Ron Handley's militaria collection: from the London Fusiliers to Nelson

This month, Dix Noonan Webb is holding an auction of militaria centred on the collection of Ron Handley. It is one of their rostrum auctions, which they only devote to particularly valuable or interesting collections.

The Handley collection is primarily based around badges and insignias, though there are several other types on offer in the auction including helmets, military equipment and even art.

Handley was born on May 27 1920 in Tower Hamlets and enlisted into the 8th Battalion of the London Fusiliers in 1939 at the age of 18 as a Territorial, later re-enlisting as the only regular soldier of the Battalion.

3rd Regiment ‘The Buffs’ Officers Shako Plate
3rd Regiment ‘The Buffs’ Officer's Shako Plate

He served most of the war with the Battalion, transferring after fighting ceased into the Special Investigation Branch of the Corps of Military Police and spending the remaining years of his service hunting war criminals in Italy.

Later in life, as well as being a successful businessman, Handley became a well known military historian and Military Historical Society member. He even wrote a book about his beloved regiment "The First Londons" which including pictures of some of the badges and buttons in his collection at that point.

Dixon Pickup, Ron's friend and fellow member of the Military Historical Society notes that in the late 1970s he was able to buy the late Jim Lewis's fine collection of East Kent regimental insignia, encouraging him to branch out from his Fusilier interest to all regiments of the British Army.

Royal Lancers Full Dress Sabretache
A striking and well-preserved Royal Lancers full dress sabretache

Several highlights from the hoard clearly link back to Jim Lewis. One notable example is the 3rd (East Kent) Regiment (The Buffs) Officer's Shako Plate dating to 1829-44.

An excessively rare example, the universal copper gilt back plate is overlaid with large laurel sprays. The central Dragon over the '3' shows battle honours on a continuous scroll in the surround. Both the two loop fasteners and all other wires are present, and as a whole the impressive piece is in near mint state.

Very different from this is the Royal Lancers Full Dress Sabretache dating to 1837-1852 which belonged to Captain Robert Hodgson who served in the Crimean War. He was also present with the 16th Lancers at the siege and capture of Bhurtpoor in 1825-26.

George IV Period Coconut Powder Flask
The carefully carved George IV period Coconut Powder Flask

It is a very rare example, with the 5.2cm gold train lace enclosing a scarlet cloth face bearing a QVC over crossed lances. Over the lances there is a 'VR' cypher and below the cypher 'XII'. It includes laurel sprays with battle honours for Peninsula and Waterloo.

From the 42nd Highlanders is an extremely fine and unusual George IV Period Coconut Powder Flask with a grotesque head set with double coloured glass eyes.

Of particular interest to Nelson enthusiasts will be a Silver Pair Cased Pocket Watch, commemorating the Victory at the Battle of the Nile with hallmarks for London 1799. It is numbered '26352' and boasts gold hour and minute hands, a glazed face and ornate gilt movement.

Nelson Silver Pair Cased Pocket Watch
The Silver Pair Cased Pocket Watch engraved to mark Nelson's victory

It is engraved, 'Admiral Nelson Lord of the Nile Aug. 1 1798' and comes complete with the key. The condition of the movement is unknown, but it is in otherwise good condition and very rare.

Interest in Nelson remains strong. In fact the value of his autograph has increased by 427.8% since 2000 according to the PFC40 Autograph Index, and we are proud to be holding a document signed by Nelson in stock.

The Handley collection will be sold on December 14 in London.


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