*Lifesaving: A Sea Gallantry Medal Trio awarded to Commander William Niles, Royal Naval Reserve, comprising:
(i) Sea Gallantry Medal, George V, in silver (Commander William Niles, R.N.R. “Delhi” 13 Dec. 1911);
(ii) Royal Naval Reserve Decoration, Edward VII, hallmarked London, 1908, unnamed;
(iii) Royal National Lifeboat Institution Medal, Victoria, in silver (Mr William Niles. Voted 12th July 1888);
this last with silver riband buckle on ribbon, good very fine to extremely fine (3)
As Coxswain of the Cardigan Lifeboat, WILLIAM NILES was awarded the R.N.L.I.’s silver medal in July 1888 ‘In recognition of his long and faithful services as Coxswain during which Mr Niles helped save 53 lives from various wrecks. The vessels included the smacks Oliver Lloyd, Turtle Dove and Coronation (1867), the schooners Dollart (1873) and Johanna Antoinette (1875), the brig Wellington (1882), the brigantine Unda (1884) and the fishing-boat President (1886)’ (see Cox., B., Lifeboat Gallantry xx).
Niles later became Captain of the Port of Gibraltar and, when the P. & O.’s S.S. Delhi became stranded near Cape Spartel on the Moroccan coast during a severe gale in December 1911, he volunteered to reprise his former rôle as Coxswain aboard the Gibraltar Lifeboat.
Amongst the Delhi’s passengers were the Duke and Duchess of Fife (The Princess Royal) and their two daughters, Princess Alexandra and Princess Maud. The Delhi’s own onboard lifeboats were smashed but the Gibraltar Lifeboat and warships in the area, having heard her distress calls, went speeding to the wreck. These vessels included the French cruiser Friant, which lost three of here complement in attempting a rescue, the British battleship London and the cruiser Duke of Edinburgh. One of Duke of Edinburgh’s boats took off the Royal party only to be swamped on the way back to shore, Princess Alexandra’s life being saved by a sailor.
The rescue operations lasted for five days during which the Gibraltar Lifeboat herself made five journeys, back and forth to the wreck, carrying 10 to 12 passengers each time. On one run five crewmembers were washed overboard but saved, and on another the boat was damaged against her own anchor, taking on a lot of water.
Commander William Niles, Captain of the Port, Gibraltar, was awarded the Sea Gallantry Medal in silver for his services at the wreck.
Ex Peter Maren Collection and W.H. Fevyer Collection, Dix, Noonan & Webb, 25 September 2008, lot 20. Formerly ex Dawson Collection and exhibited at Spink Exhibition 1985, No. 108b and Sotheby’s ‘Rule, Britannia!’ Exhibition, 1986, no. 331; offered with substantial copied research.
Estimate: 1'800 GBP
Starting price: 1'440 GBP
Price realized: 3'200 GBP