The Baird Jewels and Archive (19 September 2003)

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Date of Auction: 19th September 2003

Sold for £46,000

Estimate: £40,000 - £50,000

Sir David Baird’s rare and important General Officer’s Large Gold Medal for Corunna

Obverse, Britannia left, seated on a globe, holding in her right hand a laurel wreath, and in her left hand a palm branch, beside her, right, a lion; left, the Union shield

Reverse, a wreath of laurel encircling ‘CORUNNA 1809’

Usual circular glazed case, the edge of the gold rim officially engraved ‘Lieut. General Sir David Baird, K.B. & C.’, and integral loop and large gold ring for suspension,
obverse lunette cracked at 9 o’clock, otherwise good extremely fine

£40,000-50,000

Footnote

Of the Gold Cross and Gold Medal series issued for the Peninsular War 1808-14, the General Officer’s Large Gold Medal was by far the rarest, with a total issuance of 89. In contrast, its smaller counterpart, the Field Officer’s Gold Medal, was issued on no less than 596 occasions, while the senior Army Gold Cross was awarded to 163 recipients.

It would be hard to find a better summary of the background to Army Gold Crosses and Medals than that published in Mayo’s
Medals and Distinctions of the British Army and Navy:

‘The precedent set in the grant of a medal for Maida was followed a few years later in order to reward the officers engaged in the Peninsular War.

On 9 September, 1810, a General Order was issued [see below] by the Horse Guards, announcing that the King had commanded that in commemoration of the brilliant victories obtained over the French in the battles of Roleia, Vimiera, Corunna, and Talavera, and in several cavalry encounters, the 107 general and field-officers specified, who were present on those occasions, should enjoy the privilege of bearing a medal. The General Orders likewise provided that the medals which would have been conferred upon the officers who had fallen at, or died since, the actions in question, should be delivered to their respective families.

Inconvenience having arisen in consequence of the issue of a separate medal for each action, it was decided that in future one medal only should be issued to an officer, and that for the second and third events a gold clasp should be attached to the ribbon; also, that for a fourth event a gold cross, having the names of the four events inscribed on it, should be substituted for the medal, such cross to be in its turn supplemented by clasps in the event of the bearer earning further dictinctions (See
Horse Guards’ General Order, 7th October, 1813).

A good many questions arose in connection with the grant of the Medal and Cross, most of which appear to have been determined in consultation with the Duke of Wellington. It was originally intended that the medals for the Army should be awarded on the same principle as was observed in reference to the Navy; that is to say, that only general officers and officers commanding regiments should be eligible to receive them. But, inasmuch as there were in the Army many important officers for whom there were, and could be, no equivalents in the Navy, these, had the analogy been strictly followed, would have been unfair, and the principle had therefore to be modified so as to include all officers of the proper ranks who were considered to deserve the distinction.

On the termination of the Peninsular War [in 1814] the issue of the Medal and Cross ceased, the recent enlargement of the Order of the Bath affording the means of rewarding those who, under the old system, would have received gold medals, crosses, or clasps. This is explained in a letter from the Military Secretary at the Horse Guards to the Commander-in-Chief at Madras, dated 15th October, 1818, on the occasion of the submission by His Excellency, under the idea that the old system still prevailed, of the names of officers who had been particularly engaged in the battle of Mahidpore.

A full list of the officers on whom the gold medals and crosses were conferred is given at pp. xi-xxxvii., History of War Medals, in vol. iv of Sir H. Nicolas’s
History of the Orders of Knighthood.

With reference to the mode of wearing these medals, it will be seen from the Duke of Wellington’s correspondence that he was in favour of the large medal being worn, like the small one, at the button-hole instead of round the neck.

We have been unable to ascertain by whom the medals and cross were designed. They were, however, probably made by Messrs. Rundell and Bridge, of London, the firm which executed the [special] collar given to the Duke of Wellington by George IV.’

The text of the General Order referred to above, dated at Horse Guards on 9 September 1810, and issued by the C.-in-C., Sir David Dundas, was as follows:

‘His Majesty having been graciously pleased to command that, in commemoration of the brilliant victories obtained by Divisions of His Army over the Enemy in the Battles of Roleia, Vimiera, also in the several instances where the Cavalry had an opportunity of distinguishing themselves against the Enemy in Spain, and in the Battles of Corunna and Talavera de la Reyna, the undermentioned Officers of the Army, present on those occasions, should enjoy the privilege of bearing a Medal; and His Majesty having approved of the Medal which has been struck, is pleased to command that it should be worn by the General Officers, suspended by a Ribbon of the colour of the Sash, with a blue edge, round the neck; and by the Commanding Officers of Corps (not being inferior to Lieutenant-Colonel), and the Chiefs of Military Departments, attached by a Ribbon of the same colour to the button-hole of their Uniform.

His Majesty has also been pleased to command that the Medals, which would have been conferred upon the Officers who have fallen at or died since the above-named Actions, shall, as a token of respect for their memories, be deposited with their respective families.’

There follows a list of those to be honoured, including ‘Lieut. General Sir David Baird, K.B. & C.’, the latter abbreviation recognising his additional honour of being a Knight of the Imperial Ottoman Order of the Crescent.

References

Mayo, J. H.,
Medals and Distinctions of the British Army and Navy (London, 1897), vol. 1, pp. 189-192

Joslin, E. C., Litherland, A. R., and Simpkin, B. T.,
British Battles and Medals (London, 1988)