Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria, to include the Brian Ritchie Collection (Part II) (2 March 2005)

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Date of Auction: 2nd March 2005

Sold for £5,800

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The fine early Indian campaign group to General Sir James Alexander, K.C.B., Colonel Commandant, R.H.A., late Bengal Artillery

(a) The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (Military) K.C.B., Knight Commander’s set of insignia, comprising neck badge, 18 carat gold and enamels, hallmarked London 1870, maker’s mark RG for Robert Garrard; and breast star, silver, gold and enamels, the reverse plate inscribed R & S. Garrard & Co., Goldsmiths & Jewellers to the Crown, 25 Haymarket, London, fitted with gold pin for wearing, the star with small chip to blue enamel by ‘Dien’ of motto

(b) Army of India 1799-1826, 1 clasp, Bhurtpoor (Lieutt. J. Alexander, (1st) Regt. of Arty.) long hyphen reverse, naming officially engraved in running script

(c) Cabul 1842 (Captn. and Brevt. Lieutt. Coll. J. Alexander, 3rd Troop 2nd Brigade Horse Arty.) fitted with original steel clip and contemporary silver bar suspension and ribbon buckle

(d) Maharajpoor Star 1843 (Captain and Brevt. Lieutt. Coll. J. Alexander, 3rd Troop 2nd Brigade Horse Artillery) fitted with contemporary silver bar suspension and ribbon buckle

(e) Sutlej 1845-46, for Aliwal 1846, 1 clasp, Sobraon (Bt. Lieut. Col. J. Alexander, 2nd Brigade H. Ay.) unless otherwise described, nearly extremely fine (6) £4000-5000


During the latter stages of the First Afghan War, Alexander led 3.2 H.A. on active service as part of a force assembled under Major-General Sir George Pollock (see Lot 21) to relieve Sale’s garrison at Jellalabad, and was engaged at the forcing of the Khyber Pass on 5 April 1842. After a considerable delay at Jellalabad, Pollock marched on Cabul in mid August and, continually harassed by the predatory hill tribes, engaged the enemy en masse in the Tazeane Pass on 13 September. Lieutenant-Colonel Richmond, commanding the rear-guard reported in his despatch that threatened by a large body of enemy cavalry ‘...with the evident intention of moving towards my post. I instantly decided on anticipating him, and as Capt. Alexander’s three guns were still on the ground, I availed myself of his services, by sending forward his guns within range of the enemy, supported by the front squadron of H.M’s 3rd Light Dragoons’... ‘one squadron of the 1st Light Cavalry’... ‘and the detachment of 3rd Irregular Cavalry’... ‘with orders to charge the enemy if the ground proved favourable and an opportunity offered. This soon occurred, the guns having made good impression.’ (London Gazette 24 November 1842). Akbar Khan was so completely beaten in this action that Cabul was re-occupied without further opposition. For his services in Afghanistan, Alexander was gazetted Brevet Major on 23 December 1842.

Alexander and 3.2 H.A. were next called to serve in the Gwalior Campaign and took part in Sir Hugh Gough’s victory over the Mahrattas at the Battle of Maharajpoor on 29 December 1843. Brigadier Gowan commanding the Artillery said in his despatch ‘...nothing could exceed the steadiness and determined resolution, under a long sustained and heavy fire from the enemy, of 2.2 Horse Artillery under Capt Grant, and 3.2 Horse Artillery under Major Alexander. Both troops moved to within 500 yards of the enemy, drove him from his guns, followed him up and destroyed a great number.’ Gough likewise reported, ‘I witnessed with much pride the rapidity of movement of the three troops of Horse Artillery [2.2, 2.3 & 3.2] which bore a conspicuous part in the well contested action; their leaders promptly brought them forward in every available position and the precision of their fire was admirable’ (London Gazette 8 March 1844).

Rewarded with promotion by Brevet to Lieutenant-Colonel on 30 April 1844, Alexander was stationed with his troop at Meerut until December 1845 when 3.2 H.A. was ordered on active service after the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej. Alexander again gave distinguished service at Badhowal, Aliwal and Sobraon and was mentioned in Sir Harry Smith’s despatch from the field of Aliwal, dated 30 January 1846 (London Gazette 27 March 1846), and was nominated a C.B. (London Gazette 30 June 1846). In 1848, Alexander was appointed in command of the 2nd Battalion, B.A., and held various regimental posts over the course of the next six years. Promoted Major-General in 1856, his last appointment in India was as Brigadier 2nd Class at Lucknow on the eve of the Mutiny. On the amalgamation of the Royal and H.E.I.C. Artilleries in 1861, Alexander became Major-General on the combined Regimental List. He was made Lieutenant-General in 1868, and was Colonel-Commandant of ‘F’ Brigade, R.H.A. between 1874 and 1877. Created a K.C.B. on 20 May 1871, he was finally promoted General on 1 August 1872. He was the father of Captain James Alexander (see Lot 58), and died at 35 Bedford Place, Russell Square on 6 June 1888.

Refs: Hodson Index (NAM); Modern English Biography (Boase); IOL L/MIL/25, 56 & 65; Military Historical Society Bulletin, Vol. IX, No. 36, May 1956.