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

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Date of Auction: 24th & 25th February 2016

Sold for £10,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £7,000

The unique D.S.O. group of ten awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel H. J. Jones, 14th Sikhs, for gallantry at the Koragh Defile in March 1895, from which disaster only Lieutenant Jones and 14 of his men emerged alive, all the surviving Sikhs being awarded the I.O.M.

Distinguished Service Order, V.R., silver-gilt and enamels; Egypt and Sudan 1882-891 clasp, The Nile 1884-85 (Lieut. H. J. Jones. 1/Rl. Ir: Regt.) naming re-engraved; India General Service 1854-94, 1 clasp, Hazara 1888 (Lieut. H. J. Jones 14th Bl. Infy.); India General Service 1895-1902, 2 clasps, Relief of Chitral 1895, Punjab Frontier 1897-98 (Lieut. H. J. Jones. 14th Bl. Infy.); China 1900, no clasp (Captn. H. J. Jones. D.S.O. 14th Sikh Infy.); 1914-15 Star (Lt: Col: H. J. Jones. D.S.O. Manch: R.); British War and Victory Medals (Lt. Col. H. J. Jones.); Delhi Durbar 1911; Khedive’s Star 1884-6, mounted as worn, light contact marks to the earlier medals, these very fine, otherwise extremely fine (10) £5000-7000

Footnote

Herbert John Jones was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 23 December 1865. He was commissioned into the Royal Irish Regiment on 12 August 1884, and served with the 1st Battalion in the Nile Expedition as part of the Desert Column, including the action at Abu Klea, 17 February 1885 (Medal with clasp; Bronze star).

In March 1886 Jones transferred to the Indian Army and was posted to the 14th Sikh Regiment of Bengal Infantry. This famous regiment was raised in 1846 by Colonel Ross as “The Regiment of Ferozepore” recruited from Sikhs of the defeated Khalsa. After distinguished service in the Mutiny the regiment became the 14th Regiment of Bengal Infantry.

Jones next saw action on the North West Frontier in the Hazara campaign of 1888. The 14th Sikhs left Jhelum in September 1888 and moved out with Number Three Column of the Hazara Field Force in October. There was little heavy fighting during the expedition but the 14th Sikhs formed the advance guard of the column and sustained a few casualties in brushing aside minor resistance from the tribesmen when moving into the area. The column camped at Akhund on the crest of the Black Mountain while small columns moved out and destroyed a number of villages without incident. The 14th Sikhs were back in Jhelum by Christmas. In 1890 the Regiment moved to Peshawar and spent three peaceful years there before being posted to Ferozepore in 1893. In 1891-92 Jones served in operations against the Kachins of Upper Burma, for which he received the thanks of the Government of India.

In June 1894 the 14th Sikhs were ordered to provide an escort for the British political agent proceeding to Gilgit and ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies were detached for this role. ‘A’ Company, under Lieutenant H. K. Harley, subsequently formed the backbone of the garrison of Chitral when that place was besieged in March and April 1895, Harley being awarded the D.S.O. for his gallantry in the defence.

The Koragh defile

At the beginning of March 1895 ‘B’ Company, commanded by Captain C. R. Ross and Lieutenant H. J. Jones, was at Mastuj. Ross was the son of the founder of the regiment and was described by one colleague as ‘gallant to the point of eccentricity.’ A few days later information was received that an ammunition convoy was under attack near Reshun and the Company went to their assistance. The Sikhs halted the first night at Buni and, next morning (8th March), moved on.

Soon after 1 p.m. the Company entered a narrow defile below the village of Koragh. The defile was about half a mile long and situated where the Mastuj River, a rapid and unfordable torrent, formed a gorge through the mountains. At the Koragh end the narrow path lay close to the river, then began to rise above some caves and zig-zag up a very steep spur at the Reshun end. Despite warnings from his guides, in his haste Ross refused to reconnoitre and led his entire company (two British officers, 94 Sikhs and 17 followers) into the defile. When they were about half-way up the spur, local tribesmen opened fire on the head of the column and others appeared on the heights above and began to roll rocks down on them. It soon seemed as if the whole cliff side was moving as vast boulders began to hurtle and bounce into the ravine in blinding clouds of dust and loose shale, breaking bones and sending men flying.

Ross sent Jones and ten men back to the Koragh end of the defile to secure their retreat but by then it was too late; sangars which had been empty when they entered were now full of armed men and all but two of the men with Jones were wounded. Ross then withdrew his men into the caves. At about 8 p.m. that night they made another attempt to withdraw along the track to Koragh but were driven back by avalanches of stones. The Company then tried to scale the heights above the caves but found their way blocked by a precipice and one soldier fell to his death. At about 3 a.m. on the 9th March they returned to the caves and spent the daylight hours resting.

Ross and Jones agreed that they had no alternative but to cut their way back to Koragh at whatever cost, and began their desperate attempt at 2 a.m. on the 10th. Many were killed or injured by the falling rocks, and Ross was shot dead in front of one of the enemy sangars. When at last Jones reached the end of the defile he had very few men left. Just before getting to the sangars they had had to cross a bad stone shoot, and so terrible an avalanche of stones was poured down upon them that not many reached the other side. What happened afterwards is best told in Jones’s own words. In his report, he says:

‘I and seventeen rank and file reached the maidan on the Koragh side of the hill in safety. When I got there I halted, and reformed my men, and stayed there some ten minutes, keeping up a heavy fire on the sangars on both sides of the river in order to help any more of the men who might get through. While we were halted here two bodies of the enemy’s swordsmen attempted to charge us, but were checked by volleys, losing heavily. As the enemy now showed signs of cutting our line of retreat, I considered it was time to retire, especially as two more of my party were killed, and one mortally wounded, while I had been waiting there. Of the remainder I myself and nine sepoys were wounded. We retired slowly on Buni, where we arrived about 6 a.m. It was quite impossible to bring away any wounded men who were unable to walk with us. It was equally impossible to bring their rifles, and therefore a certain number of these, about forty, fell into the enemy’s hands.’

At Buni Jones found the native officer and the thirty-three men who had been left there. He did not think it prudent to try and push through to Mastuj, as he was told that the enemy were collected in force at Nisa Gol, the place where Colonel Kelly afterwards defeated them. He therefore put the post into as good a position for defence as he could, and waited for the attack which he expected every hour would be made. Strange to say, the enemy never came near them, probably hoping that troops would be sent to their assistance, and that they might be able to cut them all off together.

On the 17th March Lieutenant Moberley and a small party from Mastuj reached Buni and escorted Jones’s party back to Mastuj where they occupied a small, dilapidated fort. The enemy surrounded it and subjected them to sniping but never attacked in force. On the 9th April Colonel Kelly and his force from Gilgit reached Mastuj. Jones and his surviving Sikhs joined Kelly and participated in the action at Nisa Gol and the relief of Chitral itself.

It was afterwards found that about thirty men who had been wounded, or who had been unable to get past the stone shoot, retreated again to the cave, where they were hemmed in by the enemy on all sides. They were able to get water, but they had no food, and gradually got weaker and weaker. But in spite of hunger and wounds they held out for more than a week, and then only surrendered under a promise that their lives should be spared. This promise, of course, was not kept. One or two men were taken possession of by the more far-seeing of their captors, who afterwards obtained a reward for sending them back to Colonel Kelly’s force; but the rest were mercilessly put to the sword, and, if the native reports may be believed, in the most cruel possible way.

Jones was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his services in this campaign, and received the insignia from Queen Victoria at Osborne on the 12th August 1895. Each of the 14 surviving Sikhs was decorated with the Indian Order of Merit, ‘in recognition of the gallantry and devotion exhibited by them in the action at Koragh, in Chitral, on the 10th March 1895’. A further four awards were made to acknowledge the gallantry of one Naik and three Sepoys who had been killed and whose widows were admitted to the pension of the 3rd class. A week later Jones was promoted to the rank of Captain.

In 1897 Jones served with the Tochi Expedition in northern Waziristan, one of the few areas on the Frontier which remained comparatively quiet that year. He served in China during the Boxer rebellion of 1900, remaining in China until July 1902, and receiving promotion to Major on the 30th of that month. In August 1908 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and became the Commanding Officer of the Regiment, a post he held until August 1912. At the 1911 Delhi Durbar he commanded the detachment of 21 officers, NCOs and men of the 14th Sikhs.

On 19
September 1914, Jones was appointed to command the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, a New Army formation raised at Ashton-under-Lyne on the outbreak of war. The Battalion landed in France in early September 1915 but was then assigned to the 22nd Division and, in November 1915, redeployed to Salonika. The British and French first landed in this area to support Serbia but remained there throughout the war for no very good reason. In July 1918 the 13th returned to the Western Front and merged with the 9th Manchesters. Colonel Jones retired in March 1919, and was still drawing his pension in 1939. He died at St Pancras, London, in September 1943.