Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (23 June 2021)
Date of Auction: 23rd June 2021
Sold for £3,200
Estimate: £2,000 - £2,600
Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Defence of Lucknow (John Phillips) one very minor edge bruise, otherwise dark toned, nearly extremely fine £2,000-£2,600
FootnoteJohn Phillips was born in Calcutta around 1807, of British descent. Little is known of his life until 1 March 1834, when he married Sarah Christiana Joyce at Cawnpore, stating he was an Uncovenanted Clerk in the Jubbulpore Agency, Saugor. In 1840 he is shown as a clerk at the Delhi Magazine and later clerk in the Revenue department at Agra in 1843. These appointments indicate that he worked in the Non-Regulated States or Political Agencies under the control of a Resident, as against working in the direct Company governed provinces.
On 9 November 1849, Phillips was appointed to the important position of Head Clerk of the Lucknow Residency, on a salary of 190 Rupees per month. The Head Clerk managed all the various agency departments, replacing the previous incumbent, Mr Hare, who had been terminated by Sleeman for embezzlement. Phillips worked directly under the orders of Captain Fletcher Hayes, head of the Military Secretary's Office. The demise of Mr Hare, who had been in the King's pay, gave Captain Hayes the opportunity to infiltrate the King's Palace via the newly arrived Head Clerk. Successive British Residents at Lucknow had become increasingly alarmed at the King of Oudh's profligate expenditure, chaotic administration and hedonistic lifestyle of the court, so Phillips was instructed by Captain Hayes to set about organising a loose network of informers who could pass back information and gossip from the various departments as to what was happening in the palace. He was assisted in this endeavour by having several relatives and in-laws within the various Residency departments. Phillips was assigned a most prestigious house set in a large compound to the South West of the Residency which became known during the siege as “Phillips’ House and Garden Battery”. It gave full view to the Judicial garrison (Germon’s Post) and was only silenced in early October after the arrival of the first relief force. After several warnings, Lord Dalhousie annexed the province on 7 February 1856, using an egregious political device called the Doctrine of Lapse which was instrumental in sowing the seeds for the disasters that would follow in 1857. On annexation Phillips became Head Clerk to the Military Secretary’s office in the Chief Commissioner's office. He continued working in the Chief Commission's Office until 1861, when he retired and returned to Calcutta. He died at Calcutta of ‘decline due to old age’ and was buried at the General Episcopal Cemetery, Lower Circular Road, Park Street, on 30 June 1888, aged 81 and 11 months. The grave is still extant and was erected by his daughter, Ellen, wife of Christopher Best who also served throughout the siege.
John Phillips was aged 50 when the siege commenced and served throughout at Germon's Post, named after Captain R. C. German, 13th Bengal Native Infantry, the commanding officer. The Post was greatly exposed to fire from the tower of Johannes’ House, just outside the Residency perimeter, and from the gun and mortar batteries from Phillips’ House and Garden battery which opened up with such force and accuracy that the position became untenable, with the wives being evacuated to the cellars of the Tykhana where the wives of the officers were sheltering. Repeated attacks were made on Germon’s Post with the one on 20th July being the fiercest. The Uncovenanted distinguished themselves greatly, all being under arms from eight in the morning to eight at night.
Copies of the original lists of those who served throughout the siege show that John Phillips, Christopher James Best (son in law) and William Charles Phillips (relative) all accompanied sallying parties out of the Residency on no fewer than 3 occasions.
The Colonist newspaper of 6 April 1858, has an interesting article by one of the original defenders, probably the Uncovenanted Mr John Lawrence, whose notes of the siege were given to L. E. Rees and form the basis for his book Siege of Lucknow. Under the title “Siege and Bombardment of Lucknow” it makes for interesting reading revealing a litany of prejudices and some of the less savoury aspects of the siege:
‘They then took possession of all the highest houses adjacent to our garrison and loopholed the walls from whence they used to pick off our men unceasingly. It was scarcely safe to run from one house to another without making a good mark for their riflemen. They were so far safe that our cannon could not play on their buildings, our space being very limited, whilst they had every facility for bringing their guns to bear upon us; their guns and mortars were placed in the compounds of the houses of Messrs Jhn. Phillips and J. Johannes, the former an Uncovenanted servant and the head of the Chief Commissioner's Office and the other a merchant. One day in particular and on the consequent on the annoyances and losses that we had been subjected to, from the unerring shots of both matchlock and riflemen, from the above two houses, a storming party had been ordered to dislodge them from these strongholds, and Mr Phillips had been asked to point the way, through heaps of rubbish, to his residence. This old gentleman most willingly undertook to do, expecting neither reward or thanks for what he had already done, but satisfied he was doing his duty and a public benefit besides. He asked to be accompanied by one of his brother-in law, Mr Richard Joyce (a fine smart young stripling), who was also an Uncovenanted assistant in the Chief Commissioner's Office. They went with the storming party, who had been successful with but small loss and am most happy to add that Messrs P and J return unscathed... the Uncovenanted servants of Government have to express the hope that, should these lines meet the eyes of the Home authorities, that the families of those Uncovenanted servants who have fallen in action, and the widows who had conducted themselves properly, and the residue of the Uncovenanted, will in future be treated with the consideration they are entitled to, and that suitable provisions may be directed to be made and their grievances be redressed, for well may they be dubbed THE HEROES OF LUCKNOW.’
Sold with comprehensive research and maps including Napier's dispatch of the taking of Phillips' Battery.