Story behind the medals

Coin and medal specialist Naomi Wilson knows a thing or two about medals, having worked with one of the UK’s oldest auction houses, Fellows, for 7 years in their Coins & Medals Department. Now Head of Department, she picks out her favourite medals (in no particular order) from the thousands she has seen and valued. «They’re not the most famous or the most expensive», she says, “but they are definitely some of the most interesting and quirky I’ve come across.»

Waterloo Medal

Archibald Clark led a colourful life. Fie was born in the parish of Kilminver, Country Argyle in Scotland. By trade a labourer, he enlisted in 1807 at the age of 21 with the 92nd Regiment of the Highland Infantry, Captain Dougald Campbell’s Company. Archibald took part in the Hundred Days campaign during the Napoleonic Wars — though he never made it to the Battle of Waterloo as on the 11th October 1816, aged 30, Clark was rendered unfit for service due to a wound received from a musket ball in action with the enemy at Quatre Bras on 16thjune 1815. His regiment played a leading role in the battle, defending the disputed crossroads that later halted the French attack. Interestingly, when Wellington was cornered by Pire’s forces, he actually rode toward the 92nd Highlanders, calling out to them to crouch low as he jumped his horse over their heads. Several squadrons of French chasseurs then attacked Clark’s battalion (without success), and this could very well have been how he sustained his injuries.

His medal was in very fine condition and had clearly been kept as a prized possession by Archibald and those after.

Estimated to sell between £1,800 — £2,500, the medal achieved a final hammer price of £3,700.

Replica Waterloo Medal

It is always fascinating how replica medals made in the past can become collectable in themselves. When a replica Waterloo Medal came in, named and engraved to a ‘William Cooper 2nd. Batt. 69th. Reg. Foot.’, it was fairly obvious that it was a replica — though a William Cooper has been recorded as being entitled to the Waterloo Medal. The medal appeared as though it had been made for William himself soon after the original, and in these instances it is usually assumed that such medals are replacements for a lost, sold or pawned original. Though of course, we shall never confidently know the circumstances surrounding the replica’s commission.

Estimated to sell for between £80 — £120, the medal achieved an impressive hammer price of £360, showing that a replica with an unusual history, even if it is an uncertain one, can become collectable.

General Sir John Hart Dunne K.C.B.

A rather intriguing piece of military history found its way into the Fellows’ Coins & Medals Department late last year. Originally belonging to General Sir John Hart Dunne K.C.B. this unusual collection included medals and various militaria such as his sabre, gun, sword and assorted uniforms. Dunne was an interesting man, joining the army in 1854 and going on to fight in the Crimean War and Second Opium War before publishing his book, «From Calcutta to Pekin» in 1861.

He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1865, Major-General in 1881 and General in 1893 and in command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade at Aldershort and the troops in the Thames District in his last two rankings respectively. He would eventually be appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London, and after 50 years of service, awarded the K.C.B. in 1906, four years after his retirement.

The medals Fellows received included a K.C.B., The Most Honourable Military, comprising a neck and breast badge, Crimea Medal 1854-56 with 4 clasps for Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman and Sebastopol, Second China War Medal 1857-60 with 2 clasps for Taku Forts 1860 and Pekin 1869, Order of the Medjidie, 5th Class and a Turkish Crimea Medal 1855-56.

The medals sold for a respectable hammer price of £15,000 after an estimate of £12,000 — £18,000 with the collection achieving £36,000.

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