While bank managers are used to saving money, an early HSBC employee was rewarded for taking the phrase literally during the Boxer Rebellion.
Arthur D Brent had only been in the Far East for three years when the Siege of Peking began in the summer of 1900 – the Chinese armed forces holding foreign nationals in the city hostage. Together with the man temporarily left in charge of the bank’s Peking agency, Brent helped to move the corporation’s money to the safer environs of the British Legation. While his senior colleague drove the camels that pulled the cart, Brent followed behind – collecting up coins that had fallen out of bullet holes in the cart as it came under fire.
Now, the rare set of medals he was awarded for this act of bravery have themselves proved a sound investment after selling at auction in Salisbury for £15,000.
Brent’s account of the siege was published by Reuters in the London Daily News of 16th October 1900, and the bank awarded him £500 for his bravery and dedication. He received the Defence of the Legations group of medals and then, three years after the siege, was himself responsible for the limited release of a commemorative medal – available only to those who had been present at the siege, and designed by those involved.
“This is an unusual and rare set of medals,” said Woolley and Wallis militaria specialist, Ned Cowell, who sold the medals on 20th November. “Not only is the commemorative medal a limited release, but the British medal and clasp for the Defence of Legations was also only awarded to 78 recipients. This rarity coupled with the excellent condition of the group is what holds such appeal for collectors.”