A Collection of Medals for the Second Afghan War 1878-80

Date of Auction: 8th May 2019


Estimate: £1,000 - £1,400

Pair: Major-General L. H. Sibthorpe, 9th Bombay Native Infantry

Indian Mutiny 1857-59, no clasp (Lieut. H. L. Sibthorpe, 9th Bombay N.I.); Afghanistan 1878-80, no clasp (Lt. Col. L. H. Sibthorpe. 9th Bo. N.I.) both fitted with contemporary silver riband buckles, nearly extremely fine (2) £1,000-£1,400


Lester Horatio Sibthorpe was born on 25 June 1834, the son of John Allen Sibthorpe, Solicitor and his wife Frances Mary. He received a classical education at Ilminster Grammar School, and was nominated as a Gentleman Cadet for the Bombay Infantry, and passed the Military Committee at East India House, London, on 11 December 1850. After passing his examinations, he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on 20 January 1851, and on that date proceeded to Bombay, via Marseilles and Egypt, arriving on 23 February 1851, where he commenced duties with the 4th Bombay N.I.

By G.O. of 9th July 1852, he was posted to the 9th Bombay N.I., with whom he was to serve for most of his service. He was appointed as Acting Quarter Master of the 9th B.N.I. on 28 April 1858.

Upon the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, he served in the central region of India and saw active service with the Satpoora Field Force.
The History of the Bombay Army, by Cadell, records:
‘A formidable rising of the Bhils in Kandesh was joined by the numerous mercenary fighting classes to be found near that area. It was crushed by two smart little fights on 11th April, 1858 at Ambapani and Daba Bavdi, in which the 9th and 19th Infantry, a detachment of the 4th Rifles and the Bhil Corps, with the 2nd and 4th Companies of the 4th Battalion Native Artillery and a detachment of Poona Horse took part. (The losses at Ambapani were 79 killed and wounded out of the 850 engaged).’

It was during this action that Lieutenant Sibthorpe, aged 24, greatly distinguished himself. Following the action, Major Evans, commanding the Satpoora Field Force, wrote on 14 April, 1858:
‘As an instance which fell under my own observation, I beg to bring to the notice the conduct of Lieut. Stanley Scott, Adjutant of the Bheel Corps, Lieuts Hanson and Sibthorpe, of the 9th Regiment, who with some 20 men of the latter corps, made an attack, at the termination of the day, on a strong position situated on the summit of a hill, protected by large boulders of stone and defended by a number of Muckranees, who, rendered desperate by the certainty of their ultimate destruction, made frequent sallies, sword in hand and for some time offered a most determined resistance. These officers, taking advantage of the little cover the ground afforded, cautiously but perseveringly advanced in skirmishing order to within twelve paces of their enemy, keeping their men loaded for the final rush. They lost 4 of their number at the onslaught; but 23 of the Muckranees were left dead on the scene of action.’

For his services during the Indian Mutiny, Lieutenant Sibthorpe received the medal and was mentioned in despatches. The conditions during active service appear to have taken their toll on Sibthorpe, for by G.O. of 18 November 1858, he was given 18 months sick leave and permitted to leave for Europe. He was promoted Captain on 20 January 1863, and was temporarily detached from his regiment to serve as Acting Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department between December 1863 and February 1864.

He was appointed to the Bombay Staff Corps on 12 September 1866, and on 31 May 1867, transferred to the 6th Bombay N.I. as officiating Wing Officer. Sibthorpe was promoted to Major on 20 January 1871, and returned to his old regiment, the 9th Bombay N.I. as officiating Wing Officer. He was appointed officiating second-in-command of the 9th B.N.I. on 15 December 1874, and finally promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on 20 January 1877. In 1878, he served in Malta and Cyprus, and on 18 June 1880, he became Commandant of the 9th Bombay N.I. on 18th June 1880. The 9th Bombay N.I. took part in the 2nd Campaign of the Afghan War. Following the defeat of British Forces at Maiwand in June 1880 and the subsequent beginnings of the siege and defence of Kandahar, a relief column, in addition to that en-route from Kabul under General Roberts, was organised to march from Quetta to Kandahar, under Major-General Phayre.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sibthorpe reached Quetta with his regiment on 25 July 1880, and commanded a Force protecting and neutralising uprisings in the Khojak Pass area. The Force consisted of 9th Bombay N.I., Lieutenant Keene, commanding 2 guns of No. 2 Mountain Battery, and Detachments of Sappers and Miners. A succession of skirmishes occurred. On 31 August, the H.Q. of the force finally left the Khojak Pass and proceeded via Chaman, to Kandahar, arriving a few days after the final battle of Kandahar on 1st September. For his services in the Afghan campaign, Sibthorpe received the medal and was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 25 January 1881).

Sibthorpe was promoted to Colonel on 1 July, 1881, and continued to perform regimental and administrative duties in Bombay. Sibthorpe retired on 2 February 1885, receiving the Honorary rank of Major-General. He retired to Northam, North Devon, taking an interest in local government. In 1899, he designed and patented a hanging hook for the suspension of rifles and shotguns to walls and other vertical surfaces. At some point in his career, he wrote a book: ‘Catechism on the Regulations for conducting the Musketry Instruction of the Native Army, in English and Hindustani’. He latterly moved to Exeter, where he lived in strict retirement and died there on 4 May 1920, aged 85. His funeral at Emmanuel Church, followed by interment at Exwick Road Cemetery marked the end of a distinguished career and life. His coffin was draped with the Union Jack.

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