Boxer medals punch above their weight

At the turn of the 19th to 20th century an anti-Christian, anti-Imperial uprising took place in China, in support of the Qing dynasty.

The uprising was undertaken by groups of aggrieved young men, well-trained in the martial arts but with relatively little weaponry. They called themselves the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, and so nicknamed Boxers by Westerners.

At Dix Noonan Webb's recent auction of rare and valuable medals, two sets of medals from British forces involved in the conflict came up sale:

Firstly, an important set of medals held by Colonel J T B Bookey, a doctor with the Indian Medical Service who was at one point appointed Surgeon to the Viceroy.

Boxer Bath Medals
Order of the Bath, and other medals awarded to Colonel Bookey

Bookey saw considerable service, especially during the Boxer rebellion, details of which were mentioned in despatches several times. His medals were:  

Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion's breast badge, India General Service 1854-95, 6 clasps, Jowaki 1877-8, Burma 1885-7, Burma 1887-89, Hazara 1888, Samana 1891, Waziristan 1894-95,India General Service 1895-1902, 2 clasps, Punjab Frontier 1897-98, Tirah 1897-98, China 1900, 1 clasp, Relief of Pekin, USA, Military Order of the Dragon.

These were given a guide price of £2,500-3,000, but enthusiastic bidders buffeted the price up to £5,200.

Even more impressive was a single Boxer Rebellion Medal awarded to Private William Turner. The value of this is in the clasp: Defence of Legations which marks a famous defence against a Boxer siege in Pekin in 1900, for which the Captain, L S T Halliday, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Boxer Rebellion/Uprising, Defence of Legations
Private William Turner's Boxer Rebellion Medal

Turner was also specifically commended for his actions during the assault. Estimated at £6,000-8,000, the medal finally went under the hammer for an impressive £9,800, and was taken away by a satisfied bidder.

The strong performance of the medals perhaps reflects the general trend of increasing strength for Chinese-related collectibles. The Boxers were certainly marked for their bravery, which their countryman could take pride in, despite the ultimate failure of the rebellion.

Don't miss our exclusive interview with David Erskine-Hill of Dix Noonan Webb.


Images: Dix Noonan Webb

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