Sir George Richardson; subaltern, sportsman, and kind-hearted gentleman


Our 16th June Medals, Militaria & Country Pursuits auction includes a collection of items and ephemera belonging to a distinguished Victorian military man whose career spanned decades and continents. 


Lieutenant General Sir George Lloyd Reilly Richardson (1847–1931) was a British officer whose long and distinguished career spanned many of the Victorian Wars of Empire.  He served across South East Asia in the British Indian Army, fought in the Anglo-Afghan wars and led the final assault on Peking (Beijing) during the Boxer Rebellion.  Despite retiring in 1909, he was given command of the Ulster Volunteer Force in Ireland upon its formation in 1913. 



Born into a military family, Richardson joined the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot as a second-lieutenant in 1866.  From then on, his career was a roll-call of almost every significant colonial campaign, earning promotions and commissions along the way from early on.   His first major action being the 1868 Hazara Expedition against tribesmen who attacked a police station at the North-West Frontier (now part of Pakistan), and his last posting being in Belfast where he fought Home Rule on the eve of the First World War.  Despite his eventful and inherently dangerous life, Richardson died at home in Basingstoke at the advanced age of 83.


Alongside the collection of items in this lot is a hand-written note describing an intriguing incident relayed by Richardson regarding a ‘Fakir’s Curse’ which befell his fellow officers in 1876.  The story details how three officers of the 18th Bengal Cavalry tried to build a bungalow on consecrated ground by the banks of the Kabul river, and disregarded the pleas of an old Fakir.  The holy man then issued a curse that the men would all die within a year.  Within months, one officer was killed whilst out hawking when his horse fell into a ravine.  The second died soon after during a game of polo.  The third, a surgeon by the name of Dr Palmer, congratulated himself upon the last day of the year for surviving the curse while he was crossing a river with Major Webb (both known to General Richardson).  Unfortunately, a squall arose, the boat capsized and the officers had to swim to shore.   Despite being a strong swimmer, Dr Palmer was the only officer not to make it to dry land, and was never seen again.  Later it was reported that the Kabul river had flooded and the contested bungalow swept away.   This story has been reported elsewhere, and was even investigated by  the Society for Psychical Research in London (established 1882).


The Times obituary of 11th April 1931 stated that “as subaltern, field officer, commander, or general of division, Sir George Richardson showed himself and good, a fine sportsman, and a kind-hearted gentleman”.  Amongst this lot are letters of condolences to Lady Richardson from General Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner alongside those from Clive Wigram (Private Secretary to King George V), both on his own behalf and expressing the regret of the King.  His 40+ years of service resulted in him being awarded the KCB (Most Honourable Order of the Bath), CSI (Most Exalted Order of the Star of India) and CIE (Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire).


Lot description; Lieutenant General Sir George Lloyd Reilly Richardson, a collection of items to include a 19th century Indian Shamshir, having an 80cm curved steel blade the iron crossguard with gilt decoration with bone grips and iron pommel, 92cm, a white metal badge for the 18th Bengal Lancers with Afghanistan 1879-80 in scroll below, having four screw back fittings, a Victorian silver Officers cross belt pricker, in the form of two arrows within a hexagonal plate with engraved border on a belcher link chain suspended from a silver flower head fitting, maker Joseph Jennens & Co., Birmingham, 1886, a hardwood box and cover of cylinderical form, the hand written "J.F.R. 1839 Barnstaple made by J.F.R. To G.R. 1868" with similar inscription to the underside containing five shoulder pips, various letters of condolence to Lady Richardson upon the death of husband to include two examples on Windsor Castle headed paper signed Clive Wigram Private Secretary to George V, one on behalf of the King and the other from him personally, one other example form General Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner, a phptograph of Richardson with a typed list of his postings and various other ephemera, contained in an iron bound and zinc lined pine trunk, named to the lid Lt Genl Geo. Richardson, w.104, d.64, h.41cm. Est. £2000-3000


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