Captain Sir William Peel V.C. K.C.B

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The Order of Medjidjie The Order of Medjidjie

A Turkish Order established in 1852 as an award for special services to the State, either civil or military.  It could be awarded to foreigners and came in five classes.

The badge consists of a seven-pointed star each ray having five separate points.  Between each arm appears a small silver crescent and star.  The centre medallion is gold and portrays the Sultan's initials, surrounded by a wide red enamelled band inscribed with the Turkish inscription ZEAL, DEVOTION AND LOYALTY-1268, this being the Islamic year for our year 1852.  The riband is red moiré (watered silk) with a green stripe towards each edge.

Legion of Honour

Legion of Honour Legion of Honour

This award was founded on the 19th May 1802 by the First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, with the object of creating a decoration for courage, honour and heroic services to replace the Orders of the Royal Family, that had been abolished by a decree of 30th July 1791.  The Legion was originally divided into four classes, but in 1805 it was extended to a fifth.  The Legion may be conferred on Frenchmen and on foreigners for military bravery and civil achievement.  It may also be conferred posthumously.  The holders of the highest class of the Legion receive a monthly allowance of 5 francs.  The Legion ranks before all French Orders and Decorations and the President of France is the Grand Master of the Legion.

The badge of the Order is a 5-rayed white enamelled star in gold, in silver for the 5th Class, with a wreath of laurel leaves between the rays.  The obverse medallion bears the symbolic female head of the Republic, with the legend "Republique Francaise" on a blue background.  The reverse medallion bears a set of crossed tricolours with the legend "Honneur et Patrie" (Honour and Country).  It has an oak and laurel wreath as a mounting and all classes of the Order are suspended on a plain red riband.

Legion has five classes Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer and Knight.  Peel had the fourth class that would have been silver gilt and worn on a chest riband.

Al Valore Militare

Al Valore Militare Al Valore Militare
Al Valore Militare reverse Reverse with naming.

This award was instituted in 1833, in gold, silver and bronze, for gallantry in action.  All three are the same design, the obverse having the Arms of Savoy and two sprays of foliage, surmounted by a crown and surrounded by the words "AL Valore Militare" (For Military Valour).

The reverse has two circular sprays of laurel, with room for the recipient to insert his name, etc., in the centre, this was a common practice.  Here you can see that Peel's is engraved Cap't. Wm Peel C.B. Naval Brigade.

Peel's railway

After he was wounded at the Redan in June 1855 Peel was sent to the Therapia Hospital, but his wound would not heal and he was invalided home, arriving in August.  In September he was given a civic reception by the town of Tamworth, where his elder brother, the 3rd Baronet was MP.  That autumn the people of Potton in Bedfordshire asked Peel if he would build a railway to connect their town to the main line at Sandy.  He was able to do this relatively easily, by buying up parcels of land in the area, over which the railway would run.  This astute action rendered unnecessary, the requirements for Acts of Parliament, which had been the case for most other new railway construction at the time.

The steam frigate Shannon The steam frigate Shannon

The railway was completed in June 1857, and officially opened by Lady Peel.  The first train consisted of a locomotive, named "Shannon" after Captain Peel's frigate, hauling two passenger carriages, a goods wagon and a brake van.  The locomotive was built by George England at a cost of £800.  Peel of course had returned to sea before its completion.  Peel's railway ran on successfully until 1862, when it was absorbed into the Bedford & Cambridge Railway, part of the Cambridge to Oxford line or "The Universities Line".  As with many rural railways, this cross-country route has not survived, and the track has long been dismantled.

"Shannon" however has survived, after the Sandy to Potton Railway was absorbed into the Bedford & Cambridge Railway, Shannon was put to work in the construction of the line to Cambridge.  The locomotive also spent some time on the Wantage tramroad until its closure in 1947.  The engine underwent restoration in the BR works at Swindon, and sat at Wantage Road Station, until that was closed in 1964.  Shannon now rests in retirement at Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire.

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