Fine Crimean War Naval V.C. to be offered at Dix Noonan Webb

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Fine Crimean War Naval V.C. to be offered at Dix Noonan Webb
From the Collection of the late Warwick Cary which includes an impressive collection of medals from the Charge of the Light Brigade

LONDON.- A fine Crimean War Naval V.C. awarded to Australian resident and Seaman James Gorman of H.M.S. Albion, for his gallantry while defending the Right Lancaster Battery at the Battle of Inkermann on November 5, 1864 will be offered by Dix Noonan Webb in their live/online auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Thursday, October 15, 2020 on their website One of the first V.C’s to be awarded, it is estimated to fetch £120,000-160,000.

Inkermann was one of the bloodiest and most desperate battles in British military history, when in darkness and through deep mist, the Russians launched a sudden and massive attack on the lightly defended British lines. Seaman Gorman declined the order to withdraw and leave the wounded, he proceeded to mount the defence works and, using the weapons of the disabled who he was protecting, helped repel the Russian advance ‘not trusting any Ivan to get in bayonet range of the wounded’ - his award was listed in the notable 24 February 1857 issue of the London Gazette containing the first ever awards of the Victoria Cross and his well documented later life confirms him to have been the first Australian resident to hold the V.C. This was one of three V.C’s awarded for this action – the other two are both held in the Lord Ashcroft Collection at the Imperial War Museum in London.

As mentioned in The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 1882: “During the campaign he performed many deeds of bravery, foremost among which may be specially noted - saving the life of the late Admiral (then Captain) Lushington, R.N., when that officer was unhorsed and surrounded by the enemy; and the splendid deed of heroism for which Her Majesty decorated him with the Victoria Cross, protecting at the imminent risk of his life the wounded soldiers and sailors at the Lankester Battery on the great day of Inkerman. Three times were the English forced by overwhelming numbers to evacuate this work, and the dead and wounded lay in heaps; at length, notwithstanding the order to retire, Mr Gorman, with four other brave fellows, stood their ground until reinforcements arrived, and this important post was saved.”

James Gorman was born in London in 1834, he was assigned at the age of 14 to the training ship H.M.S. Victory, Admiral Nelson’s former flagship, as a Boy Second Class, having been one of the first 200 boys to be accepted as apprentices into the Royal Navy. Later on in his Naval career, he saw service on the newly formed Australia Station, docking at Sydney on December 31, 1858 and January 1860 and also at Melbourne in March 1859. Returning to England, he was paid off at Sheerness in 1860, thus ending his 13 years of service in the Royal Navy, but chose to return to the antipodes, boarding the 755 ton free trader Fairlie at Plymouth, bound for Sydney, Australia, in 1863 – he remained in Australia for the rest of his life and was buried with military honours in the Church of England section of Balmain Cemetery (now Pioneers memorial Park, Leichhardt) in October 1882.

John Burridge, Dix Noonan Webb’s Australasia Representative said: “During his lifetime Gorman was something of a celebrity in Australia becoming the first ever Australian resident to hold a Victoria Cross and his contribution to this country following his move here is well documented. It is notable that there were no Australian born recipients of the Victoria Cross prior to the Boer War of 1900, making Gorman’s V.C. even more significant in terms of our national heritage.”

Seaman Gorman’s V.C is part of the Collection of the late Warwick George Cary (1949-2020). Cary was born at Engadine in the Sutherland Shire south of Sydney, New South Wales. He had always been a collector of something, but it was his love of medals that launched a whole new career for him. Joining the New South Wales State Emergency Service in 1982, he was appointed to be the Service’s inaugural State Protocol Officer in 2001. During his career, he was presented with numerous awards and also provided significant leadership in many major operations throughout the state, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The second part of Mr Cary’s Collection will be offered in DNW’s Medal sale in November.

Also of significant interest in the sale will be a collection of medals from the Charge of The Light Brigade. The most important being a group of five awarded to Major-General John Douglas, who commanded the 11th Hussars during the Crimean War, and led them in the Charge at Balaklava, which is estimated at £15,000- £20,000. John Douglas, who was born at Gartcraig, Lanarkshire, Scotland on April 25, 1811, joined the 61st Foot as an Ensign in 1829, immediately transferring to the 79th Foot. Advancing to Captain in 1839 he was invited, six months later, into the 11th Hussars. The following September, Douglas achieved a certain notoriety when acting as second to his commanding officer, John Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, in his notorious duel with Captain Tuckett on Wimbledon Common.

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