A Collection of Medals to the 23rd Foot Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Date of Auction: 27th February 2019

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £2,600 - £3,000

The Peninsula War medal awarded to Major-General Peter Brown, 23rd Foot, latterly Commandant of the Royal Military Asylum, the school for children of soldiers’ families at Chelsea; together with a fine oil portrait of him as a Captain circa 1808

Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Martinique (Peter Brown, Capt. 23rd Foot.) minor marks, otherwise good very fine; together with a fine portrait in oils on board depicting Brown as a Captain in the 23rd Foot whilst in Canada, circa 1808, image approximately 32x26.5cm, in gilt frame with name plaque to base, the reverse with old ink inscription ‘Captain Peter Brown 23rd R.W. Fusiliers, supposed to have been painted in Canada about 1805’ [sic], and a pasted note with typed services, good condition (2) £2,600-£3,000


Provenance: Medal, Sotheby, March 1901; Portrait, The Parker Gallery, Albermarle Street.

Peter Brown was born in London in 1775. He was commissioned as Ensign into the 82nd Foot on 7 December 1797. He was promoted to Lieutenant, 18 December 1802; Captain, 5th Foot, 21 March 1805; to 23rd Foot, 28 March 1805; Major, 21 June 1813; Lieutenant-Colonel, 18 June 1815; Colonel, 10 January 1837.

Brown served with the 82nd on an expedition to the coast of France early in 1800, and subsequently in the Mediterranean. He served with the 23rd at the siege and capture of Copenhagen in 1807. He then deployed with the 23rd to Canada and afterwards took part in the siege and capture of Martinique, January-February 1809.

On 2 April 1809, he was attached to the Portuguese Army as Lieutenant-Colonel in the 13th Line Regiment, and in 1810 was appointed Commandant of Detachments at Belém, the logistics base at Lisbon for the British Army, where he remained until the end of hostilities in 1814. During his time there, Brown had taken note of the plight of the children of servicemen on campaign and set up a school for these camp followers to bring them closer to the benefits of even a rudimentary education, which he modelled on the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea. He also served on the Staff in the Netherlands, as Commandant of Ghent, and subsequently with the Army of Occupation, 1815-18. He was placed on the half-pay of the 14th Foot on 5 September 1816.

Colonel Brown was appointed Commandant of the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, on 15 December 1843, by which time the institution had already developed as one of the best free education provisions for the sons and daughters of servicemen, based on the Madras system. During his tenure as Commandant, the school also became a place of medical study and the institution’s staff surgeon, Thomas G. Balfour, became a pioneer in the study of childhood diseases, specifically scarlet fever. Brown also instituted programs that encouraged good conduct amongst the school’s children and introduced a Good Conduct medal for that purpose.

Brown, who was promoted to Major-General on 9 November 1846, retired on 1 April 1852, and died on 3 January 1853, aged 77.