Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 May 2016)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th May 2016


Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A fine K.C.B, K.C.M.G. group to The Rt. Hon. Sir Guy Fleetwood Wilson, G.C.I.E., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., a distinguished Civil Servant who held a number of senior appointments in the War Office, was Financial Adviser to Lord Kitchener in South Africa 1901-02 and ended his career as a Financial Member of the Supreme Legislative Council of the Governor-General in India - stepping in to deliver Lord Hardinge’s speech from a blood-stained manuscript on the Peacock Throne in Delhi after he had been wounded by a terrorist bomb: in retirement he was a member of several government committees and was Commissioner of the Inquiry into the Dublin Uprising in 1916

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, K.C.B. (Civil) Knight Commander’s neck badge, silver-gilt, hallmarked London 1902, and breast star, silver, gold and enamels, in Garrard & Co. Ltd. case of issue; The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, K.C.M.G. Knight Commander’s neck badge and breast star, silver-gilt and enamels, in R & S. Garrard & Co. case of issue; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, no clasp (G. D. A. Fleetwood Wilson, Esq., C.B.); Coronation 1902, silver; Delhi Durbar 1911, silver; Jubilee 1935; Coronation 1937, these unnamed as issued, contact marks and occasional edge bruising, otherwise generally very fine (9) £4000-5000


Ex Tamplin Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, March 2009, since when the K.C.B. and K.C.M.G. have been added to complete the group.

Guy Douglas Arthur Fleetwood Wilson was born in Florence, Italy in October 1850, the son of Fleetwood Thomas Hugh Wilson of Knowle Hall, Warwickshire, formerly in the 8th Hussars, and Harriet Horatia, daughter of Captain Montagu Walker, R.N. - his father had settled in Florence due to reduced circumstances occasioned by his elder brother having gone bankrupt, and he died in September 1862, while employed as Auditor-General of Barbados. Young Guy lived in Italy for the first 18 years of his life, but left Florence for London in November 1868, in order to sit the competitive examination for the Civil Service and, on passing, was appointed to the Paymaster-General’s Office in May 1870, in which capacity he served as Secretary to the Financial Mission to Egypt in 1876. Thus ensued a long and distinguished career, not least following his transferral to the War Office in 1883, where he was Private Secretary to four Secretaries of State for War 1883-93 (C.B. 1891), and himself an Assistant Under Secretary of State for War 1898-1908, in which latter period he was also employed as Financial Adviser to Lord Kitchener in South Africa 1901-02 and as Director-General of Army Finance 1902-08.

Such was his reputation for holding the purse strings tight that disappointed applicants from Whitehall referred to him as “Not-a-Bob Wilson”, but a grateful government was more impressed - he was created K.C.B. (1905) and K.C.M.G. (1908). Appointed Financial Member of the Supreme Council of the Governor-General of India in 1909, Wilson was Vice-President of the Legislative Council 1911-13 and took immediate charge of the latter body after Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy, was seriously wounded by a bomb on entering Delhi in December 1912 - indeed he was called upon to deliver the Viceregal speech from the Peacock Throne ‘from manuscript stained with the blood of its author’. He was created G.C.I.E.

Contrary to his reputation for caution, particularly in matters of a financial nature, Wilson proved the opposite when it came to sporting activities in India - or certainly according to his Times obituary. He found keen delight as a sexagenarian in India in terrifying experiences and hairbreadth escapes. He was repeatedly told that few men over 50 would think of big-game shooting; but, despising the elaborate precautions for safety that are customary in Indian Shakari, he went after tiger and other game again and again on foot. This predilection brought him face to face with charging tigers and infuriated buffaloes. On one occasion a wounded buffalo charged him and tossed him 10 feet into the air, inflicting severe injuries. In disregard of the earnest entreaties of his host, he was on the trail of a man-eating tiger within 48 hours.

Returning to the U.K. in 1914, Sir Guy was anxious to go to the Front, a wish denied him on account of his advanced age of 64 years. Instead he joined the City of London Volunteers as a Private, and ‘slaved at trench-digging in the Essex clay. I took night guards at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, I route-marched till I dropped. I acted as pot-boy in the battalion canteen, I fought in the battle of Richmond Park and had to go home in a taxi-cab as a casualty’ (his autobiography refers). Such distractions aside, Wilson also served as Commissioner for the Special Government Inquiry into the Dublin Uprising in 1916 and as a Member of the Naval Prize Committee 1918-28. Sir Guy died at Stratford-upon-Avon in December 1940, aged 90 years, his career papers being left on permanent loan to the India Office Records - all 37 volumes.

Sold with a fine watercolour and gouache portrait of the recipient, in Civil Service full-dress tunic wearing his Honours & Awards, signed by Cecil Cutler, dated 1921, approx. 20 ins. by 14ins., in gilt frame; together with Sir Guy’s
Letters to Somebody, A Retrospect (Cassell & Co. Ltd., London, 1922); a copy of Green Peas at Christmas, hunting reminiscences by William Wilson, and edited by Sir Guy, who was his nephew (Edward Arnold & Co., London, 1924); and a quantity of related research and illustrations.