Medals to Women
Volume 57, Number 4, April 2019
Always a story FORMER curator of the Lord Ashcroft collection, Michael Naxton, one of the people who has handled more Victoria Crosses than you or I could ever dream of, has submitted a very interesting letter for publication this month on the subject of the Victoria Cross featured in the February edition of MEDAL NEWS. Michael points out that whilst the “first VC” awarded to Charles Lucas and now housed at the National Maritime Museum is not the original as we know (see MEDAL NEWS, February 2019), it is unlikely to be an official replacement. Michael contends that one doesn’t need his expert knowledge in such matters to see that what is at Greenwich (although no longer on display visitors can ask to see it) is a “rough copy” and would not have been anything official. Michael then goes on to suggest that perhaps Lucas, who ended his career as a Rear Admiral, did not leave his medals on a train as he once claimed but rather sold them, hastily buying a copy VC to wear rather than dare apply for an official replacement. Now I will happily bow to Michael’s knowledge of VCs and say that if he believes the Lucas Cross to be a copy rather than a formal replacement then it is a copy rather than a formal replacement; such is Mr Naxton’s exposure to Victoria Crosses over the years, both as an auctioneer and as a curator, that to question him on these matters would be folly, however, if he is correct, and as I say I have no reason to suspect he is not, then that in itself begs more questions than it answers. If you look at scenario a then Lucas left his medals on a train and applied for official replacements. These were duly issued, with the India General Service Medal and Royal Humane Society Medal being named and the Baltic and Victoria Cross remaining unnamed. If this is the case then why, as Richard Stacpoole-Ryding, author of our article, points out, is there no record of an official replacement VC coming from Hancocks? And if it is an official replacement then why is it unnamed? And why is the quality so poor? Scenario b has Lucas selling his medals rather than leaving them on the train; he still applies for replacements for the campaign and RHS medals but, for some reason, feels he cannot apply for a replacement VC, instead buying a copy to wear in the original’s stead. This is the scenario Michael suggests is most likely, and one that explains the Greenwich medal, but then you still have the problem of exactly why Lucas did not apply for an official replacement Victoria Cross. He was happy with his white lie of “leaving them on a train” to get replacement campaign medals so why not the Cross? That doesn’t really make sense and, if he did sell the medals legitimately, where are they today? The purchaser would have known of their value and significance and, one assumes, would have told others in his family about their importance—this being the case why have they never surfaced? Surely after all this time somebody somewhere would have come across them wouldn’t they? If they were still extant surely they would have at least been heard of in the past 140 years even if they hadn’t come on the open market? But no, not a whisper about them at all. But then the same can be said if the medals were indeed “left on a train”; it is unlikely that they would have simply been thrown away by a railway employee, so assuming they were picked up either by a guard or a member of the public where are they now? I suppose it is just about possible that Lucas left them in a pile of rubbish, maybe a discarded newspaper or similar, that was then disposed of with no one realising medals were hidden therein, but it seems highly unlikely, and besides, why did Lucas have his full-size group on him on a train journey anyway and under what circumstances would you just leave them behind, in a pile of rubbish or otherwise? The puzzle then is thus: If Lucas did genuinely leave his medals in a train carriage why did he not apply for an official VC replacement as the one in Greenwich plainly isn’t? After all he surely would have been granted one given his rank and the fact he was the “first” VC. If he didn’t leave them behind, and he sold them, then why did he just not stick to his train story and apply for an official replacement VC as he did with the other medals and also, where is the group now? The fact is the Lucas replacement/copy story is one we will never solve, but it’s fun trying and one of the reasons I love the medal hobby so very much. There’s always a story to tell—or one to make up. What do you think happened to Lucas’ VC? Do let us know.
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