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So reads an extract from a letter written by Austin Bissell Esq. Commander of H.M.S. Racoon shortly after an engagement with three French national armed vessels near Cumberland harbour, Jamaica on October 14, 1803. For his gallant conduct, and news of the capture of 280 men and 72 officers that had reached The London Gazette the following February, he was awarded a £100 sword and belt by the Lloyds Patriotic Fund. It was offered for sale by a local private vendor at House & Sons of Bournemouth on July 18.

What made this sword particularly special was the survival of so much material related to a brief skirmish in which the Racoon succeeded in overpowering the French brig La Petite Fille, the schooner Jeune Adele and the cutter Amélie.

The sword, with a suitably inscribed blued steel blade, was offered together with an oval watercolour portrait of a young Bissell 'taken as a midshipman', three contemporary watercolour drawings of the action and other engagements (two signed C.H. Smith) plus the autographed letter signed from Bissell to a Mr Eykin in London, dated H.M. Ship La Creole, Port Royal, Jamaica Nov. 19th 1803.

Bissell continues his lively account: "The officer commanding the troops came on board and surrendered his sword, trumpet and colours with true military dignity and in full uniform and was not a little surprised to find the English Captain dressed in jacket and trousers, as black as coal and as uncomfortable as a man could be after such a fray in a boiling hot day. I gave the French Gentleman a stew for 24 hours on the Brigs lower deck and landed them all next day without their arms on the coast of Cuba to let their General know that they must bring a few more troops before they could carry the Racoon…"

The Bournemouth auctioneers expected such an evocative ensemble to realise substantially more than their estimate of £25,000-30,000. Spirited competition saw the lot sell to a UK private collector at £73,000 (plus 17.5 per cent).

The current record for a £100 sword and belt is the £155,000 bid at Bonhams in July 2005 for the cased sword awarded to Charles Tyler, one of Nelson's "band of brothers" who was Captain of HMS Tonnant at Trafalgar.

Arms and armour sales are reviewed in London Selection.

BY ROLAND ARKELL