The Jack Webb Collection of Medals and Militaria

To be Sold on: 20th August 2020

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

The Defence of Legations medal awarded to Mr B. L. Simpson, Chinese Customs, who was mentioned in despatches for ‘exceptionally good service during the siege and attack on the Legation quarter from 20th June to the 14th August’; better known by his pen-name ‘B. L. Putnam Weale’ he wrote a number of books on Far Eastern affairs, notably Indiscreet Letters from Peking, and appears to have meddled in Chinese politics to an extent that led to his assassination at Tientsin in November 1930

China 1900, 1 clasp, Defence of Legations (B. L. Simpson. Chinese Customs) extremely fine £6,000-£8,000

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The Defence of Legations medal awarded to Mr B. L. Simpson, Chinese Customs, who was mentioned in despatches for ‘exceptionally good service during the siege and attack on the Legation quarter from 20th June to the 14th August’; better known by his pen-name ‘B. L. Putnam Weale’ he wrote a number of books on Far Eastern affairs, notably Indiscreet Letters from Peking, and appears to have meddled in Chinese politics to an extent that led to his assassination at Tientsin in November 1930

China 1900, 1 clasp, Defence of Legations (B. L. Simpson. Chinese Customs) extremely fine £6,000-£8,000
Bertram Lenox Simpson was the second son of Mr Charles Lenox Simpson, Senior Commissioner of Chinese Customs. His grandfather, John Weale, married Sarah, daughter of the American revolutionary, General Putnam and from their names he made up the pseudonym of “Putnam Weale,” by which he was known as a writer. Born in 1877, he was educated at Brighton College, and afterwards studied on the Continent and in China, acquiring a knowledge of five languages. In 1896 he joined the Chinese Customs service, served in the siege of the Peking Legations in 1900, and was detached for service with the British Expeditionary Force as brigade interpreter. In a despatch written immediately after the relief of the Legations, the British Minister, Sir Claude MacDonald, included Simpson’s name, with eight others, in a list of Customs employees whose conduct deserved commendation. During the Allied occupation of Peking, however, Simpson went in for organised looting on a scale open only to those who could speak Chinese. MacDonald issued a warrant for his arrest. This was counter-signed by the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces but was never executed because Simpson was operating outside the sector of Peking garrisoned by the British. In 1901 he resigned his post in the Customs and travelled in the Far East.

Simpson was an entertaining writer, but can hardly be counted a serious authority on Far Eastern affairs, although his Manchu and Muscovite, dealing with the Russian penetration before the Russo-Japanese War, deserves mention. Perhaps the most interesting work was Indiscreet Letters from Peking, 1907. In 1913 he produced a melodramatic story, The Romance of a Few Days, the scene of which was Moscow during the Russo-Japanese War.

In July 1921, the Foreign Office issued an intimation, on the authority of the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the effect that “Mr Lenox Simpson does not hold the appointment of Political Adviser to the Chinese Government.” In reply, Simpson stated that he had described himself as Political Adviser for the sake of convenience, as there were other advisers; that he was constantly in touch with the Peking Government; and had come to Europe to investigate and report on foreign relations as affecting the welfare of China. After a stormy and equivocal career, Simpson was assassinated by Chinese political agents in Tientsin in 1930, as reported in The Times of November 12th:

‘Mr Lenox Simpson (“Putnam Weale”), whose death at Tientsin yesterday is announced in a Reuter message from Peking, had served in the Chinese Customs, written many books about China and the Far East generally, and claimed to have been an adviser to successive Presidents of the Chinese Republic. In June 1930, he took over the Customs Office at Tientsin from Colonel Hayley-Bell, who had been evicted by Shansi troops. For some months previously he had been editing a political paper in Peking in English as propaganda for the Northern Coalition of Yen Hsi-shan and Feng Yu-hsiang. A strong protest against Simpson’s action was entered by the Nanking Government, who requested that he should be deported and dealt with by the British authorities “according to law.” On September 30, Simpson was shot at in his house at Tientsin by three Chinese, who escaped after inflicting on him the injuries from which he has now died.’

Sold with an original copy of Indiscreet Letters from Peking by Putnam Weale, and The Siege of Peking by Peter Fleming, this a later paperback edition.