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

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Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £1,700

Estimate: £1,600 - £2,000

Four: Lieutenant-Colonel C. M. FitzGerald, Bengal Staff Corps

Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Kandahar (Lt. C. M. Fitzgerald, Sub-Asst. Comsy. Genl.); Kabul to Kandahar Star 1880 (Lieut. C. M. Fitzgerald Sub. Asst. Comt. Genl. Bengal.); India General Service 1854-94, 1 clasp, N.E. Frontier 1891 (Captn. C. M. Fitzgerald S.C.); India General Service 1895-1902, 1 clasp, Relief of Chitral 1895 (Major C. M. FitzGerald Comst. Transpt. Deptt.) light contact marks and some pitting from star, otherwise very fine or better (4) £1,600-£2,000

Footnote

Charles Mordaunt FitzGerald was born on 4 July 1852, in Allahabad, India, the son of Major Charles Mordaunt FitzGerald (senior) and his wife, Mary. His father having died in 1867, his mother made application on 28 September 1868, for her son’s Cadetship to Addiscombe. FitzGerald was appointed Gentleman Cadet, from the 11th foot, into the Indian Staff Corps in the London Gazette dated 29 December 1871, and was promoted to Lieutenant, with seniority from 30 December 1871, in the London Gazette dated 14 March 1873. By 29 March 1872, FitzGerald had arrived in India and, performing duties within the Bengal Staff Corps, seemingly followed in his father’s footsteps within the Commissary Dept.

In 1877-78, FitzGerald served as Special Famine Officer in Mysore, was specially mentioned for his work and was included amongst those who received the thanks of the Government of India. As the famine season ended, he was invalided due to constant fever and sickness and took sick leave in Shimla from 12 June to 11 September, 1878.

On the outbreak of hostilities in 1878 with Afghanistan, FitzGerald accompanied the 21st Bengal Native Infantry and proceeded with that Regiment on 8 October to Thal, to form part of an assembling force under General Roberts. The first significant action witnessed by Fitzgerald appears to have been the capture of the Peiwar Kotal on 2 December, 1878. Although Shadbolt records his presence at this action, the Regiment itself appears not to have taken any active part and he does not appear on the medal roll for that clasp. However, he was present with his regiment during the next action at Matun on 7 January 1879. Shadbolt records his further services as:

‘Held for three months the Commissariat charge of Pezwan, Jagdalak and Seh Baba. Was present with Col. Jenkins’ force at the second action of Charasiah. Proceeded in Commissariat charge of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Northern Afghanistan Field Force to Koh-i-Daman, and of the Cavalry Brigade, Kabul-Kandahar Field Force in the march to the relief of Kandahar, and was present at the battle of Kandahar.’

Shadbolt omitted to record that FitzGerald was mentioned in the despatch by General Roberts, dated 26 September 1880, following the famous march from Kabul to Kandahar and the subsequent battle on the 1st September:

“As regards supplies, the greatest difficulty would have been experienced but for the admirable arrangements made by Major A. R. Badcock and the officers of the Commissariat Department* and by Lt. Col. R. C. Low and the officers of the Transport Department. Sufficient praise cannot be bestowed upon all these officers. They never spared themselves; and often, after the longest march and with the prospect of having to start off again at a very early hour the following morning, had to work on until a late hour in the night”
*Lt. C. M. FitzGerald, Bengal Staff Corps, is then mentioned in the margin (
London Gazette 3 December 1880).

For his services during the campaign, FitzGerald received the medal with clasp, Kandahar and the Kabul to Kandahar Star and was mentioned in despatches.

After returning from the Afghan campaign, FitzGerald next saw active service in a small punitive expedition into the Akha tribal territory in Assam, where he was the sole Commissariat officer for the expedition, which took place between December 1883 and January 1884. For his services he was mentioned in despatches (No medal was awarded for this brief expedition). He was promoted to Captain on 30 December 1883, whilst on this expedition.

Further active service occurred with his appointment to the Manipur expedition, during March and April 1891, as Chief Commissariat Officer for the entire expedition, under Major-General H. Collett, C.B. – a task for which he was responsible for the Supply and Transport of three columns of advance, from Kohima, Cachar and Burma. The climate and conditions during the rainy season were arduous and dangerous due to disease and difficult terrain and FitzGerald remained in Commissariat command throughout, despite suffering from fever and dysentery. Major-General Collett, C.B., wrote in his despatch:

“Captain C. M. FitzGerald, Chief Commissariat Officer – A thoroughly competent and experienced officer. Has managed his departmental business to my entire satisfaction”

For his services in the Manipur Expedition, he was awarded the medal and clasp and was mentioned in despatches. He had been informed that his name had been put forward to receive an additional reward, but this did not materialise. Following this expedition, on return to India his health broke down and he received leave on Medical Certificate and spent some time in Australia. He was promoted to Major on 30 December 1891.

In 1895, he was appointed Divisional Transport Officer of the Chitral Relief Force and proceeded to the forward operating base at Nowshera on 16 March, where he was ordered to arrange for the march of the Division under Lt-General Sir R. C. Low, K.C.B., to commence in two weeks. The Force was to proceed over difficult, mountainous country, with long lines of communication over a distance of over 200 miles; over three high mountain passes, one being at just over 10,000 feet and snow covered. He had 70 officers, 100 N.C.Os. and 35,000 animals under his charge. This line of communication was kept open and active for six months and allowed the movement of 17,000 troops over that period. For his services, he received the medal and clasp and was mentioned in despatches:

“...Major C. M FitzGerald, Indian Staff Corps, Divisional Transport Officer, ...have administered their respective charges satisfactorily”.

This evident lack of reward obviously caused great despair and annoyance to FitzGerald, particularly as he watched other, more junior and less experienced officers receive such distinctions as the C.B., D.S.O. or Brevet rank. In 1897 he wrote in detail, routed through the chain of command, to the Commander-in-Chief, H.M. Forces, expressing his grievance at the lack of recognition. As can be imagined, the report found no favour – clearly, although being an extremely capable, effective and experienced Transport and Commissariat Officer, he had upset someone with influence and his requests for recognition were firmly denied.

On 30 December 1897, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. In May, 1901, it would appear that he had a period of leave with his wife and daughter to Australia, taking the S.S. Austral to Sydney. He retired from the Indian Army on 1 July 1904. He attended the inaugural ‘Kabul-Kandahar Dinner’ in 1909, and, by 1911, was living in Helston, Cornwall.

On the outbreak of WW1, FitzGerald offered his services to the War Office and served at home in the U.K. as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Labour Corps at the age of 65, between 17 July 1917 and 29 October 1918. Lieutenant-Colonel FitzGerald died on 22 July 1922, at Stuttgart, Germany, aged 70. Sold with comprehensive research.