17 September 2004
The outstanding ‘Tel-el-Kebir’ C.B. group of six awarded to Major-General John Upperton, Bengal Cavalry, who served with the Sikh Irregular Cavalry at Delhi, commanded the Tiwana Horse in the Oudh campaign, served with Fane’s Horse in China, and commanded the 6th Bengal Cavalry at Tel-el-Kebir
(a) Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) breast badge, 18 carat gold and enamels, hallmarked London 1881, complete with gold ribbon buckle
(b) Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Delhi (Lieut. I. Upperton, Towana [sic] Horse)
(c) China 1857-60, 2 clasps, Taku Forts 1860, Pekin 1860 (Lieut. J. Upperton, Adjt. Regt. of Fane’s Horse) officially impressed naming
(d) Egypt & Sudan 1882-89, 1 clasp, Tel-el-Kebir (Lieut. Col. J. Upperton, 6th B.C.)
(e) Order of the Medjidie, 3rd Class neck badge, silver, gilt and enamels
(f) Khedive’s Star 1882, generally good very fine or better £4000-5000
This lot was sold as part of a special collection, The Brian Ritchie Collection of H.E.I.C. and British India Medals.
John Upperton, the son of Robert Upperton, of Lansdowne Place, Brighton, was born on 10 June 1836, and educated at Brighton College. He was nominated for the Bengal Army by D. C. Marjoribanks Esq., on the recommendation of the Marquess of Bristol. Arriving in India in September 1854, he was posted to the 46th Native Infantry. Following the Mutiny of his regiment at Sealkote on 9 July 1857, Upperton joined an irregular cavalry unit raised by Captain Wale and took part in operations around Delhi. This regiment, officially the 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry, but otherwise Wale’s Horse, subsequently became Probyn’s Horse, following the appointment of Major Dighton Probyn (qv) to its command in 1859. In January 1858, Upperton, ‘in spite of his youth’, was given command of a locally raised unit, the Tiwana Horse, which he led it until February 1859, serving throughout the Oudh Campaign and being present at the capture of the forts of Amethee and Shunkergahr, and the action of Dundeakeira. He was next appointed officiating D.A.Q.M.G at Lucknow.
In June 1859, he was directed to do duty with the newly raised and most junior regiment of Bengal cavalry, Fane’s Horse, and accompanied it on the Anglo-French expedition to China, as Adjutant. He was present at the action of Sinho, the capture of the Taku Forts, and the action of Chang-kia-wan, on which occasion he was thanked for his services by General Montauban, the French Commander-in-Chief.
Upperton returned to India with Fane’s Horse in 1861, and, transferring to the Bengal Staff Corps on the reorganization of the Army, became officiating second-in-command of Fane’s Horse. In February 1869, he took part in a punitive expedition against the Bazotee Black Mountain Tribes, who although punished the previous October by a force under Major-General A. T. Wilde, were still giving trouble. Members of the earlier expedition received the India General Service medal with North West Frontier clasp, but those of the later expedition did not.
In March 1869, Upperton was seconded for political duty when Shere Ali, who had finally defeated his brother and rival to become the undisputed Amir of Afghanistan, paid a visit to India. The meeting took place at Ambala, where Shere Ali was flattered with royal honours and presented with a jewelled sword, which he promised never to draw except in the service of Britain. Upperton was subsequently thanked for his services by the Government.
Appointed second in command of the 16th Bengal Cavalry in January 1873, he was again employed on political duty from June of that year until October, when he was placed in charge of Shere Ali’s Envoy to India. Two years later he was made Extra Aide-de-Camp to the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook, for the duration of the visit to India of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Northbrook and his staff met the Prince at Bombay in November 1875, but it being desirable to reduce to a minimum the number of occasions on which the Viceroy, as the supreme authority in India, was obliged to overshadow the Heir Apparent, he soon took his leave. He and his immediate staff did not meet the royal party again until the fortnight of Christmas festivities at Calcutta, which included ‘balls, dinners, polo and fireworks, a Chapter of the Star of India and a State performance of a farce entitled My Awful Dad.’
Promoted Commandant of the 6th Bengal Cavalry in October 1876, Upperton set out that same month on a Special Mission to Baluchistan with Colonel Colley, the Viceroy’s Military Secretary, who was later to perish on Majuba Hill during the First Boer War. On his return in December, Upperton was seconded to the staff of Northbrook’s successor, Lord Lytton, who, to coincide with Queen Victoria being proclaimed Empress of India, presided over the massive durbar at Delhi over the Christmas period of 1876. Known as the Imperial Assemblage, the event was a bizarre mixture of eastern magnificence and pageantry, in keeping with the Victorian pre-occupation with the Age of Chivalry; its purpose to unite the Indian princes in loyalty to the British Crown. Lytton gained the princes’ fealty after ‘a careful study of the native character’, by a few acts of inexpensive liberalty such as the issuing of gold medals, the presentation of banners, and allowing them additional guns in their salutes.
In 1882, Upperton, now a Lieutenant-Colonel, was despatched with the Indian Contingent to Egypt, and was present at Tel-el-Kebir, gaining himself a mention in despatches by Sir Garnet Wolseley, and the award of the C.B. Promoted Colonel in June 1884, he served as liaison officer to the representatives of the foreign nations attending the Indian Army Manoeuvres of 1885-86, and was finally advanced to Major-General in 1894. Upperton returned to England upon retirement and took up residence at 7, Sloane Street, London, where he died aged eighty-eight on 2 July 1924.
Refs: Hodson Index (NAM); IOL L/MiIL/10/59, 90 & 91; Who Was Who 1916-1928; The Times.