The Collection of Medals to Yeomen of the Guard formed by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Denny

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Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £5,000

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The outstanding Crimean War D.C.M. group of four awarded to Sergeant-Major John Breeze, 11th Hussars and Yeoman of the Guard, who lost his arm at the battle of Inkermann

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (Serjt. John Breeze, 11th Hussars); Crimea 1854-56, 3 clasps, Alma, Inkermann, Sebastopol (Sergt. John Breeze. 11: Hussars) contemporary engraved naming; Jubilee 1887, bronze, unnamed; Turkish Crimea, British issue, unnamed, the first two with contact marks and edge bruising, and sometime silver plated, otherwise nearly very fine, the remainder good very fine (4) £4,000-£5,000

Footnote

Provenance: Needes Collection, Glendining’s, June 1929, without the Jubilee medal; Dix Noonan Webb, December 2002.

John Breeze was born in Stepney in about 1818, and enlisted into the 11th Hussars at Hounslow in March 1841. He sailed for the Crimea in May 1854 and served there until invalided in May 1855. He lost his right arm at the battle of Inkermann on 5 November 1854, the circumstances being described by the Regimental Sergeant-Major, George Loy Smith, in his book A Victorian R.S.M.:

‘The Chasseurs d’Afrique now went past us at a gallop and passed over the brow of the hill. We halted about 200 yards from the top. The enemy must have known we were there, for they dropped their cannonballs just over the brow of the hill so that they passed through us about breast high. One struck a horse’s head knocking it to pieces, then took off Sergeant Breese’s arm, taking the three bars and leaving the crown. It then struck Private Wright, who was riding a Russian horse, full in the chest, passing through him. He fell out of the saddle close to my horse’s feet. His horse then galloped away and we never saw it again.’

Breeze was a victim of the Crimean winter during the great storm of 14 November, when many injured were left unattended lying outside Balaklava Harbour. He was then taken to Scutari, where Sergeant-Major George Loy Smith visited him on 22 November: ‘On asking the sergeant whose arm was struck off at Inkermann, how he was, he said his arm had been amputated a second time, and that he suffered greatly and feared he should not live he had had such a dreadful diarrhoea. Having heard that Dutch cheese was an excellent thing for diarrhoea, I went out to the bazaar and bought one. He eat a large piece at once, the next day he was much better, after that he improved daily and was quite well as far as his health was concerned. Before I left Scutari, he often thanked me, saying the cheese saved his life.’

Sergeant Breeze was successfully recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 10 January 1855, with a gratuity of £10. His was one of eight D.C.M.’s awarded to men of the 11th Hussars for services in the Crimea. Invalided home, he was presented with his Crimea medal by Queen Victoria, on Horse Guards Parade, on 18 May 1855. He left the Army that same month and was appointed to the Queen’s Body Guard as a Yeoman in the same year. He attended the first Balaklava Banquet on 25 October 1875, and had his portrait published in the Illustrated London News on 30 October, where he was described as one of the ‘Survivors of the Light Cavalry Brigade.’ This much was true, but Sergeant Breeze is not recorded as having been in the charge. He is recorded as a survivor in the 1877 Balaklava Commemoration List, but not in the 1879 edition.

Breeze rose to become Sergeant-Major of the Fourth Division of the Guard, and was reported to have been a favourite of Queen Victoria, attending the 1887 Jubilee for which he received the bronze medal. He died at Battersea on 11 October 1889, and was buried two days later in Battersea Cemetery. His gravestone states ‘formerly of the 11th Hussars and one of the Balaklava Six Hundred.’

Sold with comprehensive research and several copy photographs of Breeze, including two in colour, and original page from the Illustrated London News covering the presentation of Crimean medals by Queen Victoria.