Auction Results

“Indian Mutiny” VC from Irish soldier makes £55,000 at auction


The Relief of Lucknow, by Thomas Jones Barker
The Relief of Lucknow, by Thomas Jones Barker

A Victoria cross won by Mayo-born soldier Edmond Jennings at the Relief of Lucknow in 1857 has sold for £55,000 in London.

Jennings (sometimes recorded as Edward) was a 42-year-old soldier with the Bengal Horse Artillery at the time.

He rescued a wounded officer and got him to safety during the siege, a major action in the Indian Mutiny (now also called the Indian Rebellion of 1857).

Unusually, there are two medals commemorating this award. Experts are not sure why, though it may be a peculiarity of the awarding of this particular medal.

“For Valour”: Jennings’ award has realised £55,000. Image courtesy Noonan’s Mayfair.

Jennings’ award was a Clause 13 VC. Rule 13 allowed VCs to be awarded to units who had shown collective bravery. A ballot among the awarded soldiers would then decide who should receive particular awards.

This medal records that Jennings was a “rough rider” of the Bengal Artillery. The citation names him and four other soldiers for their bravery between November 14 and 22, 1857.

Jennings was born in 1815 in Ballinrobe in County Mayo, Ireland, then a British colony.

He fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838 – 42) and the First Anglo-Sikh War (1846 – 47).

The Indian Mutiny or Rebellion broke out in 1857. At first among Indian troops employed by the British East India Company. It grew to become one of the most serious military threats to British imperial rule in India.

Lucknow (in modern Uttar Pradesh) was besieged twice by rebels and relieved twice by British forces. The second relief took place in November, when Jennings won his VC.

Despite a distinguished and even heroic military career, Jennings became a road sweeper after settling in the north east of England.

He was buried in a pauper’s grave after dying in North Shields. His VC had already been sold to a collector.

This is a good but not spectacular price for a VC. They are by far the most collectible and valuable category of British military awards. There have been 1,358 VCs awarded and most are accounted for. Some are in private collections, often on loan to museums, like the largest known collection, belonging to Lord Ashcroft, which is in the Imperial War Museum.

The most valuable VC is that awarded to Thomas Kavanagh, also Irish, and also during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. It sold for £930,000 in 2022. Uniquely, Kavanagh was a civilian. Since 1940, the George Cross has been awarded for bravery by civilians and military bravery out of action. It is considered of equal rank to the VC.

Just Collecting