Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria to coincide with the OMRS Convention (20 September 2002)

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Date of Auction: 20th September 2002

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000

The M.G.S. and Army of India pair awarded to Captain J. S. Byers, Royal Artillery, who served in Nepaul as A.D.C. to Major-General Sir R. R. Gillespie and was the only Royal Artillery recipient of the Army of India medal

Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Java (2nd Capt. R. Arty.); Army of India 1799-1826, 1 clasp, Nepaul (Captn., R.A., A.D.C.) short hyphen reverse, officially impressed naming, light contact marks and edge bruising, otherwise better than very fine and a unique pair to the Royal Artillery (2) £1500-2000


John Sparkes Byers was born on 23 February 1787 in the East Indies in Sumatra. He entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich as a Gentleman Cadet on 4 March 1801, and was granted a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 1 June 1803. He was promoted First Lieutenant on 12 September 1803, and then served in the Far East. He was promoted Second Captain on 20 June 1809, whilst serving in Ceylon. He sailed from Trincomali in August 1809 for Tuticorin, on the East coast of Madras, opposite Ceylon and 75 miles South of Madura. He returned to Colombo in January 1810.

Captain Byers served during the campaign in Java in August 1811, and in the attack and capture of Cornelis was commanding an 8-inch Mortar Battery. In the subsequent operations in June 1812 against the Sultan of Mataram and the capture of Djoejocarta he was again involved. He (and others) was mentioned as having ‘rendered effectual assistance to Lieutenant-Colonel McLeod in blowing open the Prince’s Gate with one of the Horse Artillery guns.’

Byers served during the Nepaul campaign of 1814-16, as A.D.C. to Major-General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, and was wounded in November 1814. He is mentioned in Thorn’s Life of Gillespie as assisting in the positioning of guns near Deyrah and Kalunga in October-November 1814. General Gillespie himself was killed in action at Kalunga on 31 October 1814.

Second Captain Byers retired on half-pay on 1 December 1821, having been admitted to St Catherine’s, Cambridge, on 17 November of that year. He matriculated at Lent 1822, and graduated as B.A. in 1826. He was ordained a Deacon by the Bishop of Durham on 16 September 1825, and Priest in 1829 by the Bishop of Lichfield. He was subsequently appointed Curate of Warkworth in Northumberland in 1825, was Vicar of St Mary’s in Fulham from 1838 to 1856, and for the remainder of his life was Vicar of Elsenham in Essex. The Revd. J. S. Byers, B.A., died on 8 February 1867 at North End, Fulham, aged 79, and was buried at St Mary’s, his son the Revd. S. B. Byers officiating at the service.

Captain Byers was one of only two officers and ten men of the Royal Artillery to receive the medal for Java. He was the only Royal Artillery recipient of the Army of India medal. Sold with a considerable amount of further research including several copied extracts from various campaign histories and Thorn’s Life of Gillespie.