FOLLOWING THE SALE OF THE ROBERT KELLS' VICTORIA CROSS IN MARCH 2005, THE PURCHASER HAS NOW LOANED THE VC GROUP TO THE 9TH / 12TH LANCERS MUSEUM IN DERBY.
22 July 2005

Following the sale in March 2005, by Dix Noonan Webb, of the Victoria Cross awarded to Lance-Corporal Robert Kells the purchaser has decided to loan the VC group to the regimental museum of the 9th / 12th Lancers in Derby. It is expected the Victoria Cross will be on display with the museum's other VCs, those of William Goate and David Spence. Two other 9th Lancers' Victoria Crosses awarded to Francis Grenfell and James Roberts reside with the Regimental Headquarters of the 9th / 12th Lancers.


THE VICTORIA CROSS, AND OTHER CAMPAIGN MEDALS, AWARDED TO LANCE-CORPORAL ROBERT KELLS, 9TH ( QUEEN'S ROYAL ) LANCERS, HAS BEEN SOLD AT AUCTION BY DIX NOONAN WEBB FOR £130,000
2nd March 2005


( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Sergeant Robert Kells,
9th ( Queen's Royal ) Lancers

  • Victoria Cross
  • Royal Victorian Medal ( RVM )
  • Punjab Medal ( 1848-49 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Chilianwana" - "Goojerat"
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Delhi" - "Relief of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"
  • Queen Victoria Jubilee Medal ( 1887 ) + clasp "1897"
  • King Edward VII Coronation Medal ( 1902 )
  • Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal ( LSGC )

The Victoria Cross awarded to Lance-Corporal Robert Kells, part of the Brian Ritchie collection of HEIC and British gallantry medals, was sold at auction today, 2nd March 2005, by Dix Noonan Webb for £130,000. The VC was bought by Chelsea Military Antiques on behalf of a UK collector.


Robert Kells was born in Meerut, India, in 1832 and attested for the 9th Lancers at Cawnpore on the 22nd October 1844 at a very young age. He took part in the Second Sikh War being present at the Passage of the Chenab and at Chilianwala, and later at Goojerat for which he was awarded the Punjab Medal.

The outbreak of the Indian Mutiny found the 9th Lancers at Ambala where its four squadrons were divided between the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the Delhi Field Force, which, having effected a junction with Brigadier Archdale Wilson's Meerut Brigade, routed the mutineers at Badli-ki-Serai, and established itself on Delhi Ridge. After three months gruelling service on the Ridge culminating in the Fall of Delhi, the 9th Lancers were detailed to join the Flying Column under Colonel Edward Greathed which on the 24th September moved out to scour the Gangetic Goab.

Early on the morning of 28th September 1857, the forward elements of the Flying Column arrived at a crossroads, leading in one direction to Boolundshuhur, and in the other to Maolghur. At dawn, gunfire was exchanged between Greathed's vedettes and rebel skirmishers, and it was soon confirmed that a strong body of the enemy intended to make a stand at Boolundshuhur where the 9th Lancers were to win no less than five Victoria Crosses. At the advance of the column, the enemy's artillery opened fire and the rebel cavalry fell back. The 75th Regiment pushed forward, capturing two 9-pounder guns, and drove off the enemy holding a strong position in front of the town. Greathed's cavalry, comprising 9th Lancers and Punjab Cavalry detachments captured a third gun and then took up the pursuit through the narrow streets of Boolundshuhur.

Captain William Drysdale, commanding the Lancers, had his horse shot from under him at full speed and crashed to the ground, breaking his collar bone. Trumpeter Robert Kells immediately closed around his stricken commander and successfully defended him against a number of the enemy before carrying him out of danger. Kells was subsequently mentioned in despatches by Brigadier Hope-Grant and was awarded the Victoria Cross. Drysdale was recommended for the VC for courageous leadership on this occasion by Major Henry Ouvry, 9th Lancers, who was in overall command of the cavalry. This award, however, was not approved.


[ London Gazette, 24 December 1858 ], Bolundshadur, Indian Mutiny, 28 September 1857, Lance-Corporal Robert Kells, 9th ( Queen's Royal ) Lancers.

For conspicuous bravery at Bolundshadur, on the 28th September 1857, in defending against a number of the enemy his commanding officer, Captain Drysdale, who was lying in a street with his collar-bone broken, his horse having been disabled by a shot, and remaining with him until out of danger. ( Despatch from Major-General Sir James Hope Grant KCB, dated 8th April 1858 )


Robert Kells continued with the Flying Column, and took part in the battle at Agra on the 10th October 1857, and was afterwards present with his regiment at the Second Relief of Lucknow, the Siege and Capture of Lucknow, and throughout the campaigns in Rohilkhund and Oudh. On the 1st March 1859 Kells joined the 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry ( retitled later as the 19th Hussars ), having taken up the usual offer open to men whose regiments were leaving India to volunteer for another corps.

Kells was discharged from the 19th Hussars at Benares on the 14th November 1868 as the result of a fall from his horse and disease 'due to climate'. He told the discharge board he intended to reside at Blackfriars Road, London. On the 1st January 1881 he was appointed a Yeoman of the King's Body-Guard at St James' Palace and as such attended all the great state occasions of the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. Robert Kells died in London on the 14th April 1905 and was buried in Lambeth Cemetery.

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Iain Stewart, 22 July 2005