A fascinating and unpublished Archive that celebrates the “The Gorgeous Wrecks” – a group of over-military age men who defended Dublin’s Beggars Bush Barracks’ during the Easter Rising of 1916 is to be offered by Dix Noonan Webb in their auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. It is estimated to fetch £8,000-12,000.

Included will be the important and unique inter-War C.B.E. (Civil), 1916 ‘Easter Rising - Defence of Beggars Bush Barracks’ D.S.O., Great War O.B.E. (Military) group of eight awarded to Major and Adjutant George Arthur Harris of Dublin University Officer Training Corps, Territorial Force, who led his poorly armed column of above age military reservists - ‘The Gorgeous Wrecks’ - in a week long defence of Beggars Bush Barracks during the 1916 Easter Rising: arranging his veteran volunteers to the best possible advantage and by keeping up a constant fire on all surrounding houses occupied by the rebels, Harris prevented them from making an attack, and ‘bluffed them into thinking the garrison was much larger than it really was.’

It will be sold with an important archive of related material including the recipient’s unpublished diary of the Defence, written during the siege on ‘
Beggars Bush, Dublin’ headed writing paper. As he commented “The whole business was horrible, as one never knew who was for or against you. An innocent looking civilian would walk past the barracks, see our position and then go to a house and snipe. The fighting in France I think was infinitely preferable to this and in this others concur.”

Following the armed insurrection of around 1800 Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army in Dublin on Monday 24 April 1916, the VTC were ordered to return to Beggars Bush Barracks at once. Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Browning, the senior officer present, split the volunteers into two columns placing the larger party under Harris. These part time reservists, many of them lawyers, doctors and other professional men were mostly above military age - the Irish Rugby Union also had its own contingent. Unofficially termed the ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’, they wore civilian clothes with an armband emblazoned ‘GR’ - Georgius Rex. As a Volunteer Force they had no ammunition and many of their rifles were dummies for training purposes only.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison (Associate Director), Dix Noonan Webb said:  “Major Harris’s medals and related archive with his personal diary represent probably one of the finest groups of related awards and artefacts for the Easter Rising that has ever come up for auction. His successful week long defence of the strategically important Beggars Hill Barracks and its ammunition store with only the use of 15 live rifles among his volunteer force of 80 was vital in resisting the early momentum of the Easter Rising. He then became part of the defence of Trinity College Dublin. His medals with his rare Officers Trinity College Dublin Cup and related ephemera are worthy of a museum display such is their historical importance for this iconic moment in Irish history.”

Oliver Pepys, Associate Director and Medal Auctioneer at Dix Noonan Webb commented: “We are very pleased to be selling
this unique archive on behalf of the family; the details of Major Harris’ Territorial Force otherwise known as ‘The Gorgeous Wrecks’ is a wonderful story of courage, whatever your age, and I could imagine it being made it into a film.”

George Arthur Harris was born in 1879 at Longford, Ireland, into a family with successful business interests and long Ulster associations. He won a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin, where he gained a gold medal in mathematics, played rugby for the 1st XV and assisted in the foundation of the Dublin University Officers’ Training Corps before graduating via open competition to an appointment as a first-class clerk at the Admiralty in London in 1903. The following year he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Prince of Wales’s Own (Civil Service) Rifle Volunteer Corps but, having chosen to return to Dublin, in 1910 he was appointed an officer of the Dublin University Officer Training Corps. Appointed to the command of the Infantry Unit in 1911 and promoted to Major in February 1913, it was in this capacity that Harris was serving on the outbreak of war in 1914. Additionally appointed to the command of the 1st Dublin Battalion Volunteer Training Corps from August 1915, Harris was leading a party of these veteran volunteers on military manoeuvres in the Dublin Hills on 24 April 1916 when he received news that Sinn Fein had risen in Dublin. 



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Dix Noonan Webb – a brief history 
In 1991, its first year of trading, the company held three medal auctions and sold 1,200 lots for a total hammer price of £553,000, however 30 years later, DNW is established as the premier medal auctioneer worldwide. Two years later, in 1993, it opened a coin department which also auctions commemorative medals and tokens. In 2015 DNW added jewellery to its sales calendar as well as setting up a stand alone banknotes department and expanding into premises next door. In 2020 DNW achieved a total hammer price of £14,256,060 and the total number of lots sold across all departments was 24,400. To date the company has sold in excess of 350,000 lots totalling over £200 million.

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November 2021