Orders, Decorations and Medals (12 June 1991)

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Date of Auction: 12th June 1991

Sold for £5,500

Estimate: £4,500 - £5,000

An impressive group to Sir G. C. M. Birdwood, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., late Indian Medical Staff, Anglo-Indian official and author.

i THE MOST EMINENT ORDER OF THE INDIAN EMPIRE, K.C.I.E., neck badge in gold and enamel; Star in silver with gold and enamel centre, in Garrard case of issue.
ii THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS ORDER OF THE STAR OF INDIA, C.S.I., the gold, silver and enamel badge with well executed cameo centre, the motto set with rose diamonds, in Garrard case of issue. An early piece issued originally as a breast badge and officially converted at a later date for neck wear.
iii THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM, Knight of Grace, silver and enamel neck badge and breast star, in Phillips case of issue.
iv INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1854-95, 1 clasp, Persia (Asst. Surgn.,Ajdaha, S.F.), rare to this ship.
v EMPRESS OF INDIA MEDAL 1877, silver, rim engraved (Dr. George C. M. Birdwood, C.S.I., vide Pol. Letter, Gov. of India No. 24 and Circular No. 2058P. of 1877).
vi France, ORDER OF THE LEGION OF HONOUR, Officer's breast badge in gold and enamel, in Lemoine case of issue.
vii France, PALMES ACADEMIQUE, Officer's breast badge in silver gilt and enamel, in case of issue.
viii PRIMROSE LEAGUE, neck badge in silver, with silver gilt and enamel centre, reverse with pin fitment to allow for breast wear, in case of issue.
ix OUDH AGRICULTURAL EXHIBITION 1864, silver medal, for Special Services (George C. M. Birdwood, M.D.).
x Group of five miniatures: Order of the Indian Empire, gold and enamel: Order of the Star of India, gold and enamel with cameo centre; Order of St. John; India General Service 1854, Persia; Legion of Honour; the group recently mounted court style.
Silver medals very fine, otherwise extremely fine (16)


Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., (1832-1917), the eldest son of General Christopher Birdwood, Indian Army, was born at Belgaum in the Bombay Presidency 8 December, 1832. His family had long been connected with the Indian Army and public services. He was sent at the age of seven to England to be educated, and went first to the Plymouth new grammar school, then to the Dollar Academy, and finally to the University of Edinburgh where he took his M.D. degree. In 1854 he was appointed to the Bombay establishment of the Indian medical staff, and he took part as a Naval Surgeon in the Persian expedition of 1856-57. Serving aboard the steam frigate Ajdaha he was present at the capture of Muhamara and received the medal with clasp. During the following ten years, whilst practising in Bombay and holding professorships of anatomy and physiology and of botany and materia medica at the Grant medical college, he laid the foundations of his future work by devoting himself to the study of many unexplored aspects of Indian life, social, economic and scientific. He was registrar to the newly founded University of Bombay, Curator of the Government Museum, Secretary to the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and one of the founders of the Victoria botanical gardens and the Victoria and Albert Museum at Bombay. His appointment as Sheriff of Bombay in 1864 was one of many forms of recognition of his work in Bombay, but he was forced to return to England in 1868 due to ill health. Whilst in England he began a long career of valuable service as an interpreter to his own countrymen of Indian life, art and culture. He was Special Commissioner of the Bombay Government for the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and after he had recovered his health at home, he was appointed to assist Dr. John Forbes Watson in the annual exhibitions at South Kensington, of which the first was held in 1871. In 1878 he was posted as special assistant in the statistics and commerce department of the India Office, and he was in charge of the Indian sections of the chief international exhibitions down to that of Chicago in 1893. With the assistance of Professor Chenery, Demetrius Boulger and others, he had an important share in the foundation of Primrose Day (19th April). His literary output both before and after his retirement in 1902, was enormous and besides special treatises on Indian botanical subjects, his two most important works were his 'Report on the Miscellaneous Old Records of the India Office' (1879), and 'The Industrial Arts of India' (1880). Birdwood was made C.S.I. in 1877, knighted in 1881, and made K.C.I.E. in 1887. He died at the age of 84 at Ealing, 28 June 1917. His nephew Field-Marshal Lord Birdwood wrote in his autobiography 'Khaki and Gown':- 'In this year I lost my old uncle, Sir George Birdwood, who had for many years had a distinguished career both in India and at the India Office. Lord Curzon, who had a great thirst for knowledge, once told me that whenever he wanted information about any obtruse point of Indian mythology, folklore, or theology, my uncle could always be relied on to give the details required. Sir George, who combined a great admiration for Disraeli with a profound knowledge and love of flowers, is said to have been the real originator of the Primrose League.'