Meritorious Service Medal Groups from the Collection of Ian McInnes

Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £8,800

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

The rare and outstanding Gordon Relief Expedition D.C.M. group of seven awarded to Regimental Corporal-Major A. White, Royal Horse Guards, attached Heavy Camel Regiment, and afterwards a Yeoman of the Guard: decorated for his ‘perfect coolness under fire ... notably at Abu Klea when he rendered material assistance when the Arabs got into the square’, he received his decoration from the hands of the Queen at Windsor Castle in February 1886: his was the very first D.C.M. awarded to the Royal Horse Guards and remains one of about 10 won by the regiment to date - a rare distinction indeed in company with his M.S.M., one of the first non-annuity awards ever presented to the Yeomen of the Guard

Distinguished Conduct Medal
, V.R. (561 Tp. Cor[pl. Maj.] A. White, Rl. Hse. Gds., 17th Jan. & 13th Feb. 85); Egypt and Sudan 1882-89, dated reverse, 3 clasps, Tel-El-Kebir, The Nile 1884-85, Abu Klea (561 Corpl. of Hse., Rl. H. Gds.); Jubilee 1897, bronze; Coronation 1902, bronze; Army L.S. & G.C., E.VII.R. (R. Corpl.-Maj., Rl. Horse Guards); Army Meritorious Service Medal, E.VII.R. (Rgtl. Cpl. Major, Rl. Horse Gds.); Khedive’s Star 1882, the first with partially obscured rank details due to edge bruising and contact marks, the earlier awards good fine or better, the remainder very fine and better (7) £8000-10000

Footnote

D.C.M. recommendation submitted to the Queen 4 February 1886, relevant details being published in The Times of 24 February 1886:

‘T.C.M. (now R.C.M.) Alfred White, Royal Horse Guards, acted as Corporal-Major of the R.H.G. detachment of the Heavy Camel Regiment; was present at every engagement, and on all occasions showed perfect coolness under fire, and set an excellent example. Notably at Abu Klea he rendered material assistance when the Arabs got into the square, and at the attack on the convoy on 13 February, displayed great coolness in assisting the wounded into the sick square. He also served in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882.’

Alfred White was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in August 1851 and enlisted in the Royal Horse Guards at Regent’s Park in October 1870. An imposing figure for the age - standing six feet tall - he completed the advanced military equitation course and was advanced to Corporal of Horse in 1875.

Active service followed in Egypt and the Sudan from May to October 1882, when he joined the composite regiment made up of the 1st & 2nd Life Guards, the 7th Dragoon Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, and participated in the “Moonlight Charge” at Kassassin on 28 August - when the cavalry squadrons swept down at sunset around a high sand ridge, taking the enemy completely by surprise - and at Tel-el-Kebir in the following month; so, too, in the Gordon Relief Expedition 1884-85, when he won his D.C.M. for bravery as a Troop Corporal-Major in the Heavy Camel Regiment at Abu Klea on 17 January 1885 and in the attack on his convoy a few weeks later.

At Abu Klea, his unit flanked the Naval Brigade in the rear of the square, where, famously, the Arabs took the advantage after the exposed Gardner gun jammed, a failure compounded by a wheeling movement ordered by another six-footer from the “Blues”, the colourful Colonel “Fred” Burnaby. He was slain, in addition to eight other officers and 65 men, while the wounded totalled nine officers and 85 men - many of these later dying of their injuries.

Having received his D.C.M. from the hands of the Queen at Windsor Castle on 23 February 1886, White next went overseas in November 1889, as a member of a delegation to the British South Africa Company’s territory in Matabeleland, when he accompanied his Adjutant, Captain V. J. F. Ferguson, Surgeon Colonel H. F. L. Melladew and batman Trooper Ross to Chief Lobengula’s kraal at Bulawayo - all of them had their documents endorsed with an appreciation of their services by H.R.H. the C.-in-C. on their return in May 1890.

In October 1890, White was recommended for the M.S.M. and annuity by Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Kilmarnock, an earlier submission in December 1888 having been refused, and on this occasion, since he had also been noted for the Yeomen of the Guard, it was concluded ‘if successful for one, he will not be eligible for the other.’ Discharged to a pension in October 1891, a vacancy in the Guard finally occurred in February 1895, and White was subsequently present at the inspections made by Queen Victoria in 1897, and by Edward VII in June 1901, when 93 Yeomen were on parade. But he never saw the M.S.M. that had eluded him in life, for he died in February 1907, shortly before the award was announced in AO 99 of May 1907, one of the first ever granted to a Yeoman of the Guard without annuity (see The Annuity Meritorious Service Medal 1847-1953, and The Yeomen of the Guard 1823-1903, both by Ian McInnes, for further details).