BRINGING MILITARY HISTORY TO LIFE
Posted in: Works of Art & Furniture
Posted on: 20 May 2016
The Furniture & Works of Art Auction this April features an outstanding object of military history. Lot 807, a British Army General Service Medal 1793-1814, is likely to appeal to historians, collectors and the general public alike.
The Peninsular War British Army General Service Medal commemorates the campaigns and battles of the British Army between 1801 and 1814. The medal was not awarded without a bar, and the bars mainly commemorate the actions of the Peninsular War, but also include other campaigns. The silver medal shows the diademed head of Queen Victoria, reading ‘VICTORIA REGINA 1848’ with the reverse showing Queen Victoria standing on a plinth crowning the Duke of Wellington with a laurel wreath. Applications for the medal were invited from the surviving eligible veterans for the medal in 1847. This was thirty four years after the last battle, and the next of kin of the dead were not eligible to apply. The medal was issued in 1848 to the eligible twenty-five thousand men who had made a claim, and therefore the numbers of this medal issued were never going to be large.
Medals are named in serif capitals, with lot 807 being awarded to John Bell of the 71st Foot. The 71st Regiment of Foot was a Highland Regiment in the British Army, which later became the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. The 71st Highlanders were originally known as Fraser’s Highlanders, and by the time they fought in the Peninsular War, they had changed the way they trained, marched and fought. In the Battle of Vitoria they were to hold the extreme right of the line and were ambushed at the amphitheatre and massacred by two French regiments. They also fought at the Battle of Waterloo in
1815 as part of the 3rd Brigade in Major General Sir Henry Clinton’s 2nd Division.
Lot 807 provides a fascinating insight into the service of John Bell and the Regiment as they fought in Napoleonic Wars. The lot has bars for ‘Roleia’, referring to the Battle of Roliça (17th August 1808), ‘Vimiera’ for the Battle of Vimeiro (21st August 1808), ‘Corunna’ for the Battle of Corunna (16th January 1809) and ‘Vittoria’ for the Battle of Vitoria (21st June 1813), the decisive battle of the Peninsular War that finally broke Napoleon’s power in Spain. Moreover, Roliça, Vimeiro and Vitoria were led by the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Don’t miss out on this remarkable piece of military history.
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