26 October 2006

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Mr George Chicken,
Indian Naval Brigade ( Volunteer )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
  • ( the engraving on the VC reads:
    "Mr. G.B. Chicken. Indian Navy. Septr 4th 1858" )

The Victoria Cross sold by the London auction house Morton & Eden is believed to be the original VC prepared and forwarded to India for presentation to George Chicken before his death had become known by the War Office. After Chicken's untimely death in May 1860 the Cross should have been returned to England, but appears to have been either lost or retained in India. This particular Chicken Victoria Cross now has the unusual status of being an original but unawarded VC, while a duplicate but official Victoria Cross was duly presented to George Chicken's father in 1862.

The Victoria Cross was purchased for £48,000 on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

This sale by Morton & Eden is Part-2 of the whole of the American Numismatic Society's Medal Collection, which included the Chicken VC. John Sandford Saltus was a major donor of medals to the A.N.S. but the exact date of his acquisition of the Chicken Victoria Cross is unknown, but must have been before 1922 when he died.

In 1932 Messrs A.H. Baldwin & Sons of London are known to have handled another VC to George Chicken, together with personal correspondence and related items indicating a firm provenance to the Chicken family. The Cross and associated items were sold privately to a collector and resurfaced at a Canadian auction in 1987 where they were again sold to an anonymous buyer. This Victoria Cross is unavailable for inspection so a direct comparison with the American Numismatic Society Cross is not possible.

To make matters even more confusing, a further Victoria Cross named to George Chicken is known to exist and is held in private hands, although the engraving on this Cross appears to place it in the category of a 'copy'.

The main campaign in West Behir during the Indian Mutiny ended in April 1858 with the death of the rebel leader Kunwer Singh near Jugdespore. His followers however, continued to carry on a guerrilla war in the surrounding jungles in conditions which were much more to their advantage, until they were finally defeated and dispersed in a winter campaign lasting from mid-October to the end of November.

George Chicken was a Volunteer serving with the Indian Naval Brigade, appointed into the service on 31st July 1858 as Acting Master. A few months later he left for Buxar to join No. 3 Detachment of the Naval Brigade, serving in the rough broken country and jungles of Jagdispur in Bengal.

On the 27th September 1858 Chicken attached himself to a mixed party of the 3rd Sikh Irregular Cavalry and 68 men of Rattray's Mounted Police under the command of Lieutenant Charles Baker, making an attack against a force of about 700 mutineers camped at a village called Suhejnee, near Peroo. The mutineers were soon routed and put to flight pursued by George Chicken who quickly forged ahead driving his horse across river nullahs and through thick jungle. When he caught up with a party of about twenty armed mutineers he was quite alone. Chicken at once charged them and killed five with his sword, but was then set upon by the rest, knocked off his horse, and badly wounded. He would certainly have been killed had not four native troopers of the 1st Bengal Police and 3rd Irregulars galloped up and rescued him.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 27 April 1860 ], Suhejnee, near Peroo, Indian Mutiny, 27 September 1858, Mr George Bell Chicken, Indian Naval Brigade ( Volunteer ).

For great gallantry on the 27th September 1858, at Suhejnee, near Peroo, in having charged into the middle of a considerable number of the rebels, who were preparing to rally and open fire upon the scattered pursuers. They were surrounded on all sides, but, fighting desperately, Mr Chicken succeeded in killing five before he was cut down himself. He would have been cut to pieces, had not some of the men of the 1st Bengal Police and 3rd Sikh Irregular Cavalry, dashed into the crowd to his rescue, and routed it, after killing several of the Enemy.

No VC investure took place owing to the death of George Chicken in May 1860 aboard the schooner 'Emily'.

George Chicken returned to Calcutta on 30th November 1859 and in March 1860 was given command of H.M. Schooner 'Emily' which was subsequently lost at sea with all hands in a violent squall off Sandheads in the Bay of Bengal in May 1860.


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Iain Stewart, 26 October 2006