Medals for the Egypt and Sudan Campaigns from the collection of Colin Narbeth

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Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £2,200

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A rare Sudan group of four awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Persse, 2nd Dragoon Guards, attached Egyptian Army

Queen’s Sudan 1896-98 (Capt., 2/D. Gds.), official correction to unit; British War and Victory Medals (Lt. Col.); Khedive’s Sudan 1896-1908, 6 clasps, Firket, Hafir, Sudan 1897, The Atbara, Khartoum, Jerok, unnamed, very fine (4) £1800-2200


The group, less the British War and Victory Medals but with an Order of the Medjidie 3rd Class appeared in D.N.W. 25 February 1999, lot 499.

William Horsley Persse was born on 16 October 1863, and educated at Wellington College. He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment in March 1883 and, in May 1885, received a regular army commission in the Hampshire Regiment. Two months later he transferred to the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) and served in India from 1886 to 1895, when the regiment was ordered to Egypt. In March 1895, Persse was promoted to Captain and, in the following year, seconded on special service to the Egyptian Army. Appointed as a Squadron Commander in the Egyptian Cavalry, he was present in the Expedition to Dongola in 1896, and took part in the battles of Firket on 7th June and Hafir on 19th-26th September. For his services he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 3 November 1896) and awarded the Order of the Medjidie, 4th Class, in addition to the Queen’s medal and the Khedive’s medal with two clasps.

Persse next took part in the Nile Expedition 1897, in command of the 1st Squadron, 1st Egyptian Cavalry, engaged in railway protection duties (clasp to Egyptian medal). In the Nile Expedition of 1898, he took part in the reconnaissance of the Atbara River on 21st March, for which he gained his second mention in despatches (London Gazette 24 May 1898), “for gallantry in which his Squadron of Egyptian Cavalry dislodged a superior force from a wooded area along the Atbara River.” In the sharp engagement during the reconnaissance of 4th April, near Abadar, Persse was severely wounded in the forearm while directing the fire of his men (London Gazette 24 May 1898), but appears to have been sufficiently recovered to take part in the battle of Atbara River on 8th April (clasp to Egyptian medal). The long hot summer that followed the operations of the Spring, culminated in the battle of Omdurman and capture of Khartoum in the early days of September. For his part in the action at Omdurman, Persse was again mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 30 September 1898), and received his fifth clasp to the Egyptian medal.

After the reconquest of the Sudan, Major Persse continued on active service with the Egyptian Army and, in March 1901, he was placed in command of the Egyptian Cavalry with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In the following year he was elevated to the 3rd class of the Order of the Medjidie (London Gazette 23 September 1902). He took part in the operations in Southern Sennar, in the south-eastern Sudan, January to March 1904, against the slave trader Ibrahim Wad Mahmud, during which he commanded the cavalry of the force under Miralai Gorringe Bey, C.M.G., D.S.O., in the attack on Jebel Jerok on 11th February. After three days of fighting, the town of Jebel Jerok was captured, large numbers of slaves released, and the greater part of Mahmud’s followers annihilated. Mahmud himself escaped but was finally captured and hanged on the 3rd March (6th clasp to Egyptian medal).

Persse returned to service with the 2nd Dragoon Guards in 1906 and retired after 28 years of active service, on 25 February 1911. He was recalled to active service in August 1914 and placed in command of the 2nd Reserve Regiment of Cavalry. He served in France with the 5th Division from March 1917 to September 1918. Lieutenant-Colonel Persse died in 1959, aged 96 years. Sold with a quantity of copied research.