Meritorious Service Medal Groups from the Collection of Ian McInnes

Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £2,300

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A rare Victorian campaign service and M.S.M. group of five awarded to Sergeant A. McKerrow, 90th Regiment, who was wounded in the attack on the Great Redan in September 1855 and ‘hit by a Tulwar’ blow in the Indian Mutiny - ‘but the gentleman who gave it never gave another as I had the good luck to drop him with a shot through the chest’: and this just one of many fascinating observations to be found in McKerrow’s memoirs, published in the regimental journal shortly before his death in 1927

Crimea 1854-56
, 1 clasp, Sebastopol (90th Regt.), officially impressed naming; Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 2 clasps, Defence of Lucknow, Lucknow (90th Lt. Infy.); Army L.S. & G.C., V.R. (3914 Sergt., 90th Foot); Army Meritorious Service Medal, V.R. (Sejt., 90 Foot), officially impressed naming; Turkish Crimea 1855, British die, unnamed, the Mutiny Medal with refixed suspension claw, the first two with contact marks, edge bruising and polished, thus fine, the remainder very fine and better

Together with:


Army Temperance Association: India, A.T.A.I.14
(The Association Medal), with 'For Merit' top bar; A.T.A.I.7 (7 Year Medal); A.T.A.I.6 (6 Year Medal); A.T.A.I.5 (5 Year Medal); A.T.A.I.3, with 'Excelsior' top bar (4 Year Award); A.T.A.I.1.5 (Victoria Commemorative Medal); A.T.A.I.2 (1 Year Medal); Army Temperance Association: Home, A.T.A.H.2, with 'Fidelity' top bar (2 Year Award); A.T.A.I.1, silvered (6 Month Medal); 'Grand Lodge, India' Cross, these added by Ian McInnes to replace the McKerrow family Temperance Medals which accompanied his official awards when first auctioned in London, generally very fine (Lot) £1800-2200

Footnote

Alexander McKerrow was, by his own account, born at Springkell, Dumfriesshire on 29 September 1833, although his enlistment papers state the year 1835 and a family bible 1836. More certain is the fact he enlisted in the 90th Regiment at Westminster in January 1855, aged 20 years, and, as confirmed by his memoirs, quickly saw action in the Crimea, not least in the attack on the Great Redan on 8 September 1855, when he witnessed Sergeant Andrew Moynihan winning his V.C.:

‘I took part in trench work until the final assault on the Great Redan, when the Regiment formed part of the scaling ladder party, and then I knew what it was to be a soldier of the Queen. In reality, as I was making my way into the Great Redan, and squeezing myself through the embrasure of a heavy gun, a Russian gunner took it into his head to prevent me, so he quietly despatched me into the trench 30 feet deep by giving me a blow in the right thigh with a rammer of gun-sponger. I remained there until found the next morning with the dead and wounded.’

McKerrow, who was also wounded in the head by a musket ball, appears to have been admitted to Scutari, for in later years he would talk about his gratitude to Florence Nightingale - he christened one of his daughters after her. Having then briefly returned to the U.K., he was quickly back on the campaign trail, for the 90th were landed at Calcutta at the onset of the Indian Mutiny:

‘When we crossed the bridge of boats at Cawnpore, the Regiment had its first engagement with the rebels - I think the name of the place was Mungawar. Here the Regiment was extended into skirmishing order, and commenced operations, driving the rebels before them and scattering them in all directions. Sir James Outram accompanied us on his fly-bitten charger, and Sir Henry Havelock remained with the main body on the Grand Trunk Road. Things went all right until the Baggage Guard was attacked by overwhelming numbers, and we had to form rallies and squares. I received a hit in the left foot with a Tulwar, but the gentleman who gave it never gave another, as I had the good luck to drop him with a shot through the chest.’

And of the subsequent operations at Lucknow:

‘On our way out our Adjutant, Lieutenant Rennie, was riding along, and happened to find out a byway. He was officious in these matters and he took it into his head to have a look, and found to his surprise two guns in the rebels’ hands. He shouted out “H Company” (which was my company) “right about turn, follow me at the double.” We did so, and found him engaged with the gunners. Seeing us join him the rebels let go one of their guns. It swept the road and took a number of my company, amongst whom was Lieutenant Nicol Graham, who was related to the Graham who raised the Regiment. By his death we lost as brave as officer as ever drew a sword for his country’s cause. I well remember him saying, as we put him in a dooley, “Ah, McKerrow, I have seen many a man fall, but I never expected to fall so soon myself.” He died of his wounds that evening and the Regiment mourned his loss. He was a soldier of the front rank. The Adjutant [Rennie] received the V.C. for his work, which he well deserved, and I was recommended for a medal for distinguished conduct.’

McKerrow, who married Elizabeth Moore in 1868 (who had been a child at the defence of Lucknow), saw no further action and was discharged in the rank of Sergeant in July 1875. But he retained his military links by finding employment as a Sergeant in Barrack Department of the Commissariat, first in Mauritius, and then in Malta, from 1883 to 1890, in which latter year he chose to settle there with with his family. But he was to be called out on parade one more time, for in AO 156 of 1900 he was awarded the M.S.M., which distinction was presented to him by His Excellency the Governor in an investiture held at Palace Square, the Daily Malta Chronicle reporting that he was ‘an old soldier well known in Malta and highly respected’ and that Colonel Hughes Hallett, the Assistant Adjutant-General, ‘read aloud to the spectators Mr. McKerrow’s record of war services, a record of which any man may well be proud of’.

Following the death of his wife, McKerrow returned to Scotland in 1915, and settled with one of his daughters at Glasgow Road, Perth, but not before being given a rousing send-off from Malta, his “Benefit Concert” at Valetta attracting the patronage of Field Marshal Lord Methuen, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., C.M.G. and Vice-Admiral A. H. Limpus, C.B. Back in Scotland, in the late 1920s, he wrote his memoirs for publication in the Covenanter, the regimental journal of the Cameronians (the new title of the old 90th), the editor then describing him as the oldest living member of the Regiment - undoubtedly, too, he was one of the last surviving Crimea & Mutiny veterans when he died in October 1927; for further extracts from his memoirs, and other career details, see The Annuity Meritorious Service Medal 1847-1953, by Ian McInnes, in particular Appendix I).