23 August 2022
The famous Siege of Lucknow Victoria Cross awarded to Thomas Henry Kavanagh will be sold by Noonans on September 14 in a sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria.
Kavanagh, who was born on July 15, 1821 in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, was employed as a clerk in the Lucknow Office prior to the Siege. In November 1857, he volunteered to leave the safety of the Residency disguised as a Sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders), accompanied by a Brahmin scout. The pair jostled past armed rebels through the narrow Lucknow streets and talked their way past sentries in the moonlight, 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 Outram’s vital despatch to Sir Colin Campbell and ably guided his column to the relief of the Residency garrison.
Oliver Pepys, Auctioneer and Medal Specialist (Associate Director) Noonans explained, “Kavanagh was decorated with the highest honour 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.”
He continued, “The first of just five civilians to have been awarded the VC, he was further rewarded with promotion to the gazetted post of Assistant Commissioner of Oude and was presented with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in a special ceremony at Windsor Castle. A tour of England and Ireland further enhanced his celebrity while the publication of his account of the Siege, How I won the Victoria Cross and Orlando Norrie’s painting of him donning his Indian disguise - one of the truly iconic images of the Defence of Lucknow – ensured that he became a Victorian legend, indeed few histories of the conflict are without an image of ‘Lucknow Kavanagh’.”
This was the first civilian VC of five to be awarded and is one of only two that is not currently in a museum, it is estimated at £300,000-£400,000.
Can't get to the newsagents for your copy of The Armourer? Order it online (now with free postage!) or take out a subscription and avoid the general public for the next 12 months entirely. And if you're confined to quarters, stock up on some bookazines to keep you entertained.
Buy the latest copy or any back issues, either in print or digital editions by clicking on The Armourer.
It's our latest bookazine, Tanks of WWII, a 164-page guide to the tanks, commanders and battles of WWII. With over 170 tank prototypes, variants, models from the Axis and Allied nations, plus blueprints, rare photos and 3D illustrations. This collector's bookazine can be yours for just £9.99. Click here for your copy.
Celebrate the heroes of the Battle of Britain with a commemorative bookazine, with colour images throughout, for £8.99. Get your 164 page copy here.
Buy a copy of Aircraft of the RAF, featuring 595 flying machines, for £7.99 by clicking here.
Or how about a copy of the Collecting German Militaria bookazine for £7.99? Click here to buy this.