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

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th July 2019

Sold for £4,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A rare Military General Service pair to Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick English, Royal Engineers, who was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal for services on the Moray Firth, off Fort George in 1824

Military General Service 1793-1814, 5 clasps, Roleia, Vimiera, Corunna, Orthes, Toulouse (F. English, Capt. R. Engrs.) with silver buckle on ribbon; Royal Humane Society, large silver medal (Soc. Reg. Hum. Do. Cap. I. English vitam ob restitutam dono dat 1824) medal glazed, with a silver frame and loop suspension, first with minor edge bruising, nearly extremely fine (2) £4,000-£5,000


Provenance: Glendining’s, March 1989; Charles Neville Dean Collection, Spink, March 1992; W. H. Fevyer Collection of Life Saving Awards, Dix Noonan Webb, September 2008.

Frederick English was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 8 September 1807 and was advanced to Lieutenant on 1 April 1808. As such he served with Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley’s force which landed at Mondego Bay in the first week of August 1808. With them he served at the battle of Roleia, 17 August 1808, and Vimeriera, 21 August 1821. Following the battles and the Convention of Cintra, Lieutenant English remained in Portugal and joined Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore’s force in October 1808. With them he advanced into the Spanish interior and then the retreat to the coast and was present at the battle of Corunna, 16 January 1809. Returning to England, English was promoted to 2nd Captain in July 1813. He returned to action in the latter stages of the Peninsular War, serving at the battles of Orthes, 27 February 1814, and Toulouse, 10 April 1814. In the ‘Waterloo Campaign’, he served with the Royal Engineers in the Netherlands from March 1815, taking part in the operations of the campaign but was not at the climactic battle. English served with the Army of Occupation in France until August 1817.

Captain English was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal for his services on the Moray Firth, in the vicinity of Fort George, near Inverness:

‘The following letters detail the intrepid conduct of an officer in His Majesty’s service, and need no eulogium on the part of the Committee: they are communicated by Sir John English, of Warley Common’.

‘Copy of a letter from Colonel Rose, one of His Majesty’s Justices of Peace, to William Fraser Tytler, Esq., Sheriff of Invernesshire’
‘Sir Nov. 13, 1823
A circumstance occurred in this neighbourhood, a short time previous to your return to this country, which reflects so much credit on both the gallantry and humanity of Captain English, of His Majesty’s Engineers at Fort George, that I cannot in justice avoid bringing it under your notice. The circumstances were as follows:
A boat, navigated by four men, and returning down the Firth in ballast, was upset in a sudden squall of wind, nearly opposite to Avoch, about four miles west of Fort George. The men contrived to get on the bottom of the boat; but having lost their oars, etc., they were quite helpless, drifting to sea with a strong ebb tide. They continued in this miserable plight, with the sea washing over them, for nearly five hours, when the current happened fortunately to carry them within two hundred yards of the point on which Fort George stands: their cries alarmed the sentinels; and the inhabitants of the fort who were not asleep, it being nearly midnight, ran down to the point. The noise at last reached Captain English, through his servant, when he ran to the beach, and found a crowd gathered there, but so paralysed by the darkness of the night and the high surf, as to be unable to offer any efficient assistance. Captain English immediately procured a long line, and at a very imminent risk swam to the boat, and by means of this line was hauled on shore, and three lives were thus saved. One of the four, when the wreck first neared the point, attempted to swim on shore, but failed, and was unfortunately drowned; which must have been the inevitable fate of the other three, but for the gallantry and humanity of Captain English. I may add that these four were the fathers of nineteen young and helpless children. [signed] H. Rose, Justice of Peace’.

English’s military service continued, being promoted to Captain in March 1825 and Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1837, becoming Commanding Royal Engineers at Woolwich in 1847. He died at Mill Hill, Woolwich on 30 June 1849, from wounds received during an artillery experiment at Woolwich Arsenal, as described in his obituary notice:

‘The deceased who was a Peninsular officer, had filled the situation of Commanding Royal Engineers at Woolwich for more than two years, and was in the enjoyment of excellent health till within a few weeks since, when he met with an accident which has unfortunately ended in his death. On Wednesday, May 16, he attended, with several other officers, at the Practice-range of the Royal Arsenal, to witness experiments on a two-gun battery, invented by a Mr Kerridge, composed of asphalted composition. The firing was directed at the battery, at a range of 75 yards, from a 42 pounder gun of 50 cwt. Lieutenant-Colonel Chalmber, who conducted the experiments, had previously cautioned the officers to stand well back in the rear of the gun, a caution which was complied with. The first shot that struck the battery sent off a shower of splinters from the asphalt. which was mixed with large pebble stones, and one of these struck the deceased, who was standing about 80 yards in the rear of the gun, on the arm. He felt ill from the shock, and was at once taken home in a fly. It was not discovered by his medical advisers till a long time after that his arm was broken. He never rallied altogether from the shock, but within the last few days was attacked paralysis, and expired on Saturday.

The R.H.S. Medal of this period shows that the ‘Pingo’ obverse die was fast wearing away, with loss of detail being apparent to the cherub’s wisp of clothing. The above medal also lacks the initials ‘L.P.’ on the reverse.