The next Kaplan auction contains the following items from the Birkenhead:
SALVAGE FROM THE BIRKENHEAD
ON THE NIGHT OF 26TH FEBRUARY 1852, THE TROOPSHIP BIRKENHEAD STRUCK A ROCK OFF DANGER POINT. THE OFFICERS KNEW THAT THERE WERE NOT ENOUGH LIFE BOATS SO THE ORDERS WERE GIVEN – WOMAN AND CHILDREN FIRST. THE MEN WERE ORDERED TO STANDFAST AS THERE WAS A FEAR THAT THE TROOPS WOULD SWAMP THE BOATS. THIS GAVE RISE TO THE BIRKENHEAD DRILL. THE TROOPS STOOD FAST ON THE DECK WHILST THE SHIP SANK. OF THE 638 PERSONS ON BOARD ONLY 184 WERE SAVED.
THE REGIMENTS ON BOARD WERE AS FOLLOWS: 6TH LANCERS; 2ND REGIMENT; 6TH REGIMENT; 12TH REGIMENT; 43RD REGIMENT; 45TH REGIMENT; 2/60 REGIMENT; 73RD REGIMENT; 74TH REGIMENT AND THE 91ST REGIMENT.
PROVENANCE OF THE VARIOUS BRASS BELT HOOKS, SLING HOOKS AND UNIFORM EQUIPMENT; BUCKLES AND FITTINGS FROM THE WRECK OF THE BIRKENHEAD
SOLD BY SOTHERBY’S IN JOHANNESBURG, 26TH JULY 1994 WITH A CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY STEPHAN WELTZ.
F958 BRASS ROSE FROM HELMET CHINSTRAP 30
F959 SMALL BRASS BUCKLE 30
F960 SMALL BRASS UNIFORM EQUPMENT KEEPER 30
F961 SMALL BRASS UIFORM EQUIPMENT KEEPER WITH HOOK 30
F962 SMALL BRASS UNIFORM EQUPMENT D RING 30
F963 SMALL BRASS UNIFORM BUCKLE WITH MOVEABLE HOOK 30
F964 BRASS FITTING FROM A SWORD SCABBARD WITH A RING 30
F965 SMALL BRASS D RING 30
F966 SMALL BRASS RECTANGULAR FITTING FROM WEBBING 30
F967 SMALL BRASS BUCKLE, SPIKE MISSING 30
F968 SMALL BRASS D RING 30
F969 SMALL BRASS FITTING FROM WEBBING 30
F970 SMALL BRASS BUCKLE WITH ADDITIONAL LOOP 30
THEY ALL APPEAR TO BE PEWTER. THEY ARE ALL IN POOR CONDITION FORM THEIR iMMERSION IN THE SEA.
F971 THE 2ND REGIMENT 30
F972 THE 6TH REGIMENT 30
F973 THE 6TH REGIMENT VERY POOR 15
F974 THE 7TH REGIMENT – NO THEY WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE 30
F975 THE 12TH REGIMENT 30
F976 THE 43RD REGIMENT 30
F977978 THE 43RD REGIMENT VERY POOR 15
F979 THE 73RD REGIMENT 30
F980 THE 91ST REGIMENT 30
John O’Neil, ‘the son of a farrier-major in the 7th Dragoon Guards, was born on board ship near Malta in 1827. Enlisting in the 91st Foot, he set sail for South Africa in 1842. His ship, the Abercrombie Robinson, was wrecked in Table Bay in a cyclone, and the impedimenta of the regiment was lost. After a delay of six months he went to the frontier until 1844, when war broke out with the Kaffirs, and two years later he was engaged in the war with the Boers. His first adventure in this was when his regiment made a forced march from Grahamstown to Boomplats, where they encountered General Joubert, President Pretorious, and Paul Kruger, commanding a large number of burghers. The British were commanded by Sir Harry Smith. In 1850 he was again engaged with the Kaffirs, and in 1852 he went on escort duty to Robbin Island with prisoners, and afterwards went on board the ill-fated Birkenhead at Simonstown. Between that harbour and Port Elizabeth, in the locality of Danger Point, the Birkenhead went down through the recklessness of the skipper, seven hours after the embarkation, and Sergeant O’Neil was shipwrecked for the second time in his life. There were over 600 persons on board, and of this number 450 were drowned or fell victims to the sharks. Sergeant O’Neil swam ashore, and had to walk 16 miles under a scorching sun before assistance could be obtained. In 1853 he was again battling with the Kaffirs, and before the conclusion of the campaign was wounded in the leg by a bullet. He returned home in 1855, and two years later was ordered to India, where he served for two years.’ (Recipient's obituary refers).
Promoted Corporal in June 1856, Sergeant in October 1859, and Colour Sergeant in June 1861, O’Neil was discharged in November 1864, after 21 years and 75 days’ service. The following January he was appointed Sergeant Instructor of the Lincolnshire Rifle Volunteers, and served with them for over twenty years, finally retiring in March 1885, after a total of 41 years and 131 days’ service. A public testimonial was organised as a mark of appreciation to his services, to which Field Marshal Lord Roberts contributed. O’Neil died in Boston, Lincolnshire, December 1904, and was buried with full Military Honours; at the time of his death he was said to be the last military survivor of the Birkenhead disaster.
Sold for a hammer price of £4,200. Totals (inc VAT for UK only): £5,410. R107,300. Au$9,320. Can$9,010. US$7,240