Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (12 November 2020)

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Date of Auction: 12th November 2020

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,600

A Boer War D.C.M. group of four awarded to Private A. Thompson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was wounded at the Battle of Colenso and subsequently awarded the D.C.M. for gallantry in rescuing a wounded man under hot fire at Hart’s Hill, 23 February 1900

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (3640 Pte. A. Thompson, 1st Rl: Innis: Fus:); India General Service 1895-1902, 2 clasps, Punjab Frontier 1897-98, Tirah 1897-98 (3640 Pte. A. Thompson, 2d. Bn. Ryl Innis: Fus:); Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 5 clasps, Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, Belmont, Orange Free State (3640 Pte A. Thompson, I: Rl: Innis: Fus:); King’s South Africa 1901-02, 2 clasps, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (3640 Pte. A. Thompson. Innis: Fus:) edge bruising, very fine (4) £2,000-£2,600


D.C.M. London Gazette 19 April 1901 - Recommendation in General Buller’s Despatch of 30 March 1900 London Gazette 8 February 1901:
‘Private Thompson, 23rd February - He volunteered to rescue Private Nesbitt, a heavy wounded man, and laboriously brought him to cover through hot fire.’

Arthur Thompson was born in Shankhill, Belfast in 1873 and attested for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Omagh on 28 August 1891. Embarking with the 2nd Battalion for India in September 1893, he served there until January 1899 being present during the operations on the North-West Frontier 1897-98 and with the Tirah Expeditionary Force 1897-98.

Proceeding to South Africa with the 1st Battalion on 5 November 1899, following the outbreak of war with the Boers, Thomson was wounded at the Battle of Colenso on 15 December 1899 when Major-General Fitzroy Hart’s 5th Irish Brigade, of which the 1st Inniskilling comprised one of four battalions, were misled into a loop of the River with no means of crossing and, becoming exposed to heavy enemy fire, suffered over 500 casualties in under an hour before they were extricated.

On 23 February 1900, the Brigade, still before the Tugela Heights, was tasked with storming a fortress-like steep hill, later dubbed ‘Inniskilling Hill’ or ‘Hart’s Hill’, with little cover. Approaching under heavy fire, the Brigade, with the Inniskillings in front, hugged the bank of the Onderbrook Spruit for safety until required to cross using the railway bridge:
‘This was at no time a pleasant place to walk over. It was sixty feet in length; it had no decking, the rails being supported by girders, with spaces between them large enough for a man to fall through into the water below. Now the Boers had concentrated the fire of a pom-pom upon it, and the bullets of their rifleman were tapping like riveters’ hammers on every piece of metal-work in the structure. The bridge looked like a perfect death-trap, but at it the Inniskillings rushed one by one, and once over it, turned to the right and dashed back to the cover of the river bank...Private Thompson showed great courage on this occasion. He was running over the bridge when he noticed that a comrade had fallen upon it, hard hit. He stopped, coolly picked him up and carried him into comparative safety.’
(The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from December 1688 to July 1914 refers.)

Thompson returned to England on 25 June 1902, having served in South Africa to the conclusion of hostilities, and re-engaged for a further 4 years service in August 1903. He was discharged on 26 August 1907.