First Victoria Cross awarded to civilian ranks highly in Noonans’ Sept. 14 sale

 

Victoria Cross awarded to Thomas Henry Kavanagh for his actions during the Siege of Lucknow in India in 1857, est. £300,000-£400,000

Victoria Cross awarded to Thomas Henry Kavanagh for his actions during the Siege of Lucknow in India in 1857, est. £300,000-£400,000

LONDON – A Victoria Cross awarded to Irishman Thomas Henry Kavanagh for his actions during the 1857 Siege of Lucknow in India will be sold by Mayfair-based Auctioneers Noonans on Wednesday, September 14 in an auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria.

The Victoria Cross is the most prestigious award available in the British honors system. Only five British civilians have received the Victoria Cross, and Kavanagh was the first of the five to earn it. Also, his decoration is one of only two that is not currently in a museum. It is estimated at £300,000-£400,000 (about $348,000-$464,500). Absentee and Internet live bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.

Kavanagh, who was born on July 15, 1821 in Mullingar, County, Westmeath, Ireland, was employed as a clerk in the Bengal Civil Service prior to the siege. In November 1857, he volunteered to leave the safety of the Residency, the main British stronghold in the area, disguised as a sepoy – an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders.

Kavanagh and a Brahmin scout jostled past armed rebels through the narrow Lucknow streets and talked their way past sentries in the moonlight. They crossed deep rivers, tramped through swamps and narrowly avoided capture after startling a farmer who raised the alarm. On finally reaching a British cavalry outpost, Kavanagh delivered Major General James Outram’s vital despatch to Sir Colin Campbell and guided his column to the Residency garrison and performed a successful evacuation.

Noonans Auctioneer and Associate Director Medal Specialist Oliver Pepys explains: “Kavanagh was decorated with the highest honor for undertaking an epic quest to escape the surrounded Residency at night, crossing enemy lines, making contact with the camp of the commander-in-chief, and then using his local knowledge to guide the relieving force through the city to the beleaguered garrison by the safest route.”

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The current rate of exchange is £1 = $1.18.

 

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