The C.M.G. group of four to Doctor Wordsworth Poole, Principal Medical officer in Central Africa and Physician to the British Legation during the Siege at Pekin,

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Lot 117
The C.M.G. group of four to Doctor Wordsworth Poole, Principal Medical officer in Central Africa and Physician to the British Legation during the Siege at Pekin,

Sold for £ 36,000 (US$ 47,276) inc. premium
The C.M.G. group of four to Doctor Wordsworth Poole, Principal Medical officer in Central Africa and Physician to the British Legation during the Siege at Pekin,
The Most Distinguished Order of St.Michael and St.George, C.M.G., Companion's breast badge, in gold and enamel; Central Africa Medal 1891-98, one bar, Central Africa 1894-98, engraved (Wordsworth Poole P.M.O); East and West Africa 1887-1900, one bar, 1897-98, impressed (Dr. Wordsworth Poole. W.A.F.F.); China 1900, one bar, Defence of Legations, engraved (Wordsworth Poole. M.B. C.M.G. Legation). Lightly toned, good very fine or better. (4)


  • C.M.G. London Gazette 2.1.1900.

    Dr. Wordsworth Poole was born into a medical family at St. Paul's Cray, Kent, on 7 December 1867. He was educated at St. Olav's School in London where he won several scholarships and then proceeded to St. Catherine's College, Cambridge where he entered the medical faculty. He completed his clinical training at Guy's Hospital, qualifying as an M.B. and B.Ch. Before proceeding to Zomba, the capital of British Central Africa (now Nyasaland), he spent a short time as house surgeon at Guy's Hospital.

    He went forth to play his part in Empire and later jotted:

    'There was a young Cambridge M.B.
    Said I won't be a Cambridge G.P.
    But to Africa's shore I'll stick ever more
    And now he's a K.C.M.G.'

    On 5 January 1895, he joined the Administration of the British Central Africa Protectorate as second Medical Officer. Promotion was swift and by October he held the post of Principal Medical Officer, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, Sir Harry Johnston, who said of him, he had 'shown himself to be a most capable man and he can stand the climate and likes the country. 'Conditions for the handful of Europeans in the capital were harsh, and while Poole discovered he could get by set apart from fair-skinned females, it appears he found his military neighbours rather trying. 'Take them all round,' he wrote, 'soldiers are about the most uninteresting men out - Their calling seems to wash anything original out of them and they become exasperating bores. ' However, he enthusiastically entered the social life of the place, becoming secretary of the sports club and, being of literary interests, was the prime mover in establishing a library. In 1895, Wordsworth Poole took part in the first of several expeditions to suppress slavery on the southern shores of Lake Nyasa. As the expedition approached Chief Matipwiri's village, he contemplated his forthcoming baptism of fire. 'I had been thinking all day what I should do when the action commenced, ' and imagined himself attending the casualties, with his, 'boy carrying my Winchester to be handy in case the n*****s should attack me whilst looking after a wounded man. ' The reality, however, was somewhat different. The enemy evaporated and, various parties went out burning villages and killing a few folk. 'The following month Poole joined a column under Major C. E. Edwards, intent on punishing the naughty Zarafi, but, on finding the enemy's town abandoned, embarked upon the next stage of the campaign against the wicked Mponda, who in turn gave himself up in fear of the oncoming white men. On 13 November, Poole set out with a force of 180 rifles to deal with the notorious Makanjira, responsible for the brutal murder of Captain Maguire. At this time Poole found himself with a number of wounded on his hands and observed, with regards to physical pain, 'the blunted feelings of these black men.' Once order had been restored on the Lake's southern shores, Sir H. Johnston turned his attention to the north, and, on 18 November, led 400 soldiers to attack the Arab strongholds of Mloze, Kopa Kopa and Kapandansarer. Unexpectedly these fell in quick succession. Nevertheless, Poole had a busy time of it among the wounded and treated Mloze himself; resuscitating him to the point where he was sensible enough to be told he was going to be hanged anyway. Thus, by the time Poole left Nyasaland almost the whole country had submitted to British rule, and the practice of slavery virtually eradicated. During his leave, he was nominated as Principal Medical Officer to the forces on the Niger Expedition under Colonel (later Lord) Lugard, and, having served for 18 months, with the West Africa Field Force, was made a C.M.G.

    He was eager to continue his work in Africa, his career on that continent was finished by an attack of blackwater fever, causing him to seek employment elsewhere. Shortly before Pekin was invested by the Fists of Righteous Harmony, for 55 historic days in 1900, Wordsworth Poole became Physician to the British Legation. Both he and his brother, Captain Francis Poole, who was in Pekin learning Chinese at the behest of the War Office, played significant roles in the Defence of the Legations. The latter, who was soon to win the D.S.O., witnessed the entry of the various Legation guards into the area that was to be defended, and noted that, 'Ours (Royal Marines) were naturally the smartest, ' and that the Americans were 'a serviceable looking lot, ' but the Russians and Italians he considered were 'very dirty. 'Dr. Poole found himself once again tested to the limit. During the course of the Siege, he, and a German surgeon, Dr. Velde, treated 125 severely wounded men (of whom 17 died), one severely wounded woman and forty cases of sickness (of whom 2 died), in the International Hospital housed in the Chancery of the British Legation. Despite the devotion and skill of the two doctors and the amateur nursing staff, that numbered one Madame Pichon, whom Poole thought 'a great nuisance, ' it was a grim place. The 'Hospital' only contained eleven assorted beds; most patients, whose numbers after the first fortnight never fell below 60, lay on the floor. Antiseptics and anesthetics were scarce, and bags of sawdust and powdered peat were used as dressings. The heat, flies and shortage of food further hampered the medics efforts. Between his many and varied duties, it appears that Wordsworth Poole found himself involved in a V.C. action. Captain Halliday, R.M.L.I., had been ordered through a hole in the Legation wall to clear away a group of Boxers, which he duly did. On being critically wounded, he returned to the hole unaided so as not to diminish the numbers of men engaged in the sortie. At this point, Poole assisted the wounded hero and conducted him to the hospital. Finally the Siege came to its happy conclusion, but Wordsworth Poole had suffered badly and soon after the arrival of the relief force he succumbed to a severe attack of jaundice and fever. Despite the wide recognition of his services - the French had offered him the Legion of Honour which he was unable to accept owing to existing F.O. regulations, and the Graphic paid tribute to his wonderful power of 'making the best' of conditions-he became mentally depressed, exacerbated no doubt by the acute rheumatism from which he was now also suffering. The coup de grace came in December 1901, when he contracted typhoid, causing his much lamented demise on the 9th January 1902.

    A memorial brass was placed in the Legation chapel by members of the Legation and friends:

    "To the glory of God and in memory of Wordsworth Poole, C.M.G., M.B., B.S., B.A. (Cantab), Physician to the Legation, 1899-1902. Died in Peking 9th January, 1902, aged 33 years."

    sold with detailed research and a copy of Doctor on Lake Nyasa, being the Journal and Letters of Dr.Wordsworth Poole (1895-1897).
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