Scottish Soldier’s VC and Cannonball sells for £1/4m.

John Simpson Knox's grave

John Simpson Knox’s grave

A set of medals, including the Victoria Cross, and a cannonball, has sold at auction for £252,000, more than doubling its predicted £120,000 price. The medals, which were awarded to John Simpson Knox during the Crimean War, were accompanied by a Russian cannonball that was responsible for blowing off Knox’s left arm during the Seige of Sevastopol in 1855.

John Simpson Knox was born in Glasgow on the 30th of September, 1828, and at the age of 14 he ran away from home and joined the British Army even though he was under-age. It is said that he was tall for his age and that is how he managed to sign up with the army. Knox did well in the army; he was promoted to the rank of corporal before he was even 18, and be the time of the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853 he was a serjeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards. It was for two acts of valour during the war in the Crimea that he was awarded the Victory Cross, Britain’s highest military medal, and Knox was amongst the first soldiers in the army to be awarded this medal.

Knox’s first act of bravery was at the Battle of Alma on the 20th of September, 1854. His second act of particular valour was at the Seige of Sevastopol, when on the 18th of June, 1855, he volunteered to be part of a ladder party attack on the heavy Russian defences in an attempt to end the seige. It was during this attack when he was struck by a Russian cannonball, removing parts of his left arm. His Victoria Cross citation read:

“When serving as a Serjeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards, Lieutenant Knox was conspicuous for his exertions in reforming the ranks of the Guards at the Battle of the Alma.

Subsequently, when in the Rifle Brigade, he volunteered for the ladder-party in the attack on the Redan, on the 18th of June, and (in the words of Captain Blackett, under whose command he was) behaved admirably, remaining on the field until twice wounded.”

Even after the loss of his arm, John Simpson Knox continued to serve in the army after the war and was appointed an Instructor of Musketry on the 7th of January, 1858. By the end of April that year he had been promoted to Captain. Knox retired from the army on the 8th of June, 1872 and was granted a brevet majority. He settled down in Cheltenham in Gloustershire, England, and died on the 8th of January, 1897, at the age of 68.

The medals, which also included the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration, and the cannonball were sold at Spink’s Auctioneers in London, with the buyer wishing to remain anonymous. Medal expert with Spink’s Auctioneers, Oliver Pepys, said,

“Major Knox showed incredible bravery, losing his arm to cannon fire in the process.

“The medal is being sold with a Russian cannonball, the very one that smashed into Knox’s arm. In all my years of working with rare medals and war artefacts I have never seen a more unusual keepsake.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *