Orders, Decorations and Medals (1 December 1993)

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Date of Auction: 1st December 1993

Sold for £1,400

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

A fine C.M.G., Mons D.S.O. group of eight awarded to Brigadier-General A.B. Forman, Royal Artillery, who was one of the heroes at the wreck of the Troopship 'Warren Hastings'

ORDER OF ST. MICHAEL AND ST. GEORGE, C.M.G., neck badge in silver-gilt and enamels; DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER, G.V.R.; QUEEN'S SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902,3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (Capt., R.F.A.); 1914 STAR (Major R.H.A.); BRITISH WAR AND VICTORY MEDALS (Brig. Gen.); ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY, silver medal (successful), (2nd Lieut., R.A. 14th Jan. 1897) complete with silver ribbon buckle; LLOYD'S MEDAL FOR SAVING LIFE AT SEA, silver, (Lieut., R.A. 'Warren Hastings' 14th Jany. 1897) good very fine or better and a rare group (8)

Footnote

D.S.O., London Gazette, 1 December 1914, Arthur Baron Forman, Major Royal Horse Artillery: 'For exceptionally good work during the operations of 23 October to 4 November, near Messines, during which time he did splendid work.'

Arthur Baron Forman was born on 26 September 1873, and educated at St. Paul's School. He entered the Royal Artillery as 2nd Lieutenant on 14 March 1894. Whilst on passage to Bombay he had the misfortune to be aboard the Royal Indian Marine troopship Warren Hastings. On 6 January 1897, the R.I.M.S. Warren Hastings, commanded by Commander G.E. Holland, D.S.O., Royal Indian Marine, sailed from Cape Town for Mauritius. The passengers principally consisted of a half battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, half a battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment and detachments of the Middlesex Regiment. A good passage was had until the morning of the 13th, when the glass fell and the wind shifted to the south. Despite reduced visibility there was no cause for concern and that night the troops went untroubled to bed. At about 2.20 am on the 14th, a violent shudder was felt throughout the ship. Orders were given for the K.R.R.C. to fall in on the port side and the York and Lancasters on the starboard side. Through the torrential rain tropical ship's officers perceived that the vessel was aground and that it was possible to disembark by ropes on to the rocky coast of what later turned out to be the island of Reunion. At 4.15am the ship began to heel to starboard. Twenty minutes later the electric lights went out. Thus by 5.00 am those men on the starboard side, some in total darkness, were standing knee deep in water. The list gradually increased until the captain himself thought the ship would turn over.

Nevertheless the discipline for which the British soldier is famed prevailed, and the disembarkation was accomplished without a single fatality. The only lives lost during the whole episode were those of two natives who ran amok and jumped overboard. One officer present later wrote 'Personally I look upon the whole business as one of the most creditable things to the British Army which has ever occurred, and without invidious comparison quite as creditable as the Birkenhead, for in the latter, if we are to believe the pictures, the men were at least all on deck, whilst on the Warren Hastings they were between decks, and...quite unable to see what was going on.'

Officers and men in various states of undress were subsequently conveyed to Mauritius, 120 miles away, in a British India ship, the Lalpoora. Upon arrival on the 18th all the officers were received by the Governor, Sir Charles King Harman. The dinner given that night at his residence, Reduit, was by all accounts 'a curious sight.'

There were many instances of bravery in saving or attempting to save lives from drowning and the particular circumstances of Lieutenant Forman's exertions are contained in the report from Lieutenant-Colonel Forestier-Walker who wrote: 'Mr Tyler, Bandmaster, 1st Bn. King's Royal Rifles, was in the water, on the starboard side, and unable to make any headway against the backwash of the waves, or to get near the shore. Lieutenant Gosling, 1st Bn. King's Royal Rifles,endeavoured to reach him, but after going some 20 yards was washed back, thrown on the rock and injured. 2nd Lieutenant Forman, Royal Artillery, at once went in with a rope and a life buoy, and swimming out to Mr. Tyler, gave him the buoy. When, however, the men on the shore began to haul on the rope, it parted. 2nd Lieutenant Forman stayed with Mr. Tyler, and Lieutenant Gosling then made a second attempt to reach him, failed and was brought ashore. 2nd Lieutenant Bayley, York and Lancaster Regiment, then swam out with a rope, and the whole three were then brought close in to the shore, when 2nd Lieutenants Forman and Bayley were hauled up onto the rocks, over which the sea was washing.'

2nd Lieutenant Forman was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society, as were seventeen others. The Society of Lloyd's awarded him their silver medal for saving life, one of five awards in silver. In addition, two bronze medals were awarded by the Society. Promoted to Captain in September 1900, Forman served in South Africa during the Boer War. He was promoted to Major on 24 December 1910, and on 14 August 1913 he was placed on the Reserve of the Royal Flying Corps, where he remained until 31 March 1918. Forman went to France on 5 August 1914 where he commanded 'E' Battery, III Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery, at Le Cateau with the Cavalry Division, and 'I' Battery at Messines. For his services at Messines he was awarded the D.S.O. and mentioned in despatches. In the course of the war he was wounded and mentioned in despatches a further seven times. By the end of the war he had been promoted to Brigadier General and was commanding Royal Artillery, 49th Division, from 18 July 1917 till 27 March 1918. He was awarded the C.M.G. in 1918 and retired in 1927.