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

Date of Auction: 1st & 2nd March 2017

Sold for £14,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

A fine ‘Abu Klea’ D.C.M. group of three awarded to Private W. C. Ilsley, 16th Lancers, for his gallantry in saving the life of Lord St. Vincent during the battle, 17 January 1885, standing guard over his Lordship’s wounded body and keeping the enemy off, killing nine with his bayonet

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (1951. Pte. W. C. Ilsley. 16th. Lancers.); Egypt and Sudan 1882-89, undated reverse, 2 clasps, The Nile 1884-85, Abu Klea (1951 Pte. W. Ilsley. 16th. Lancers.); Khedive’s Star 1884-6, unnamed as issued, heavy contact marks, especially to tip of star, otherwise nearly very fine (3) £6000-8000


Provenance: Glendining’s, February 1979; Christie’s, November 1983.

D.C.M. Recommendation submitted to the Queen 25 August 1885 (General Order 109 of 1885).

William Charles Ilsley was born in Dublin on 10 August 1850 and attested for the 19th Foot on 10 August 1864, transferring to the 77th Foot on 1 June 1865. His first period of service ended on 16 April 1879, and he re-enlisted in the 16th Lancers on 13 October 1880. He served with the Lancers in Egypt and the Sudan from 26 September 1884 until 16 July 1885, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry during the battle at Abu Klea, 17 January 1885, in saving the life of the 16th Lancers’ adjutant, Captain the 4th Viscount St. Vincent:

‘The losses in this short but fiercely contested combat were considerable for nine officers and 65 men killed and 85 officers and men were wounded, while the enemy, who numbered at least 8,000 left 800 dead alone in and in front of the square. Lord St. Vincent, of the 16th Lancers, was severely wounded and would have been killed on the spot but for the courage and promptitude of Private W. C. Ilsley. Lord St. Vincent was shot through the thigh early in the action, and had been placed in a cacolet on a camel. When the enemy broke into the square the camel was speared and killed, but Ilsley stood over the body and kept the Arabs off, killing nine with his bayonet.’ (History of the 16th Lancers, Colonel H. Graham refers).

Sadly Lord St. Vincent died of his wounds on 23 January 1885. Ilsley, however, remained with the regiment and subsequently served for four years in India. He was finally discharged on 5 August 1893, after a total of 26 years and 296 days’ service, man and boy, to a well-deserved pension of 7d. per day.