Medal collectors charge for items

William Pearson, whose medals are being sold by a descendant.
William Pearson, whose medals are being sold by a descendant.

RARE medals belonging to a Doncaster soldier who survived the most famous cavalry charge in British history thanks to Florence Nightingale have been sold for £11,000.

Private William Pearson rode ‘into the Valley of Death’ at the Charge of the Light Brigade and survived - thanks to the iconic nurse and his horse.

The winning bid for his Crimean War medals was slightly less than experts predicted when they went under the hammer.

Valuers at specialist medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb had predicted they would fetch between £12,000 and £15,000 from collectors bidding over the internet.

Pte Pearson earned the medals after surviving a severe wound in the ill-fated British charge led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Christopher Hill, director at Dix Noonan Webb, said: “Thanks to this wonderful hobby of ours we keep the memories of these men who helped make our history.

“It was sold with the original parchment certificate of his discharge, a small coloured Crimean War period ambrotype of Pearson in uniform and two portrait photographs of him in later life wearing his medals.”

However, the remarkable story has only been told after his descendents put his medals up for auction.

Pte Pearson was born in Doncaster in February 1825 and nothing is known of his childhood until he enlisted in the 17th Lancers - nicknamed the Death or Glory Boys - in 1848.

His regiment was dispatched to the Crimea in 1854 where he found himself in the midst of the action, blowing his trumpet to sound the charge that has gone down in history thanks to Tennyson’s poem.

After over-running the Russian guns the Light Brigade found themselves cut off from the British lines, with Pte Pearson surrounded by three cossack horsemen.

He beat off all three with his lance but a fourth cossack appeared right across his path and it was then that his horse became his saviour.

Pte Pearson had taught his horse to do certain tricks and in response to his command the faithful beast reared itself up and seemed as though it was about to come down on the cossack with its forelegs.

The cossack swerved and in a flash Pte Pearson got through, but not before one of the other Russians jabbed him in the side with his lance.

Pte Pearson ended up at Scutari Hospital where he had the good fortune to come under the personal supervision of Miss Nightingale.

After he retired from the Army he became a gaoler before his death aged 84.