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Perfectly preserved helmet of real-life Boy's Own hero who was awarded Victoria Cross after running through hail of bullets to rescue captain in 1897 India goes on sale
- Lt Henry Pennell, 23, served during the Battle of Dargai Heights
- British soldiers attacked by 12,000 Afridi tribesmen on hillsides
- Pennell died aged 32 on Cresta toboggan run, the first ever to do so
By Nick Enoch
PUBLISHED:05:49 EST, 22 May 2013| UPDATED:07:56 EST, 22 May 2013
The perfectly preserved helmet of a real-life Boy's Own hero, Lieutenant Henry Pennell, has emerged for sale after more than a century
The year was 1897, and the British Empire was at the height of its power.
During a battle against tribesmen in Dargai, a mountainous region of India, a young lieutenant ran through 'a perfect hail of bullets' in an attempt to rescue his company captain.
It was an act of bravery that would earn him the Victoria Cross.
Now, the perfectly preserved helmet of Lieutenant Henry Pennell - a real-life Boy's Own hero - has emerged for sale after more than a century.
Pennell was just 23 when he tried to rescue his commander.
His citation told how he fearlessly made two attempts to drag his platoon leader to safety before discovering he had been fatally wounded.
His selfless act came as he served with the 2nd Battalion Derbyshire Regiment, known as the Sherwood Foresters, in the Battle of Dargai Heights during the Tirah campaign.
The soldiers, together with the Dorset regiment, came under a hail of fire from a swarm of 12,000 Afridi tribesmen as they defended hillsides 6,000ft above sea level.
Danger-loving Pennell survived the conflict and went on to fight in the Boer War in South Africa where he was mentioned in dispatches three times.
He lost his life aged just 32 in 1907 when he became the first man to die on the famous Cresta toboggan run in St Moritz, Switzerland.
During a British Forces campaign in Dargai, a mountain region of India, in 1897, Lt Pennell ran through 'a perfect hail of bullets' in an attempt to rescue his company captain. It was an act of bravery that would earn him the Victoria Cross
His ceremonial spiked helmet, still in its original carrying tin, has now emerged and is due to go under the hammer at Dreweatts' militaria sale in London on June 5.
The auctioneers' militaria expert Malcolm Claridge said: 'Henry Pennell was a true, all-action Boy's Own hero in every sense of the word.
'The citation for his Victoria Cross tells how he ran 60 yards through 'a perfect hail of bullets' and made two attempts to drag his company captain to safety, before discovering he had been fatally wounded.
'His story is a remarkable one because, after going on to serve with distinction in the Boer War, he became the first-ever man to be killed on the Cresta Run in January 1907.
The soldier's ceremonial spiked helmet, still in its original carrying tin, is due to go under the hammer at Dreweatts' militaria sale in London on June 5
The helmet, which is expected to make more than £1,500, is being sold with its original japanned (ie heavy black lacquered) carrying tin bearing the nameplate H.S. Pennell. Foresters
'His ceremonial helmet has survived and it is extremely rare to be able to sell a VC holder's helmet.
'It is in almost perfect condition with brass-trimmed peak, spike and chin chain and bearing the regiment's crowned silver stag crest.'
The helmet, which is expected to make more than £1,500, is being sold with its original japanned (ie heavy black lacquered) carrying tin bearing the nameplate H.S. Pennell. Foresters.
His VC is on display at the Sherwood Foresters' museum at Nottingham Castle.
Danger-loving Pennell survived the conflict and went on to fight in the Boer War in South Africa where he was mentioned in dispatches three times. Above, an assistant at the auction house with his helmet
The inside of VC winner Henry Pennell's helmet showing the manufacturer's mark
FOR THE EMPIRE! ATTACK ON THE DARGAI HEIGHTS
In 1897, Queen Victoria ruled over some 300million people, nearly two-thirds of whom were Indians.
The Tirah Campaign was an Indian frontier war that took place from 1897 to 1898.
During this time, an attack was launched on the mountainous region known as the Dargai Heights, which were under the control of Afridi tribesmen.
The Storming of Dargai, by the 1st Gordon Highlanders and Gurkhas, 1897. After painting by Vereker M. Hamilton
The British Forces comprised the 2nd Bn The Derbyshire Regiment of 1st Brigade, First Division; the 3rd Regiment Sikh Infantry (Punjab Field Force) of 2nd Brigade, First Division; 1st Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment, 1st Bn, 2nd Gurkha Rifle Regiment, and 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders from 3rd Brigade, Second Division.
Each battalion was probably at or near full strength of ten companies of 70 for a total of roughly 3,500 infantrymen.
On October 20, 1897, Gordon Highlanders and Gurkhas stormed the villages of Dargai - which were only approachable by climbing sheer cliffs, or via a dangerously exposed narrow track.
The Dorsets and the Derbyshires were deployed to try to rush the ridge but each lost between 40 and 50 men. They were pinned alongside the Gurkhas for some five hours in total.
Next up was the Gordon Highlanders and the Sikhs to try to retake the initiative on the battlefield.
After a concentrated artillery barrage, the Gordons dashed up the slope with pipes playing and guns blazing.
The tribesmen did not wait to be on the receiving end of a Highland charge and so melted into the hills behind them.
The situation had been saved, but at considerable cost to all the units involved.
Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for the action, but the casualty list saw three officers killed and 34 enlisted men killed.