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Victoria Cross won by ‘Hero of Manipur' to be sold at auction

Colonel Charles Grant was a 29-year-old lieutenant when he fought in the Anglo-Manipur War in 1891.

A Victoria Cross won by an Army officer for his bravery in a controversial war during the era of the British Raj is expected to fetch up to £400,000 when it is sold at auction.

Colonel Charles Grant was a 29-year-old lieutenant with the 12th Regiment (2nd Burma Battalion) Madras Infantry when he fought in the Anglo-Manipur War in 1891.

The month-long conflict between the British Empire and the Kingdom of Manipur – on the North East Frontier of India – saw Grant earn the nickname the “Hero of Manipur” for his bravery.

Lieutenant Charles Grant's Victoria Cross group of medals will be sold at auction later this month (Dix Noonan Webb /PA)
Lieutenant Charles Grant’s Victoria Cross group of medals will be sold at auction later this month (Dix Noonan Webb /PA)

The Scots-born soldier led his men during the Battle of Thoubal where just 80 troops fought off wave after wave of attack, facing down an estimated 2,000 enemy forces.

Grant retired from the Army as a colonel and spent his later years in Sidmouth, Devon, where he died in 1932, aged 71.

The Victoria Cross group of medals is to be sold by auction house Dix Noonan Webb on June 23 on behalf of a collector.

Also being sold with the medal is an archive of historical importance, including Grant’s unpublished leather bound Officer’s Field Note and Sketch Book and Reconnaissance Aide-Memoire.

He meticulously records the march to Manipur and the capture and subsequent defence of Thoubal and is illustrated by several detailed sketches of both actions and positions.

Lieutenant Grant and 80 men fought off wave after wave of attack from an estimated 2,000 opposition troops (Dix Noonan Webb /PA)
Lieutenant Charles Grant led 80 men in fighting off wave after wave of attack from an estimated 2,000 opposition troops (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)

There is also a file of original letters, including the negotiations between Grant and the Manipuris, and a coded message from Grant in Greek characters to the relief force.

Medal expert Mark Quayle, from Dix Noonan Webb, said: “We are very excited to be offering this outstanding VC group and important archive in our June sale.

“The action fought by Lieutenant Grant and his small band of Gurkhas in 1891 on the North East Frontier of India was a great epic of Empire which brought him fame during his lifetime as the ‘Hero of Manipur’.

“His storming of the defences at Thoubal was remarkable in itself, but it is no exaggeration to say that the subsequent defence of that place for eight days with just 80 men against an estimated 2,000 of the enemy is a feat that probably ranks alongside Rorke’s Drift in the history of famous defences against overwhelming odds.”

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration, awarded for valour in the face of the enemy.

Since its introduction in 1856 there have been 1,354 recipients, with Grant being the 406th.

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