Bourtie hero's Victoria Cross medal to go under the hammer

The unique and exceptional 1891 ’Capture and Defence of Thobal’ V.C. group of five awarded to 30-year-old Scotsman Lieutenant, later Colonel, C. J. W. Grant of the 12th Regiment (2nd Burma Battalion) Madras Infantry will feature in a live/online auction on Wednesday, June 23.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 12:00 am
The Victoria Cross is to be sold together with Grant’s unpublished leather bound ‘Officer’s Field Note and Sketch Book and Reconnaissance Aide-Memoire'
The Victoria Cross is to be sold together with Grant’s unpublished leather bound ‘Officer’s Field Note and Sketch Book and Reconnaissance Aide-Memoire'

Charles James William Grant was born in Bourtie in 1861, the son of Lieutenant-General P. C. S. St. J. Grant, and was educated privately and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

He was commissioned Lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment on 10 May 1882, and joined the Madras Staff Corps in 1884. After a long military career, he spent his later years in Sidmouth in Devon, where he died in 1932, aged 71 years.

Mark Quayle, Associate Director and Medal Expert at Dix Noonan Webb, who are hosting the auction, explained: “We are very excited to be offering this outstanding V.C. group and important archive in our June sale. The action fought by Lieutenant Grant and his small band of Gurkhas in 1891 on the North East Frontier of India was a great epic of empire which brought him fame during his lifetime as the ‘Hero of Manipur’.

Charles James William Grant

"His storming of the defences at Thobar was remarkable in itself but it is no exaggeration to say that the subsequent defence of that place for eight days with just 80 men against an estimated 2000 of the enemy is a feat that probably ranks alongside Rorke’s Drift in the history of famous defences against overwhelming odds.”

The V.C is to be sold together with a substantial associated archive of historical importance – items of particular significance including: Grant’s unpublished leather bound ‘Officer’s Field Note and Sketch Book and Reconnaissance Aide-Memoire’ in which he meticulously records the march to Manipur and the capture and subsequent defence of Thobal, illustrated by several detailed sketches of both actions and positions; and a file of original letters, including the negotiations between Grant and the Manipuris and a coded message from Grant in Greek characters to the relief force.

Upon hearing of the treachery at Manipur in March 1891, Grant immediately set out to relieve the presumed British captives and exact retribution; advancing his 80 man Tammu detachment, comprising 40 Ghurkas and 40 Punjabi troops, towards Manipur under continued desultory opposition, he stormed the enemy position at the head of his men under a heavy fire at Thobal, driving the 800 strong foe from their entrenched defences.

Taking up a defensive position within improvised fortifications, Grant then became surrounded by an estimated 2000 of the returning enemy which attacked the small besieged force over a period of eight days.

Holding out against overwhelming odds, Grant led a number of brilliant sallies to dislodge and disperse the Manipuris each time they approached and then, in negotiations over the release of prisoners, deceived them into thinking they were facing a much larger force.

With dwindling ammunition and growing disease among his ranks, Grant successfully withdrew his force to link up with reinforcements, and, leading his men to the attack once more in taking an enemy fort. Badly wounded, he was carried triumphantly into Manipur by his men and those concerned in the murder of British officers were brought to justice and punished.

The auction takes place on June 23 at www.dnw.co.uk