutant.

In 1849, after his promotion to Lieutenant, he was selected for service in the Punjab Irregular Frontier Force (P.I.F.F.), and was appointed Adjutant of the 1st Punjab Infantry, which was being raised in Peshawar by Captain John Coke, afterwards Major-General Sir John Coke, K.C.B. They became lifelong friends and Keyes learnt much about mountain warfare from his senior.

Early days on the North-West Frontier

He first saw action on the North-West Frontier in February 1850, when he commanded the portion of “Coke’s Rifles” that accompanied Sir Charles Napier to the Kohat Pass; for his services he received the Thanks of his Excellency and of the Local Government. In the following month, he was present with his regiment at the relief of a body of Mooltanese in a town on the Kohat-Kabul which was surrounded by Afridis, on which occasion the regiment went into action unaided and suffered heavy loss; he received the Thanks of the Government and remained on field service as Second-in-Command of his regiment in operations against the Miranzai tribes that October.

Having then transferred to the Scinde Rifle Corps (afterwards 6th Punjab Infantry), he was likewise employed in the operations of 1852, participating in the actions at Prangghar, Tsha-Kote, Errosha and several other minor affairs in the Eusufzie and Ranazie Valley; he received the Thanks of the Government and ended the year in command of two companies of the regiment in a secret expedition against the Omerzie Wazirs in the Kafir Kote Hills, which services were also acknowledged by the Government.

In March 1853, he commanded a wing of the regiment in operations against the mountain tribes in the Salimanee Range - services once more acknowledged by the Government - following which he was attached to his old corps, the 1st Punjab Infantry, on further field service. Having then seen further arduous service in the 6th Punjab Infantry, he ‘returned home on furlough a very sick man, having served thirteen years in India without a break ‘. Sir Roger Keyes continues:

‘He was away for two years, and while at home the Indian Mutiny broke out. He clamoured to return to India at once, but the doctors would not pass him, and I can well imagine his feelings on reading of the splendid conduct of the P.I.F.F., which played an outstanding part in saving India in her hour of peril ... When my father was allowed to return to India in 1858, he resumed command of the 6th Punjab Infantry and was promoted to the rank of Captain’ (
Adventures Ashore & Afloat, refers).

Expedition against the Mahsud Wazirs - First Recommendation for the V.C.

In April 1860, and by then commanding his old regiment the 1st Punjab Infantry, he participated in the expedition against the Mahsud Wazirs, marching through the Barara Pass, where he greatly distinguishing himself in in a fierce action fought on 4 May; he received the Special Thanks of the Supreme and Local Governments and of the Secretary of State for India and was given the Brevet of Major. Moreover, he was recommended for the V.C. by Brigadier-General Neville Chamberlain. Sir Roger Keyes takes up the story:

‘On 4 May 4 1860, the expedition was held up by a formidable position in the Barara Pass, the pass itself being blocked by a great abattis composed of large trees, which had been felled from a neighbouring grove, the remaining trees of which covered the obstruction from view. A series of stone breastworks had been thrown up right and left of the path, and these were held by a force estimated to be about 5000. General Chamberlain decided to attack the position in two columns: the main assault to be delivered by the right column, while the left column threatened the right of the enemy's position.

My father's regiment was the reserve of the right column, and remained in the vicinity of a battery of mountain artillery, which was to support the attack. The assaulting force of the right column consisting of a regiment of Punjaub infantry, with another in support, had to advance over exceedingly steep ground, intersected by ravines, and the leading regiment became much dispersed before they reached the breastworks they were to carry. There was some hesitation, which emboldened the enemy, who dashed out
tulwar in hand to attack the scattered force, and a temporary panic ensued. The regiment fell back in confusion, and threw the supporting regiment into disorder. The hills now resounded with the shouts of the Mahsud Waziris, as they drove the two regiments headlong down the hill.

A contemporary record states:

“Although many of the 1st Punjaub Infantry, who were in reserve, got mixed up with the two lines which had been driven back, those on the right escaped the panic; and Captain C. P. Keyes, putting himself at the head of this party, quickly turned the tide of affairs. The Mahsuds [Waziris], met by these men and by the fire of the mountain guns, retreated up the hill, hotly pursued by the 1st Punjaub Infantry, who took the main breastwork, and the other troops now rallying, the right of the position was won.”

Another contemporary record states that when a portion of his regiment was involved in the retreat my father shouted to those near him to stand first and ran forward with drawn sword to meet a Waziri chief who was leading the rush well ahead of his men. A brief hand-to-hand fight took place in full view of the opposing forces, and, having killed the Waziri chief, my father called upon the 1st Punjaub Infantry to charge, which they did with such vigour that the Waziris, dismayed by the fall of their leader, turned and fled up the hill, pursued by the 1st P.I., followed by the other two regiments, which, having been rallied by their officers, were spoiling to wipe out their lapse.

This action was decisive, the pass was captured, and on the morrow the whole force moved into the enemy's country, and the tribes made their submission.

General Chamberlain was given a K.C.B. for his services in this expedition, and nine years later the survivors received the India Medal with the "North-West Frontier" clasp - a clasp which covered a score of hard-fought expeditions, in thirteen of which my father took part. Sir Neville Chamberlain was bitterly aggrieved that his recommendations were overlooked, and is reported to have told the Commander-in-Chief that he would feel ashamed to wear the Star of the Bath so long as the services of those under his command were unrewarded. My father was eventually given a Brevet Majority, but the recommendation for the Victoria Cross which Sir Neville had submitted - in response to a request made the evening of the action by all the commanding officers present at the forcing of the Barara Pass - was ignored.’

Umbeyla Expedition - Picquet Crag - Second Recommendation for the V.C.

In August 1863, Keyes, once more in command of the 1st Punjab Infantry, joined the Umbeyla Expedition, his subsequent services resulting in him being appointed a C.B. (
London Gazette 5 August 1864, refers), in addition to receiving the Special Thanks of the Commander-in-Chief and of the Supreme and Local Governments, and being given the Brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel. Once again, too, he was recommended for the V.C. Sir Roger Keyes takes up the story:

‘I do not propose to give a detailed account of this hard-fought campaign, but the official dispatches record that in the course of it my father greatly distinguished himself on several occasions, notably on 30 October 1863, when he initiated and led an attack on the 'Crag Picquet’, which had been captured by the enemy, and the possession of which was vital to the safety of the British position.

My father's regiment and a company of Guides Infantry under his orders were manning the advance and support picquet's protecting the right flank of the British position. Half an hour before dawn heavy firing was heard in the vicinity of the Crag Picquet, situated on a precipitous hill on the extreme right. My father at once went forward with a small party, to investigate and reinforce 'the Crag' if necessary. Finding that the post had already fallen he decided to wait under cover until reinforcements for which he had sent reached him, and daylight would enable him to distinguish friend from foe.

The following extract from my father's report, published in the Umbeyla Dispatches, gives his version of what then occurred:

“As the day broke I observed the 20th Punjaub Infantry enter the main picquet below, and, convinced of the danger of allowing the Crag to remain for even so short a time in the enemy's hands, I directed my men to fix swords and charge. After a most exciting and hand-to-hand fight we recovered the position, driving the enemy out at the point of the bayonet, with a loss to them of fifty-four killed on the spot and seven wounded .... The signal defeat of the enemy on the Crag, and the sight of their three standards still flying on the picquet, where they had planted them, but surrounded by our own instead of their men, seems to have conveyed a panic to the rest, and they quickly disappeared down the mountain.

From the nature of the approach to the top of the Crag, amongst the large rocks, one or two men only could advance at one time, and while I ascended one path I directed Lieutenant Fosberry, of the late 4th European Regiment, to push up another, at the head of a few men. He led this party with the greatest coolness and intrepidity, and was the first man to gain the top of the Crag on his side of the attack. Lieutenant H. W. Pitcher, equally cool and daring, led a party of men up to the last rock, until he was knocked down and stunned by a large stone, thrown from above within a few yards of him.”

My father did not mention that he was the first to reach the top of the Crag (some moments before Fosberry arrived by another path), or that he was wounded. As he appeared over the top three men fired at him from point-blank range. One bullet struck the hilt of his sword and sent it spinning out of his hand, another shattered his left hand, and the third made two holes in his "pushteen" (sheepskin coat), which looked as if the bullet must have passed through his body, but actually it only grazed his side. Feeling for his pistol and not finding it, he remembered loosening his belt while resting before the alarm, and realized that he was unarmed. Fortunately he was closely followed by a devoted native officer, Subadar Bahadur Habib Khan, who attacked his assailants and protected him until he recovered his sword.

Lieutenant-Colonel A. Wild, commanding the right-flank picquets, reported:

“The attack upon the Crag Picquet, occupied as it was by the enemy in force, was, by the concurrent testimony of all the officers and men who witnessed it, a most daring and brilliant feat of arms, and to Major Keyes is due the credit of not only having planned it, but in person he led on his men to the assault, with a perseverance and intrepidity never surpassed.

Major Keyes was gallantly supported by Lieutenant Fosberry, of the late 4th European Regiment, and his Adjutant Lieutenant H. Pitcher, and I trust that the Brigadier-General will deem the conduct of Major Keyes and his officers deserving of a recommendation to His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief for a reward of gallantry, so highly prized by an officer serving in Her Majesty's forces. Major C. P. Keyes and Lieutenant Pitcher were both wounded in the assault on the picquet.”

Sir Neville Chamberlain described the action in his dispatch dated 31 October 1863 (the day after the action), and concluded:

“I feel sure that I only anticipate His Excellency's judgment in stating that I consider the capture of the Crag Picquet by Major Keyes a most brilliant exploit. The decision and determination Major Keyes displayed stamp him as possessing some of the highest qualifications of an officer, and I recommend him strongly to His Excellency's favour.”

In the same dispatch Sir Neville recommended my father, Pitcher, and Fosberry for the Victoria Cross. The last two received it.

In his final dispatch, when giving up the command owing to a severe wound, Sir Neville referred to my father's services thus:

“Major C. P. Keyes, whose distinguished conduct on every occasion of his being engaged has been especially brought to notice in my various reports, Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 7, and whose claim to the Victoria Cross for his services on October 30th I submitted for His Excellency's consideration in my report No.5. His services have been of the utmost value to the force.”

However, the Commander-in-Chief in India, Sir Hugh Rose, informed Sir Neville that:

“Personal gallantry on several occasions during a hard-fought campaign on the part of certain Majors in command of regiments was no more than their duty, and should be recognized by other rewards than the Victoria Cross, for which they had been recommended by their General in his published dispatches. They would instead receive a step in rank and the C.B. as more conducive to their future promotion and usefulness. A captain or a subaltern might stake his life and lose it for the sake of the decoration without playing with the lives of others, but that a field officer in command risked not only his own life, but possibly the success of the operation devolving upon him, by an unnecessary display of personal valour.”

I am sure the thought of a decoration had never entered my father's head in the two critical moments when he seized his opportunities so promptly and effectively, and for which he was twice recommended for the Victoria Cross.’

Further actions on the North-West Frontier and command of the Jowaki Expedition

Sir Roger Keyes conti
nues:

‘In 1869 my father was in command of the Frontier station in Kohat, the garrison of which consisted of a Punjaub light field battery, the 4th Punjaub Cavalry, and the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Regiments of Punjaub Infantry. For some time the tribes in the Kohat Pass had been giving considerable trouble, and my father was directed to bring them to reason. He organised an expedition which was completely successful and was rewarded by promotion to the rank of full Colonel, and he was appointed to command the Guides - the blue riband of regimental commands in the Indian Army. He held it for only a year, however, as in May 1870 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General and given command of the Punjaub Frontier Force, as it was now called.

Thus in twenty years my father rose from a subaltern in the 1st Punjaub Infantry to the command of a splendid fighting force, the spearhead of the army in India and the Warden of its Marches. He held this command for eight years, and, although constantly engaged, managed to keep the Frontier more or less peaceful by virtue of his personal prestige. In fact, to quote a contemporary:

“The name of "Keek" Sahib Bahadur was well known up and down and far beyond our frontier.  He was an accomplished Pushtoo scholar and a sportsman to the finger-tips. His gallantry in action endeared him to all ranks, whilst his constant shooting or hawking expeditions had brought him into contact with all the chief men from Baluchistan to Kashmir.” ’

During the ab
ove cited period, Keyes received the Special Thanks of the Supreme and Local Governments and of the Secretary of State and was given the Brevet of Colonel.

Further accolades were to follow, for he next commanded the Jowaki Expedition 1877-78, as Brigadier-General and C.O. of the Punjab Frontier Force and the Kohat Column. He was elevated to K.C.B. (
London Gazette 9 March 1880, refers), mentioned in despatches and received the thanks of the Government of India.

Sir Roger Keyes continues:

‘In 1878 my father gave up his command and brought home his small family, consisting of five children under seven years of age, to which four more were added later. He was succeeded in his command by Sir Frederick Roberts. Two years later my father returned to India to take command of the Secunderabad Division. In 1884, after a severe attack of cholera, he gave up active service and settled down in England, becoming a full General and G.C.B.’

The General died in 1896 and Lady Keyes was granted a Grace and Favour Apartment at Hampton Court in 1902, where she lived until her death in 1916.

sold with the following original documentation:

(i) A letter to the recipient from Neville Chamberlain, dated at Abbotabad on 12 June 1861, congratulating him on his promotion following the expedition against the Mahsud Wazirs; Chamberlain had recommended him for the V.C. during the course of the campaign.

(ii) A pencilled field message from Keyes to Major Charles Brownlow, hastily written on Crag Piquet in October 1863: ‘My dear Brownlow - Come along as quick as you can and support Major Keyes. The enemy are falling back. CPK.’

(iii) A letter to the recipient from Neville Chamberlain, dated at Camp, Umbeyla Pass on 5 November 1863, in which he conveys a message from the C.-in-C., the latter expressing his regret that Keyes had been wounded and confirming that he had been recommended for the Brevet of Lieutenant-Colonelcy.

(iv) A letter to the recipient from Major Charles Brownlow, dated at Rawalpindi on 13 November 1863, in which he conveys his thanks for Keyes’s gift of a pistol and laments the fact he will not be journeying home with him: ‘Goodbye and God bless - I am very low and very dull and want to go home with you. It can’t be managed tho’ and I must pine on for another two hot weathers, if I live so long.’

(v) A letter from Sir Hugh Rose’s military secretary dated at Simla on 10 October 1864, conveying congratulations on Keyes’s appointment to the Order of the Bath for ‘repeated acts of gallantry and ability as an officer before the enemy and in critical circumstances’, with later red ink note of provenance.

(vi) A letter from R. E. Geston, dated at Camp, Tang Barra on 15 January 1878, discussing the wishes of the Viceroy in respect of the conduct of the Jowaki Expedition, and a misunderstanding arising from those wishes.

(vii) A printed notice of the recipient’s services, as compiled by Sir Charles Brownlow in 1909.