Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 & 20 July 2017)

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Date of Auction: 19th & 20th July 2017

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A rare North West Frontier D.C.M. pair awarded to Private C. Poile, 1st East Kent Regiment, for the famous Victoria Cross night action at Bilot, 16th to 17th September 1897; Poile received a gun shot wound to his forehead during the action

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (Pte. C. Poile. 1/E. Kent R. 16-17 Sept: 1897.); India General Service 1895-1902, 1 clasp, Punjab Frontier 1897-98 (3997 Pte. C. Pile (sic). 1st Bn. “The Buffs”) extremely fine (2) £5000-6000


D.C.M. London Gazette 21 April 1899. One of four D.C.M’s won by the Buffs in the night action at Bilot on the North West Frontier of India. In addition, no less than three Victoria Crosses were won in this same action, by Lieutenants Watson and Colvin of the Royal Engineers and Corporal James Smith of the Buffs. Private Poile was wounded by a gunshot to his forehead.

The following speech was made by Brig.-General Sir R. Westmacott, K.C.B., D.S.O., at a parade of the troops of the Nagpore District on the 5th July 1899, to present the Victoria Cross to Corporal James Smith, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Private C. Poile:

‘Officers, N.C.O’s and men of the Nagpore Command. You are paraded here today by order of Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen to witness the presentation of the V.C. to Corporal Smith of The Buffs. It is the highest order for valour in the world, is open alike to officers and men, and is the ambition of every soldier. Four men of Corporal Smith’s section were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal at the same time, a decoration second as regards valour only to the Victoria Cross. Privates Nelthorpe, Lever and Finn have already received their medals at the hand of Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen, at Windsor, and Private Poile is on parade today. The circumstances under which these brave men won these decorations were as follows:

On the evening of the 16th September, 1897, The Buffs were returning to Camp fighting their way inch by inch in one of those rear guard actions we all know so well, against large forces of an invisible enemy. A call was made on the regiment for an escort for a wounded officer in a dhoolie. Major Moody who was in command of the rear guard, told off the left section of “G” Company as it happened to be the nearest. This was Corporal Smith’s section, consisting of 12 men, all told. They never found the wounded officer, but they came across No. 8 Bengal M. Battery, with some sappers, to whom they attached themselves. Being very heavily pressed it was decided to bivouac for the night in the village of Bilot. That part of the village not occupied by this little force was held by the enemy who set fire to the village to try to drive our people into the open. Lieutenants Watson, R.E., and Colvin, R.E., both decorated since with the V.C., with Corporal Smith’s section and some sappers made two desperate attempts to drive the enemy out of the village. Corporal Smith, who was twice severely wounded, continued to command his section, and only lay down when he received a distinct order to do so, and even then continued to fire on the enemy. Privates Poile, Lever, Finn and Nelthorpe were also awarded Distinguished Conduct Medals for their conspicuous gallantry on this occasion; Privates Poile, Lever and Nelthorpe were all wounded. The little force was relieved from Camp in the early morning, but not until out of the 12, 2 were killed and four wounded. [Note: The official casualty roll reveals that 2 were killed and 9 wounded, only one man being unwounded]

Remember this; this was no selected section, it was no picked body of men, Major Moody took the first section that came to hand, and so I say we may take them as a fair sample of what the other sections throughout the regiment are. Corporal Smith, Privates Poile, Lever, Finn and Nelthorpe, are worthy successors to those pioneers in following Lieutenant Latham who, in spite of losing his arm, saved the King’s Colour, and won the gold medal (which was the V.C. in those days) at Albuhera, that battle where The Buffs went into action 750 strong and 65 only answered their names at evening Roll Call.’