The Channer Family Medals

Date of Auction: 22nd July 2016

Sold for £200,000

Estimate: £180,000 - £220,000

The unique ‘Perak’ Victoria Cross and ‘Hazara’ C.B. group of four awarded to Major-General G. N. Channer, Indian Army, who was awarded his V.C. for an action on 20 December 1875 whilst serving with the 1st Goorkha Light Infantry - Sent forward on an intelligence gathering operation in command of a small detachment of Gurkhas to reconnoitre a ‘formidable’ enemy stockade, he made an attack on his own initiative, jumping into the stockade and shooting the first Malay dead with his revolver, he succeeded in driving the enemy completely from their position

Victoria Cross, reverse of the suspension bar inscribed ‘Captain George N. Channer, Bengal Staff Corps.’, reverse centre of the Cross dated ‘20th December 1875.’; The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion’s breast badge, 18 carat gold and enamels, hallmarked London 1887, complete with gold swivel-ring bar suspension and gold ribbon buckle; India General Service 1854-94, 4 clasps, Umbeyla, ‘Perak. 1875-6’, ‘Jowaki. 1877-8.’, Hazara 1888 (G. N. Channer, Bengal Staff Corps.) contemporary re-engraved naming, the second and third clasps of fine quality private manufacture; Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Peiwar Kotal (Lt. Col. G. N. Channer. V.C. 29th Ben. N.I.) nearly extremely fine (4) £180000-220000


V.C. London Gazette 14 April 1876:

‘Captain (now Brevet-Major) George Nicholas Channer, Bengal Staff Corps.

For having, with the greatest gallantry, been the first to jump into the Enemy’s Stockade, to which he had been dispatched with a small party of the 1st Ghoorkha Light Infantry, on the afternoon of the 20th December, 1875, by the Officer commanding the Malacca Column, to procure intelligence as to its strength, position &c.

Major Channer got completely in rear of the Enemy’s position, and finding himself so close that he could hear the voices of the men inside, who were cooking at the time, and keeping no look out, he beckoned to his men, and the whole party stole quietly forward to within a few paces of the Stockade. On jumping in, he shot the first man dead with his revolver, and his party then came up, and entered the Stockade, which was of a most formidable nature, surrounded by a bamboo palisade; about seven yards within was a log-house, loop-holed, with two narrow entrances, and trees laid latitudinally, to the thickness of two feet.

The Officer commanding reports that if Major Channer, by his foresight, coolness, and intrepidity, had not taken this Stockade, a great loss of life must have occurred, as from the fact of his being unable to bring guns to bear on it, from the steepness of the hill, and the density of the jungle, it must have been taken at the point of the bayonet.’

The following account describes the services in Perak of the third column, comprising the 1st Gurkhas, including the Head-quarters and about two hundred and fifty men, and is taken from the
History of the 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles 1815-1927, by Nigel Woodyatt:

‘The insurrection had spread to Sunghie Ujong in the neighbourhood of Malacca, where Colonel Clay with this force saled from Penang in the S.S. Malda on the 6th December, reaching Malacca two days later. There one hundred men under Captain Rankin were left to protect the place whilst the rest, with some of the Buffs and half a battery of artillery, proceeded to the mouth of the Lookut River, where they disembarked on the 9th December and moved forward to Rassa. The enemy were in the Terrachee Valley and on a very strong position at the Bukit Putoos (pass). It was arranged to divide the little force into two columns: the first, under Lieut.-Colonel Sale-Hill with about one hundred of the 1st Gurkhas and some naval and artillery details, was to march by a circuitous route for the villages of Pantay and Terrachee; the other column, in which were the rest of the 1st Gurkhas, a detachment of the 10th Foot, etc., was to give Colonel Sale-Hill a day’s start to get on his way to the rear of the pass, which would then be attacked in front by Colonel Clay’s column.

Colonel Clay, on arriving at the foot of the pass about 10 a.m. on the 20th December, had sent forward Captain Channer with a detachment of the 1st Gurkhas to reconnoitre it. So thick was the jungle that, at first, Captain Channer said it was impossible to discover the exact location of the stockade. Being directed to push up as close as possible, and try to find a suitable place for the use of guns and rockets, he and Lieutenant North, R.E., went on along the bed of a torrent till brought up by trees felled across it. Leaving a rearguard to cut through these obstructions, Captain Channer sent out his men on either side, himself going with the left party. Moving cautiously forward through the jungle, he and the twenty-five men with him presently saw smoke from the enemy’s fires, and one of the stockades, which was of logs surrounded by a palisade with numerous obstructions of pointed bamboo. The Malays, lulled into a false security, were cooking and talking, and were quite unaware of Channer’s proximity. Having satisfied himself as to the easiest point of entry, he and two of the Gurkhas leapt the palisade and without hesitation went for the twenty or thirty Malays forming the garrison of the fort. Each of the gallant trio shot a Malay. Two more were killed, and then the rest of the twenty-five Gurkhas came in to the sound of the shots. The Malays, believing they were surrounded and lost, made for the two other stockades, one about eighty yards distant, and the other, which completely blocked the pass, about twice that distance.

Then Channer and his men opened fire from cover on the nearer stockade. Half an hour’s firing sufficed to drive the garrison from this stockade into the farther one across the pass, which also, under the steady fire, they evacuated. In the first fort a four pounder iron gun was found.

The loss on the British side was two killed (Naick Bhagat Sing Rai and sepoy Daljit Thapa) and two wounded. The Malay loss was certainly severe, though, as the dead and wounded had been removed, its amount was not known.

For his gallant action Captain Channer received the Victoria Cross and a brevet-majority, whilst the sepoys Balbir Gharti and Jitman Thapa, who were with him in the first assault, received the Order of Merit.’

George Nicholas Channer was born at Allahabad on 7 January 1842, the eldest surviving son of eight children of George Girdwood Channer, Colonel, Bengal artillery (1811-95). His mother was Susan (d. 1895), eldest daughter of Nicholas Kendall, J.P., vicar of Talland and Lanlivery, Cornwall. Educated at Truro grammar school and Cheltenham college (1856-59), he passed direct on 4 September 1859 into the Indian army, but served with the 89th and 95th regiments until 7 August 1866, when he entered the Bengal Staff Corps. He was first employed on active service in the north-west frontier of India campaign in 1863-64. He served in the Umbeyla campaign, and was present at the actions of 16 and 17 December 1863, against the Sitana fanatics (Medal and clasp). He afterwards was with General Wilde's column in Jadur country in 1864. He also shared in the Lushai operations in 1871-72. He next served, when a Captain, with the 1st Gurkhas in the Malay peninsula in 1875-76, and when with the Malacca column in operations in Sungei Ujong, Terrachi and Sri-Mentani, won the Victoria Cross on 20 December 1875, as related above. The gallant deed practically brought the campaign to a close. Channer was mentioned in despatches, and obtained the brevet of major on 12 April 1876 (Clasp). He next served with the expedition against the Jowaki Afridis in 1877-78 (Clasp); was with the 29th Punjab Infantry in the Afghan war of 1878-80, and with the Kuram field force, and was present in command of the regiment at the attack and capture of the Peiwar Kotal; he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 7 November 1879), and received medal with clasp and the brevet of lieutenant-colonel on 22 November 1879. He attained the rank of Colonel in the army on 22 November 1883, at the early age of forty-one.

In 1888 he commanded the 1st brigade of the Hazara field force, under General Sir John McQueen, in the expedition to the Black Mountain which was undertaken to punish the tribes for an attack on British troops in British territory. Active operations were commenced on 3 October, and by 18 November the troops had returned to British territory. Channer was the moving spirit of the campaign, and earned universal approval by his splendid energy and the inexhaustible fertility of his resources in every emergency. He was mentioned in despatches, received a clasp, and was nominated C.B. on 10 April 1889.

Channer returned to his command, at Jalandhar, and received the reward for distinguished service on 9 September 1892. He was Colonel on the Bengal Staff from 19 November 1888 to 17 August 1890, and Brigadier-General from 22 April 1892 to 11 December 1896, in command of the Assam District. He attained the rank of Major-General on 27 April 1893, and was promoted Lieutenant-General on 9 November 1896, and General on 12 January 1899. In November 1901 he was placed on the unemployed supernumerary list. General Channer died on 13 December 1905, at Buckleigh, Westward Ho! Devonshire. He married in June 1872 Annie Isabella, daughter of John William Watson. His widow survived him, and of his four surviving sons two served in the army.