Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (1 & 2 March 2017)

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Date of Auction: 1st & 2nd March 2017

Sold for £15,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

The rare ‘assault on Magdala - storming of the gate’ Abyssinia 1867 D.C.M. pair awarded to Corporal H. McDonagh, Royal Engineers

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (4389 Corpl. Hugh, Mc’Donagh, Royal Engrs.); Abyssinia 1867 (4389 Sapper H. McDonagh. Royal Engrs.) suspension refitted, contact marks, nearly very fine (2) £6000-8000


Provenance: Montagu Collection, Glendining’s, November 1926; Glendining’s, March 1988.

D.C.M. awarded for services at the Assault on Magdala, Abyssinia, 1868.

Hugh McDonagh served with the 10th Company, Royal Engineers, which sailed from London on the Mendoza, 4 November 1867, to join the expedition under Sir Robert Napier in Abyssinia.

The 10th Company played a key role in the storming of the gate at Magdala, 13 April 1868, and it was here that McDonagh distinguished himself:

‘On arriving close to the gate the enemy opened fire through the loopholes, by which Major Pritchard, two Non-commissioned Officers and one Sapper were wounded, and Lieutenant Morgan at the same time received a severe contusion in the head and shoulder from stones. One of the loopholes being somewhat vigourously served from within, Pritchard directed Sapper Chamberlain to fire through it from outside. This with his breech-loading Snider, Chamberlain at once proceeded to do, and soon cleared it of its occupant. Lieutenant Morgan did the same at another with his revolver, and the fire was stopped. Then the entrance was made at two points, Corporal M’Donough [sic], R.E., being the first man in at one, whilst Major Pritchard, Lieutenant Le Mesurier and Sapper Bailey (one of the flag signallers) entered at the same moment by escalade at another. Immediately following them the 33rd Regiment forced their way over the stockade at the right, and joined Pritchard and his small party within the gateway. They then made a dash at the upper gate, which was not defended, the enemy flying in all directions. Here they found the body of King Theodore, who had destroyed himself on realising that his troops could make no stand against the British forces.’ (History of the Royal Engineers, Vol. II, refers)

1 of 7 D.C.M.’s awarded for the Abyssinia campaign of 1867-68.