Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (28 February & 1 March 2018)

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Date of Auction: 28th February & 1st March 2018

Sold for £7,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The remarkable Crimean War D.C.M., Medaille Militaire group of four awarded to Private Patrick McGuire, 33rd Regiment, whose award of the Victoria Cross was vetoed by Queen Victoria, his deed being ‘one of very doubtful morality’

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (No. 3103. Patrick McGuire. 33rd Regt.) regimental number added in impressed style; Crimea 1854-56, 3 clasps, Alma, Inkermann, Sebastopol (No. 3103. Patrick McGuire, 33rd Regt.) officially impressed naming but regimental number added in impressed style; Medaille Militaire, silver, silver-gilt and enamel, most enamel lacking; Turkish Crimea, Sardinian issue, unnamed, fitted with replacement silver bar suspension, edge bruising and contact marks, otherwise nearly very fine (4) £4000-5000


Provenance: R. W. Tilling Collection.

Patrick McGuire was born in Manchester in 1837. He enlisted into the 2nd Foot at Oldham on 19 November 1853, giving his age as 17 years and nine months. He transferred to the 33rd Foot on 1 March 1854, and sailed for the Crimea. After landing in the Crimea on 14 September 1854, the allies successfully attacked the Russians at the Alma and then marched south with a view to besieging Sebastopol. The siege commenced on 9 October with the digging of gun emplacements and the bombardment started on the 17th. At about this time Private McGuire was captured by a couple of Russian soldiers. The incident was recounted by Colonel the Hon. Somerset Gough Calthorpe, serving on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Raglan:

‘23 October 1854
You hear every day of heroic acts of bravery by the soldiers: one I call to mind. A few days ago a private of the 33rd (Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) was surprised and made prisoner by two Russian soldiers when on advanced Sentry. One of these worthies took possession of his musket and the other his pouch and marched him between them towards Sevastopol. The Englishman kept a weary watch and when he fancied his captors off their guard sprang on the one who had his musket, seized it and shot dead the other of his foes who carried the pouch as well as own arms and accoutrements. Meanwhile the Russian from whom our fellow had taken his own musket and who had then fallen to the ground, when rising from his recumbent position fired, missed and finally had his brains knocked out by the butt end of the Englishman’s musket; after which the man cooly proceeded to take off the Russian accoutrements etc., with which he returned laden to the post where he had been surprised, fired at by the Russian sentries, and received with cheers by our own pickets.’

Patrick McGuire enjoyed remarkable acclaim at the time. The Commander-in-Chief immediately authorised a gratuity of £5, while in England no fewer than three different prints depicting the incident were produced. When, in December 1854, the D.C.M. was instituted by Royal Warrant, McGuire was among the first in the 33rd to be so decorated. The French, for their part, awarded him the Medaille Militaire, one of only nine gained by the regiment. The citation stated:

‘Volunteered as sharpshooter at the commencement of the siege of Sebastopol. Was taken prisoner on the 20th October, 1854, when employed on that duty, by a party of Russians. Killed the two men who had him in charge, and made his escape. Was present during the whole campaign. Is a good soldier.’

When the Victoria Cross was instituted by Royal Warrant in June 1856, the war was almost over but recommendations were allowed to be retrospective back to June 1854. Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone, then commanding the 33rd, considered that McGuire was worthy and recommended his name., which, in due course, was submitted to the Queen. On 17 February 1857, the Secretary of State for War, Lord Panmure, was informed:

‘There is only one case which the Queen thinks had better be omitted, viz Private P. Macguire (sic) of the 33rd. His deed, although publicly praised and rewarded by Lord Raglan, was one of very doubtful morality, and if pointed out by the Sovereign as praiseworthy, may lead to the cruel and inhumane practise of never making prisoners, but always putting to death those who may be overpowered for fear of their rising over their captors.’

The reasoning behind the Royal decision appears puzzling. Perhaps the Prince Consort’s somewhat tortuous mind had been at work. Be that as it may Lord Panmure replied:

‘Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty and has the honour to inform Your Majesty that, with the concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief, he has removed the name of Private P. McGuire 33rd Regiment from the list.’

One of the effects of this decision was that although a generous total of 82 V.Cs. was awarded for the campaign, the 33rd Regiment appears to have been the only regiment that did not have a Victoria Cross awarded to one of its members.

In February 1857 the 33rd was ordered to Mauritius. Almost simultaneously the Indian Mutiny broke out and it was soon ordered to Bombay. In September 1859 McGuire was a member of the Light Company when it was sent to Dwarka and along with other members of the company suffered greatly from the hard marching and exhausting heat. On 8 November 1860, a Regimental board proposed his discharge on the grounds of disability. The regimental medical officer reported that McGuire suffered from ‘Enlargement of the liver and spleen from dyspepsia. Health first became impaired while on field service at Dwarka. His ailments have not been aggravated by vice or misconduct.’

A year later he was back in England and sent to Chatham to be examined by the Principal Medical Officer, who confirmed the findings of the Regimental board. His discharge was authorised on 26 November 1861, his papers noting that he had been ‘Wounded in left shoulder in trenches, Crimea, 1855. In possession of medal for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field, also a French War Medal.’ He returned to Manchester and died there on 28 October 1862.

The above information is largely taken from The Iron Duke, the regimental journal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), Spring 1997. Sold with copied discharge papers and other research.