The extremely important George Cross from the Korean War from the ‘Battle of Imjin River’ – awarded posthumously to Lieutenant T. E. Waters of the West Yorkshire Regiment, which was attached to 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment - sold for a staggering world record price of £280,000 at DNW on Wednesday, February 17.
Terence Edward Waters was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire on June 1 1929. After leaving Bristol Grammar School, where he held the rank of Sergeant in the School’s Cadet Force, Waters was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1948 and the following year commissioned Second Lieutenant into the West Yorkshire Regiment. During the Korean War, he was captured and imprisoned in the foul conditions of the Kangdong Caves where he died having refused to accept medical treatment, better food, and other amenities in exchange for his participation in propaganda on behalf of the North Korean Communists.
At the Imjin, between April 22-25 1951, Waters’ A Company withstood the brunt of repeated frenzied attacks by a large force of Chinese troops, suffering severe casualties including the deaths of all its officers with the exception of Waters who, although wounded in the leg, skillfully assumed command of the Company at this critical period. Badly wounded in the head later in the battle, he was recommended for a Military Cross for his ‘splendid example of coolness and gallantry’ by 1 Glosters Commanding Officer J. R. ‘Fred’ Carne VC DSO; the award was later revised to a M.I.D. solely on account of his death in captivity - posthumous MCs were not permitted at the time.
Captured subsequent to the Battle, Waters endured a march of immense hardship followed by imprisonment in the dark and partially flooded tunnels near Pyongyang known as the ‘Caves’ where numbers died daily from wounds, sickness, and malnutrition. Eventually, as the only officer with the British party, he ordered his men to save themselves by pretending to accede to subversion at a Peace Camp while, although in rags, starving, and badly wounded, steadfastly refusing to do so himself. He died a short time later.
As the final paragraph from Waters’ original George Cross recommendation stated but was later omitted from the London Gazette citation: “He was a young, inexperienced officer, comparatively recently commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Yet he set an example of the highest gallantry that may be asked of any Briton: he sacrificed his life rather than dishonour his nation. Surely his death, chosen so selflessly and so courageously at Pyongyang, must stand with the finest epics of personal courage in the history of British prowess.”
The previous world record price for a George Cross, was also achieved at Dix Noonan Webb
in 2015, when they sold the world-famous George Cross awarded to the Special
Operations Executive secret agent Violette Szabό – one of only four GCs to women –
which fetched a then record price of £260,000 (hammer)