Lot Archive


№ 438


30 June 1994

Hammer Price:

A fine Victorian Officer's G.C.B. group of eight to General Sir W.G. Cameron, Royal Lancaster Regiment, late Grenadier Guards

THE MOST HONOURABLE ORDER OF THE BATH, G.C.B. (Military) sash badge and breast star in silver-gilt and enamels, unmarked, complete with full dress sash; CRIMEA 1854-55, 2 clasps, Alma, Sebastopol (Major, Gren. Gds.) contemporary engraved naming; ABYSSINIA 1867 (Major, 1st Battn. 4th The KOR. Regt.); VOLUNTEER OFFICER'S DECORATION, V.R., the reverse hallmarked 1900; France, LEGION OF HONOUR, 5th class breast badge in silver and enamels with gold centres, the enamel much damaged and poorly repaired; Turkey, ORDER OF MEDJIDIE, 5th class breast badge in silver with gold and enamel centre and crescent suspension; TURKISH CRIMEA, Sardinian issue, unless otherwise described, nearly very fine and better (8)

Sir William Gordon Cameron was a son of the late Colonel William Gordon Cameron, K.H., of Nea House, Christchurch. He was born on October 16, 1827, and after receiving his earlier education privately was sent to the Military College at Dresden, where he remained for some time, in order to prepare for the Army. He was gazetted to a commission as ensign, without purchase, in the 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch), May 24, 1844, the regiment being then quartered at Malta, where he joined. His name, however, had been noted for the Foot Guards, and he had not long to wait before obtaining a transfer to the Grenadier Guards, being brought in as ensign and lieutenant, by purchase, on February 12, 1847. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant and captain in July 1853, he accompanied the 3rd Battalion of the regiment to the Crimea, and did duty with it at the battle of Alma. During his sojourn in London young Cameron had shown considerable aptitude for his profession, so much so that he had gone through the senior course at Sandhurst, and obtained the certificate, the equivalent of that now issued to Staff College graduates. This gave him distinct advantages as the campaign in the East developed, and when a call was made for officers to volunteer for engineering work in the trenches Captain Cameron was one of the first of those chosen for the employment. As an assistant field engineer he took part in the operations of the right attack at the siege of Sebastopol, obtaining special thanks for his Zealand ability, and in October he assumed command of the Volunteer Sharpshooters of the 1st Division, a position for which he was selected on account of his fearless leading. It was whilst acting in that capacity that he was severely wounded. For his services in the campaign his rewards were the war medal with two clasps, knighthood of the Legion of Honour, the 4th Class of the Medjidie, the Turkish medal, and a brevet majority, dated April 24, 1855. From May 1855, to November 1856, so well was he thought of that he was placed in command of the 3rd Regiment of the King's German Legion, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he being at the time under 30 years of age.

His experiences in the field had given the young soldier an increased interest in his profession, so that as soon as peace was concluded he sought and obtained an exchange to the Line, hoping in that way to see, as he said, more of the world than he could as a Guardsman. He was gazetted in the first instance to the 49th Regiment in March 1857, with the promise of early promotion. For that he had not long to wait. The strain of the Indian Mutiny had resulted in a decision to add 28 battalions to the strength of the Army. This enabled the military authorities to provide for Brevet-Major Cameron, who was promoted in October to a substantive majority in the 4th King's Own without purchase. Joining the 1st Battalion of that regiment in India shortly afterwards, he found himself on February 3, 1863, a brevet lieutenant-colonel, and in that rank embarked for Abyssinia at the end of 1867 with the expedition under Sir Robert Napier. No sooner had the field force been organised than Colonel Wilby fell into a higher command, as an acting brigadier. Thus Cameron had the good fortune to command his battalion throughout the march to, and capture of, Magdala. This brought him under the direct notice of General Napier, who mentioned him in high terms in his despatches. 'Lieutenant-Colonel Cameron,' wrote the General, 'has won my admiration by the manner in which he has commanded his excellent regiment, and the soldier like spirit which, by his leading and example, he has so well fostered and maintained.' His services in Abyssinia brought him the brevet rank of colonel, a C.B., and the war medal. He had, however, to wait until April 1873, before he succeeded to the permanent command of his battalion, as it was not until then that Colonel Wilby left finally. He exercised the duties of command from that date until September 1877. Being at Gibraltar, his seniority as a colonel in the Army gave him commend of an infantry brigade at that station from July 1875, to October 1876.

On the severance of his regimental connection in October 1877, he was appointed colonel on the Staff to command the troops at Shorncliffe. Nine months afterwards he became a major-general, and in the following October was transferred to Aldershot to command a brigade. Here he earned a reputation for his activity and the independence of his views. In April 1881, he was appointed to the commander of the Northern District, leaving there after three years to take up that at Hong Kong. He was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general in July 1885, and in the following year was given the command of the troops in South Africa, a position which he held for five years. He became a general in January, 1893, and Colonel of the King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) a year later; he was placed on the retired list in January 1895. He was created a K.C.B. in 1893 and a G.C.B. in 1904. He was Honourary Colonel of the 9th Battalion (Duke of Cambridge's Own) Middlesex Regiment, and through his connection with that battalion earned the Volunteer decoration.

Sir William Cameron was a member of a most distinguished Military family. His father lost an arm at Waterloo and was otherwise severely wounded in the Peninsula. Of his four brothers who served Queen and Country, Colonel A.S. Cameron won the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny. Four of his sons served in the army, one being killed during the Egyptian campaign, and another severely wounded with Lord Strathcona's Horse in South Africa.