Defence of Legations Conspicuous Gallantry Medal achieves $78,400

As we reported, Falklands War medal groups were big news at Dix Noonan Webb's recent medals auction, with the extraordinary bravery of two British servicemen in dealing with unexploded bombs aboard ship celebrated.

However, there was another highlight marking a much earlier British conflict - the Boxer rebellion in China.

The most famous operation of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was the defence by just over four hundred allied officers and men of the Legation Settlement, Pekin (now Beijing), against superior numbers of Chinese regular and irregular forces who were intent on evicting all 'foreign devils' from their country.

The British Legation Guard arrived in Pekin on the night of 31 May 1900, and comprised three officers, seventy-five non commissioned officers and men and one bugler, all of the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

The detachment, which also included three Royal Navy ratings, was under the command of Captain B. M. Sprouts, R.M., who was subsequently mortally wounded. Each of the three Naval ratings present during the Defence were honourably mentioned.

Last year, we mentioned the value that even a service medal with a 'Defence of Legations' clasp could have. But Dix Noonan Webb had something better in this instance: a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal set with the CGM relating to the Legations.

Defence of Legations Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
The 'Defence of Legations' Conspicuous Gallantry Medal

Only 8 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals were awarded for services in China 1900, including two for the Defence of the Legations at Pekin. The award to Sergeant Preston, R.M.L.I. is in the collection of the Royal Marine Museum, Eastney, so this was a unique opportunity.

The medals belonged to Leading Signalman Harry Swannell, Royal Navy - an extract from the London Gazette, 1900 tells the story:

"Sir, I have the honour to bring to your notice particularly the conduct of Leading Signalman H. Swannell, Her Majesty's ship Orlando. On the 5th instant being in command of the Hanlin outposts, at 10.30 a.m. I heard that Mr Oliphant, her Britannic Majesty's Consular Service had just been wounded.

"I ran out to the spot and found Leading Signalman Swannell attending to Mr Oliphant, who was mortally wounded, under the close and accurate fire of the enemy. He remained with Mr Oliphant until he was brought into a place of safety."

The group of five medals, with light contact marks only, consist of the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, V.R., second issue with scroll suspension; China 1900, 1 clasp, Defence of Legations; the 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.

Listed at £30,000-35,000, it cruised to £50,000.

Rambahadur Limbu's signature
Rambahadur Limbu's signature on a list of Victoria Cross winners
(Click to find out more....)


Collectibles such as medals associated with heroic actions will always be treasured by collectors. For example, we're currently proud to own a list of recipients of the Victoria Cross which has been signed by VC winner Rambahadur Limbu.


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