A PAIR of rare medals awarded to a military captain for distinguished service under the command of two of Britain’s most celebrated war heroes will go under the hammer at a North Yorkshire auction house tomorrow.
Embossed with the image of Queen Victoria, the tokens of triumph were once awarded to Patrick Campbell, as a British Army captain of the 48th Regiment of Foot under the command of the 1st Duke of Wellington, and as an Able Seaman as a member of the British Navy under the leadership of Lord Admiral Nelson.
However, mystery surrounds the medals, which have until now remained in the hands of the recipient’s York-based ancestors, with very little known about Captain Campbell’s background, his military career and why he switched from the British Navy to the Army.
The task of uncovering more information fell to Tennants Auctioneers where military specialist Oonagh Drage has carried out research ahead of the medals being auctioned off.
Ms Drage found that, unusually, Captain Campbell had switched from serving the British Navy as an Able Seaman - a member of the Navy who had at least two years’ experience at sea - in Holland in 1799 and on Baltic campaigns during the Napoleonic Wars, to joining the Army and seeing action during the so-called Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
Details of Captain Campbell’s involvement became apparent when his service record was discovered on Captain Lionel S Challis’ ‘Peninsula Roll Call’. Captain Challis, of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles spent over three decades listing every British Army officer who had served in the Peninsula War.
His records show that Captain Campbell served in Portugal between May 1809 and April 1814, and at the battle of Albuera in May 1811, where both the French and the Allies suffered heavy losses totalling approximately 15,000 men, he was one of 1,000 Allied soldiers captured by the French as prisoners of war. It is not known what happened to him next except that he was awarded for his military service with the Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840 in recognition of his involvement during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and the Military General Service Medal 1793-1814, for his service in the Portuguese campaign between 1809-1814.
Ms Drage said: “It’s very unusual for someone from the Navy to transfer into the Army during the same war (the Napoleonic Wars). We don’t know much about the history behind his medals and at first we thought we would list them separately because we didn’t think they were awarded to the same man.
“He was uniquely mentioned in the Roll Call but is not mentioned in any research literature elsewhere.”
More than 200 years after the war ended and Captain Campbell’s medals are due to be sold as a pair at Tennants Auction Centre in Leyburn for an estimated £5,000-£7,000 at a sale of military items - including Victorian-era helmets, antique firearms, swords, uniforms and other medals - which starts at 10.30am tomorrow.
“These types of items are very collectable and we hope there will be plenty of interest,” Ms Drage said.
Tale of the 48th Foot
A bloody conflict, the Peninsular War saw Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire clash with the allied powers of Britain, Spain and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula, ending in a crushing French defeat.
The role of Captain Campbell’s regiment - the 48th Regiment of Foot - was significant to the war effort, with its men fighting as part of the Duke of Wellington’s army in ten battles in total, most famously at the Battle of Talavera which unfolded over two days, July 27-28, 1809, in Spain.
On the second day of this particular battle, the Regiment effectively ambushed French troops with a bayonet charge to protect a strategic hilltop vantage point.