Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 July 2019)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th July 2019

Sold for £4,400

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

An Albert Medal Second Class for Land awarded to Mr. W. Thomas, Colliery Manager, for his gallantry in rescuing five trapped Welsh miners at the Tynewydd Colliery in the Rhondda Valley after a nine-day imprisonment in April 1877- the gallantry of the rescue party was so great, and public opinion so strong, that the Albert Medal for Land was instituted as a result- 4 Albert Medals in gold and 21 Albert Medals in bronze were awarded to the rescue party- the first Albert Medals for Land ever awarded

Albert Medal, 2nd Class, for Gallantry in Saving Life on Land, bronze and enamel, the reverse officially engraved ‘Presented in the name of Her Majesty to William Thomas, Colliery Manager, for saving life at the Tynewydd Colliery April 1877’, reverse of the crown with maker’s cartouché Phillips, Cockspur St., and officially numbered ‘No. 22’, on original narrow riband with top silver riband buckle, in embossed leather case of issue, named ‘Presented in the name of Her Majesty to William Thomas, for Gallantry in Saving Life on Land’, nearly extremely fine £4,000-£5,000


A.M. London Gazette 7 August 1877:

‘On the 11th of April the Tynewydd Colliery, situated near Porth, in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, was inundated with water from the old workings of the adjoining Cymmer Colliery. At the time of the inundation there were fourteen men in the pit, of whom four were unfortunately drowned, and one was killed by compressed air, leaving nine men imprisoned by the water; of this number four were released after eighteen hours’ imprisonment, and five after nine days’ imprisonment. It was in effecting the release of the latter five that those distinguished services were rendered which the conferring of the “Albert Medal of the Second Class” is intended to recognise.
From Thursday, April the 12th, when the operations for the rescue were commenced, until Friday, April the 20th, when the intervening barrier of coal had been cut through and the imprisoned men released, the above named men were present at different times, and, while being of valuable service in the rescue, exposed their own lives to the great danger which would have attended an outburst of water and compressed air, or an explosion of the inflammable gas which at different times during the rescue escaped under great pressure and in dangerous quantities.’

William Thomas, the Colliery Manager of the Resolven Colliery, near Neath, Glamorganshire, was awarded his Albert Medal for his role, as one of eleven Colliery Owners or Managers of nearby mines, that assisted in the rescue of the Welsh Colliers following their incarceration after the inundation at the Tynewydd Colliery on 11 April 1877. ‘The release, finally effected yesterday week, of the five survivors, four men and a boy, who had remained nine whole days and nights entombed alive, with no food but a little candle grease, in the recesses of a flooded coal pit has been hailed all over the country. Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to intimate her intention of bestowing the Albert Medal, which was instituted for the reward of “acts of gallantry in saving life at sea”, upon these humble men who hazarded their own lives in cutting through the coal to extricate their starving comrades. In answer to questions put to them by medical gentlemen, the imprisoned men said that all they had during their long incarceration was a small quantity of dirty water, and a little grease which dropped from a box containing the candles. As may be imagined, the poor fellows had not exactly measured the time they had been in their dreary solitude: one said they had only been in place seven days. Upon the little boy being got out, the first thing he asked was whether his father and brother were alive, and he was informed that they were all right. This, however, was a deception, as both were among the victims of the sad accident.’ (Illustrated London News, 28 April 1877 refers).

Until the Tynewydd disaster, the Albert Medal had only been given for bravery in saving life at sea. The courage of the Tynewydd Colliers, however, prompted Queen Victoria to also bestow the award of those saving life on land, announcing “The Albert Medal, hitherto only bestowed for gallantry in saving life at sea, shall be extended to similar actions on land, and that the first medals struck for this purpose shall be conferred on the heroic rescuers of the Welsh Miners.” Four Albert Medals in Gold, and 21 Albert Medals in bronze were awarded for this action, the first Albert Medals for Land ever awarded.