An Important Group of Awards to the Colonel of the 86th Foot
An Important Group of Awards to the Colonel of the 86th Foot - Sir John Michel, G.C.B., Colonel of the 86th Foot, who commanded the Malwa Field Force in the pursuit of Tantia Topee in Central India, and in China commanded the 1st Division which burned the Summer Palace at Peking in retaliation for the murder of European captives.The Most Honourable Order of The Bath, G.C.B. (Military) Knight Grand Cross set of insignia by R. & S. Garrard & Co., comprising sash badge in 18 carat gold and enamels, hallmarked London 1870; and breast star in silver, gold and enamels, one green enameled stalk lacking; South Africa 1834-53 (Lieut. Colonel John Michel, 6th Regt.) renamed; Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Central India (Majr. Genl. Jno. Michel, C.B.) ?Jno.? re-engraved otherwise officially impressed naming; China 1857-60, 2 clasps, Taku Forts 1860, Pekin 1860 (Major Genl. Sir J Michel, K.C.B. 1st Dvn. Staff) officially impressed naming; Turkish Crimea, British issue, unnamed; Order of the Medjidie, 2nd class set, comprising breast star in silver, gold and enamel, 94mm; and badge in silver, gold and enamels, 57mm, this lacking suspension, the star with old repair to red enamel and other minor chips; Field-Marshal?s Baton, the surviving staff only of the Field-Marshal?s Baton presented by the Queen to Michel in 1886, comprising velvet covered wooden staff with fourteen gold lions, the original gold finials apparently lost in a burglary and replaced with silver-gilt caps to each end, these hallmarked London 1946, velvet worn overall, the campaign medals with contact marks but generally very fine or better.John Michel was born on 1 September 1804, eldest son of General John Michel by his second wife, Anne, daughter of the Hon. Henry Fane, M.P., and granddaughter of the eighth Earl of Westmoreland. John was educated at Eton and obtained an ensigncy in the 57th Foot by purchase on 3 April 1823, passing through the 27th to the 64th Foot, joining that corps at Gibraltar, and obtaining his lieutenancy in it on 28 April 1825. He purchased an unattached company in December 1826, and in the following February exchanged back to the 64th Foot at Gibraltar. In February 1832 he entered the senior department of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and in November 1833 passed his examination and received a first certificate. He then rejoined his regiment and served with it in Ireland until February 1835, when he exchanged to the 3rd Buffs in Bengal, where he was aide-de-camp to his uncle, General Sir Henry Fane, G.C.B., while commander-in-chief in India in 1835-40.In May 1840 Michel was promoted to a majority by purchase in the 6th Foot, over the heads of many old officers in the regiment, an appointment which provoked much criticism at the time, and in April 1842, a few weeks after the arrival of the regiment in England, he purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy. He commanded the 6th Foot at home and at the Cape of Good Hope until 1854. He was in command of a brigade during the Kaffir war of 1846-47, and during part of the war of 1852-53 was in command of the 2nd division of the army in the Waterkloof (medal). At the close of the campaign he was made C.B. ?for distinguished service in the Kaffir wars of 1846-7 and 1851-3.? He became brevet colonel in January 1854 and was appointed to command the York recruiting district, but exchanged to half-pay in the 98th Foot, on appointment as Chief of Staff of the Turkish Contingent. With local rank of Major-General in Turkey, he held this post until the end of the Crimean war (2nc class of the Medjidie and Turkish medal). In 1856 he was appointed to a brigade at Fort Beaufort, Cape of Good Hope, at a time of great danger and threatened war, owing to the expected fulfilment in February 1857 of an old Kaffir prophecy of the destruction of the whites.The danger was hardly over before Michel was ordered to China for a command there. He was shipwrecked in the Transit steamer in the Straits of Sunda on 10 July 1857, and carried to Singapore. His services were subsequently diverted to India and he was placed on the Bombay Staff in February 1858. In June of that yera the troops in Rajputana were concentrated at Nusseerabad and Nimach, under Major-General H. G. Roberts, Bombay Army, those at Mhow consisting of a brigade under Brigadier Honner. The latter, reinforced from Bombay, were formed into a division, as the Malwa Field Force, under Michel, the command of the troops in Rajputana being added thereto in August 1858, when Roberts was promoted to the command in Gujerat. Michel became Major-General on 26 October 1858.Impressed with the necessity of cutting off from the towns the bodies of rebels under Tantia Topee, Rao Sahib, and other leaders, and compelling them to seek the jungles, Michel adopted a strategy which proved eminently successful, despite serious physical obstacles, for the rains at this season had converted the soil at Malwa into a sea of black mud, and the heat was phenomenal. He distributed his troops in lightly equipped columns at salient points in Rajputana and Malwa, with orders to follow the rebels without intermission. Starting himself from Mhow, Michel came up with Tantia Topee at Beorora on 5 September 1858. Tantia and the cavalry fled, pursued by the British cavalry. The infantry and guns made a stand, but did not await the British onset, and leaving thirty guns behind them, eight thousand well trained troops were put to flight without the loss of a man. Michel again defeated Yantia at Mingrauli on 9 October, marched against Rao Sahib the next day, and defeated him at Sindwaha on 15 October. On5 December he anihilated one wing of Tantia?s force near Saugor, the other escaping across the Narbada into Nagpur. Other defeats of bodies of rebels followed and they began to lose heart and creep away to their homes. Between 20 June 1858 and 1 March 1859, the field force traversed an aggregate distance of over three thousand miles, of which Michel himself marched seventeen hundred miles. The operations ended with the capture of Tantia Topee, who was taken by a small column under Brigadier Meade, was at once tried by court-martial, and was hanged on 18 April 1859 for being in arms against the British. The legality of the sentence was questioned but he was admitted to have been one of the most bloodthirsty of Nana Sahib?s advisers.Michel, who was made K.C.B., remained in command of the Mhow division untilo the end of 1859, when he was appointed to the army under Sir James Hope Grant, proceeding to the north of China. Michel commanded the 1st Division at the action at Sinho, and at the occupation of Pekin on 12 October 1860. On 18 October his division burned the Summer Palace at Pekin, in return for the treacherous treatment of Mr (afterwards Sir Harry) Parkes and some other captives. The palace had already been looted by the French and most of the Imperial treasures which found their way to England were bought from French soldiers.Sir John Michel was appointed Colonel of the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment (later 2nd Royal Irish Rifles) on 19 August 1862. From 1865 to 1867 he commanded the British troops in North America, becoming lieutenant-general in June 1866, and general in March 1874. He was advanced to G.C.B. in 1871, and selected to command the troops in the first ?autumn manoeuvres? in the south of England in 1873. In 1875 he was appointed commander of the forces in Ireland, and was sworn of the Irish privy council. He held the Irish command from 1875 to 1880, his social qualities and ample means rendering him extremely popular. He was a J.P. for Dorset and was made a Field-Marshal on 27 March 1885. Sir John Michel died at his seat, Dewlish, Dorset, on 23 May 1886, aged 82.The medals are accompanied by an ivorine label which records the original inscription on the base of Michel?s baton: ?From Her Majesty Alexandra Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to Field Marshal The Rt. Honbl. Sir John Michel, G.C.B. 1886.