THE VICTORIA CROSS, DECORATIONS AND CAMPAIGN MEDALS AWARDED TO GENERAL SIR DIGHTON PROBYN, 2ND PUNJAB CAVALRY, INDIAN ARMY, HAVE BEEN SOLD AT AUCTION BY DIX NOONAN WEBB.
23 September 2005


( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of General Sir Dighton Probyn,
2nd Punjab Cavalry, Indian Army

  • Victoria Cross
  • Companion, Order of the Bath
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Delhi" - "Relief of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"
  • Second China War Medal ( 1857-60 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Taku Forts 1860" - "Pekin 1860"
  • India General Service Medal ( 1854-95 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "North West Frontier" - "Umbeyla"
  • ( for full medal entitlement, see below )
The Victoria Cross and other orders and decorations awarded to General Sir Dighton Probyn, part of the Brian Ritchie collection of HEIC and British gallantry medals, was sold at auction today, 23rd September 2005, by Dix Noonan Webb for £160,000 ( hammer price ). The group was purchased by an anonymous buyer.


Dighton Probyn entered the light cavalry arm of the Bengal Service as a Cornet in 1849 being posted into the 6th Light Cavalry. Three years later he was appointed Adjutant of the newly raised 2nd Punjab Cavalry, commanded by Captain Sam Browne, which formed part of the 11,000 strong Punjab Irregular Force responsible for policing the turbulent tribes living on the Trans-Indus Frontier.

When the mutiny broke at Meerut on 10th May 1857, Dighton Probyn was at Jullundur, the station of his parent regiment, the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry. For the next twelve months Probyn's squadron of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry fought throughout the mutiny, Probyn himself being 'Menioned in Despatches' many times for his gallant actions, too numerous to mention here.

By the end of 1857 the squadron of 2nd Punjab Cavalry which Probyn commanded was frequently referred to as Probyn's Horse, as Lieutenant E.H. Verney, RN, records in 'The Shannon's Brigade in India'

"Two bodies of irregular Sikh cavalry are attached to the main army; one is distinguished by wearing red turbans, is commanded by Captain Hodson of the Indian Army, and is known as Hodson's Horse; the other wears blue turbans, is commanded by Lieutenant Probyn of the Indian Army, and is known as Probyn's Horse. Their dress consists of the whitey-brown 'kharki', each man is armed with a tulwa and brace of pistols, and one or two troops with lances.

To command a regiment of these semi-barborous troopers requires no small ability, tact, and personal courage, as well as knowledge of the native character, and both Probyn and Hodson are beloved by their wild horsemen. They are generally splendidly mounted, and each horse is the private property of his rider."

During the final days of the fall of Lucknow in early 1858, the 2nd Punjab Cavalry was constantly engaged in patrolling and was frequently sent short distances in persuit of fleeing mutineers and rebels. By this time, Probyn, worn down by the rigours of continual campaigning, was a shadow of his former self and, on the advice of the surgeons, started down country on 18th March 1858 for embarkation to England. Three days after his departure the last of the rebel forces were dislodged from Lucknow and on 24th March 1858 Probyn was promoted Brevet Major.


It will be noted below that Hope-Grant's despatch, which was the basis for the award of Probyn's VC, actually quotes no specific dates. Probyn's VC is undated because the award encompasses several separate acts of gallantry over a period of time. He was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at a parade held on Southsea Common on 2nd August 1858

[ London Gazette, 18 June 1858 ], Throughout the Indian Mutiny, Captain Dighton MacNaughten Probyn, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, Indian Army.

Has been distinguished for gallantry and daring throughout this campaign. At the battle of Agra, when his squadron charged the rebel infantry, he was some time separated from his men, and surrounded by five or six sepoys. He defended himself from the various cuts made at him, and before his own men had joined him had cut down two of his assailants.

At another time, in single handed combat with a sepoy, he was wounded in the wrist, by the bayonet, and his horse also was slightly wounded; but, though the sepoy fought desperately, he cut him down. The same day he singled out a standard bearer, and, in the presence of a number of the enemy, killed him and captured the standard.

These are only a few of the gallant deeds of this brave young officer. ( Despatch from Major General James Hope Grant KCB, dated 10th January 1858 ).

Dighton Probyn was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Portsmouth on the 2nd August 1858.


After returning to India, Probyn's parent regiment, the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry disappeared, and his name was transferred to the rolls of the 3rd European Light Cavalry. As a further special award for his services during the Mutiny, he was appointed to the command of Wale's Horse - the 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry - Captain Wale having been shot dead by a solitary Sepoy at Lucknow. Probyn joined his new regiment in January 1860, which soon became known in India as Probyn's Horse.

In 1870, at the age of thirty-seven, Probyn was promoted Major-General and appointed Aide-de-Camp to the Viceroy of India, Lord Mayo. In 1872 Probyn returned to England to become Equerry to the Prince of Wales and in March 1875 accompanied the Prince on his tour of India which was designed to show that the rule of the Honourable East India Company had given way to a greater authority. The triumphant tour ended after seventeen weeks and on his return to England, Probyn was rewarded with a K.C.B. ( Civil Division ), a K.C.S.I., and by being advanced to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

In 1911, Probyn was paid a unique tribute by being advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath ( Military Division ), thus becoming the only non-Royal to hold the highest grade of the Order in both civil and military divisions. Probyn's twilight years were spent chiefly at Sandringham in Norfolk. In June 1924 he was taken ill and was nursed at Sandringham in the room previously occupied by Queen Victoria. He died there on 20th June and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.


Full medal entitlement awarded to General Sir Dighton Probyn - 2nd Punjab Cavalry, Indian Army

  • Victoria Cross
  • Knight Grand Cross, Most Honourable Order of the Bath ( GCB ) ( Military )
  • Knight Grand Cross, Most Honourable Order of the Bath ( GCB ) ( Civil )
  • Knight Grand Commander, Most Exalted Order of the Star of India ( GCSI )
  • Knight Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order ( GCVO )
  • Imperial Service Order ( ISO ) ( 1902 )
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Delhi" - "Relief of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"
  • Second China War Medal ( 1857-60 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Taku Forts 1860" - "Pekin 1860"
  • India General Service Medal ( 1854-95 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "North West Frontier" - "Umbeyla"
  • Queen Victoria Jubilee Medal ( 1887 ) + clasp "1897"
  • King Edward VII Coronation Medal ( 1902 )
  • King George V Coronation Medal ( 1911 )
  • Prince of Wales Visit to India Medal ( 1875-76 )
  • Grand Cross, Order of Philip ( Hessen )
  • Grand Cross, Order of the Red Eagle ( 1st Class ) ( Prussia )
  • Grand Commander, Order of the Redeemer ( 2nd Class ) ( Greece )
  • Grand Cross, Royal Order of Kalakua ( 1st Class ) ( Hawaii )
  • Grand Cross, Order of the Tower and Sword ( Portugal )
  • Grand Cross, Order of St Anne ( 1st Class ) ( Russia )
  • Grand Officer, Order of Osmanieh ( 2nd Class ) ( Turkey )

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Iain Stewart, 23 September 2005