News & Blog

Spink November 19 2009

Posted on Sat, 30 January 2010 by Phil Mussell - Medal News

Market scene October - December 2009

The sheer number of sales in October, November and December 2009 means that we aren't able to accommodate full reports for each within the pages of MEDAL NEWS therefore we have highlights within the magazine with the full reports appearing here:

Spink auction “Sherrishitti 9033” began with a section of gallantry medals, of which Lot 1 was a real bang: the Victoria Cross group to F/Lt William Reid, RAFVR (1921–2001), comprising the Cross, 1939–45/Air Crew Europe Stars, War Medal, Coronation 1953, Jubilee 1977. He won his Cross for superb courage and leadership in 61 Squadron; his Lancaster was crippled by two fighter attacks during a raid on Dusseldorf on November 3, 1943. Although wounded and with his windscreen smashed, he succeeded in dropping his bombs, and eventually piloted the aircraft back to the UK, an incredible feat of skill and determination. He was later transferred to 617 Squadron, and on a raid near Rheims on July 31, 1944 a bomb from another aircraft dropped on his, splitting it in two, and he baled out, ending up as a prisoner of war. The selling price was clearly going to be high, but it reached an astonishing £290,000 hammer, £348,000 including the buyer’s premium of 20 per cent. It has been reported that the purchaser was Melissa John, who bought the group in memory of her late brother, Christopher John, a collector of Royal Air Force medals, whose ambition was to own a Victoria Cross.

Lot 2 was almost a Victoria Cross group, but the VC was a copy, as was the South Africa Medal 1877, but the Queen’s South Africa Medal clasps Cape Colony, South Africa 1902, named for Francis Fitzpatrick, VC, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was genuine. Fitzpatrick (1859–1933) had been awarded his Cross when he was in the 94th Foot for saving the life of an officer in the attack on Sekukuni’s Town, November 1879. He sold his original pair sometime before 1906 (these medals are now held by the National Army Museum), but was known to wear this particular trio in later life in Belfast, which, estimated at £4,000–6,000, made £5,500 (hammer, £6,600 in total). The splendid group awarded to Lt-Gen James Conolly (1818–85) [Lot 4], who distinguished himself in the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava, comprised Commander of the Bath, Crimea Medal clasps Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol (named Cavalry Staff), French Legion d’Honneur, Turkish Order of the Medidjie, Turkish Crimea. Conolly was a Captain at the time of the charge and was General Scarlett’s Brigade-Major; having been ordered by Scarlett to bring up reinforcements, Conolly managed to attach himself to a troop of the Inniskillings, and took part in the action. The group reached its bottom estimate of £6,000 (hammer, £7,200 in total). Another superb group comprised Order of St Michael & St George; India General Service Medal 1854 clasp Hazara 1888, India Medal 1895 clasp Punjab Frontier 1897–98, QSA clasps Cape Colony, Transvaal, Wittebergen, King’s South Africa Medal two clasps, 1914–15 Star Trio (MiD), Delhi Durbar 1911 [6], named for Colonel Thomas Daly, RAMC (1861–1917). Daly had a steady career in the medical service up to the time he was drowned when the Arcadian was torpedoed in the Aegean. This lot was bid up to £2,760 against a top estimate of £2,000. A really well researched group to the RNAS/RAF consisted of Order of the British Empire, Officer’s Breast Badge, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross, 1914–15 Star Trio (MiD), War Medal, 1935 Jubilee to Albert William Fletcher [10]. Fletcher earned his DFC in the Kronstadt Raid in August 1919, and his AFC for his work at the Airship Station East Fortune. The lot included a large number of documents, including log books and various certificates, and although the medals were catalogued as “cleaned”, the successful bidder had to pay £15,000 (top estimate £5,500). A unique group of Distinguished Conduct Medal (V), Queen’s Sudan Medal, Queen’s South Africa Medal clasps Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek, Long Service Medal (EVII), Khedive’s Sudan was awarded to William John Jack, Middlesex Regiment [19]. He was a Divisional Staff Sergeant when awarded the DCM for Omdurman (mentioned in Kitchener’s Despatch), and he was also mentioned in a despatch from Lord Roberts for the part he played at Alleman’s Nek. Perhaps the condition of the medals (lacquered, contact marks) kept the bidding to no more than the bottom estimate of £4,500 (hammer, £5,400 altogether). Although it beat its higher estimate of £1,000, the DCM (GV), 1914–15 Star Trio, Defence Medal to John Alfred Howard, 8/East Surrey Regiment [23], looked as though it should have made more. Howard’s DCM (awarded for bravery in March 1916 when he was a Sergeant) had a good fighting citation, he was wounded on July 1, 1916, and he was a Home Guard officer in World War II, but the lot reached no more than £1,800. A lot that made as much as some Victoria Cross groups might achieve was awarded to Melvill Keith Townsend. Another unique DCM (for Dhofar), it comprised the DCM (EII) (Royal Signals), General Service Medal 1962 clasps Northern Ireland, Dhofar (Royal Signals), South Atlantic Medal (with rosette) (Royal Signals [SAS]), UN Cyprus Medal, Accumulated Campaign Service Medal (Captain, WFR). Melvill won his DCM for his gallantry in the Sherrishitti battle in Western Dhofar, and this was well written up in the catalogue. Intriguingly, a second (replacement) medal group was sold with the lot, Melvill’s original medals having been reported stolen, but then returned to him. It easily beat its top estimate of £60,000 to achieve £120,000. The following lot [26] was another superb group: Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying), 1939–45/Atlantic Stars, War Medal to Harold Arthur Corbin, RAFVR. Corbin was a Coastal Command Mosquito pilot who flew 42 operational sorties, and was finally shot down over France (Caterpillar Club badge included with the medals). Together with his log book and two photographs, the lot had a top estimate of £14,000, but eventually sold for £20,400.

The Campaign Groups and Pairs section of the sale was no less attractive. An unusual but interesting group [51] to Alfred Prendergast (1855–1930) comprised South Africa Medal 1877 clasp 1879 (Lt, Lonsdales Horse), Cape Of Good Hope General Service Medal 1880 clasp Basutoland (Corporal, Natal Mounted Police), QSA clasp Natal (Inspector, Natal Police), and Natal Medal 1906 with clasp (Major, Natal Police); before he died in Durban he had been appointed a Justice of the Peace. This lot appealed hugely to the successful bidder who had to pay £2,640 to take it away (top estimate £850). As at Lockdales, Spinks offered a QSA with clasps Cape Colony, Wepener, Wittebergen, and KSA (two clasps) to Brabant’s Horse [65]; these clasps appear now to be relatively common, as several examples have appeared in the last year. This lot, to Sgt R. W. Meiring, made the top estimate of £400 (hammer, £480 in total), compared with the example at Lockdales which made £380 hammer. A very collectable group with research potential was awarded to Alfred Griffiths, Essex Regiment [67], consisting of QSA clasps Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902, Africa General Service Medal clasp Somaliland 1902–04, British War & Victory Medals. These were displayed with several shooting medals, and accompanied by his record of service booklet and certificate. Like the group to Prendergast, this soared above its top estimate of £350, to be knocked down for £1,320. One of the highest achieving lots of the sale appeared in this section, and that was Lot 79, which also exemplified how difficult it is to estimate with any accuracy groups containing Russian awards. Telegraphist Ernest Stuart Charles Holt, a member of the crew of HM Submarine E13 on its way to the Baltic, was one of 15 sailors killed in cold blood by a German motor torpedo boat on August 19, 1915; he was awarded the Cross of St George 4th Class. Added to his 1914–15 Star Trio and Memorial Plaque, this was bid up to £13,800 (top estimate £1,800).

The section of single campaign medals was equally exciting. Lot 124 set the scene: a Naval General Service Medal 1793 clasps Egypt, Martinique, to the man who was to become Admiral of the White Sir Thomas John Cochrane KCB (1789–1872), one of Britain’s best-known sailors (Captain on the medal). A 12-year-old Midshipman in 1801, by 1809 he was Captain of the Ethalion. Unsurprisingly this fascinating piece of history achieved £9,600 (top estimate £5,000). As only one of six Army of India Medals with clasps Allighur, Laswarree, Capture Of Deig, Lot 129 to G. Hunter, 29th Light Dragoons, sold for an expected mid-estimate £5,500 (hammer, £6,600 altogether).Considering the historical context of the recipient, the Waterloo Medal to Ensign (later Colonel) Thomas Josiah Wedgwood, 2/3rd Guards [132], was remarkably bereft of research (he was grandson of the Josiah Wedgwood, and cousin of Charles Darwin); the lot clearly surprised the estimator by selling for £7,200 (top estimate £3,200). A pleasing Indian Mutiny Medal [146] named to Captain (later Lt-Col) Toovey Archibald Corbett, 61st Native Infantry (1826–1918), was accompanied by useful research, including the information that at the time of his death he was one of the last few Mutiny survivors, and it sold for £600 (top estimate £380). A medal with very little research potential easily beat its top estimate of £1,400: an East & West Africa Medal clasp Uganda 1899 [160] to Charles Edward de Vere Beauclerk, KRRC (1875–1900). This young man was commissioned in 1894, and lost his life in east Africa, attached to the Uganda Militia, as a result of blackwater fever, having served militarily for only a few weeks in the Wakedi Field Force. It made enough of an impact to relieve the successful bidder of £2,760. Lot 193 was catalogued as rare: it was one of the 106 no clasp KSAs to Army Service Corps staff, in this case Conductor K. Henry. With no additional research, it reached the top estimate of £220 (hammer, £264 in all). Yet another Tibet Medal to the Royal Fusiliers turned up in this sale, but this lot [197] was rather special, named for Major Steuart Menzies. With very little research, but with a plaid brooch, a seal and a portrait photograph of the recipient, it made £1,620 against a rather conservative top estimate of £800. Even single Memorial Plaques, if named for aircrew, have sold well recently, and such was the case with the Plaque to Charles James Cameron Sheridan [218]; with enough research to establish his death while flying, it achieved £264 against a very conservative top estimate of £80. An unresearched MiD oakleaf (apart from the London Gazette reference) on a General Service Medal 1918 clasp Malaya to S-Sgt A. M. E. Hoare, REME helped the lot to sell for £780, when the top estimate was only £240. In contrast, a lot which looked as though it should have done better than it did was the South Atlantic Medal (with rosette) to Lance-Corporal Doug Padgett, RAMC [228], who served with 16th Field Ambulance in the Falklands, and was on the Sir Galahad when it was bombed. Even though his very emotional account of what he did on that occasion was published in the catalogue, the lot failed to reach its bottom estimate of £1,400, making no more than £1,200 (hammer, £1,440 altogether).

A miniature medal group that looked as though it had actually been worn by the recipient [233] was attributed to Colonel Solomon Charles Frederick Peile (1855–1932). The group consisted of Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire, Delhi Durbar 1903, Second Afghan War Medal, India General Service medal clasps Burma 1885–7, Burma 1887–9, Burma 1889–92, Chin Hills 1892–93, King’s Police Medal (GV). Although it had a top estimate of £250, the successful bidder had to pay £660 to secure it.

Lot 249 was extremely interesting for its associations: Voluntary Medical Service Medal to Lady Carola Mary Anima Lenanton (1897–1978), who was the daughter of Sir Charles Oman (well-known historian and numismatist), and who achieved her own fame as a successful novelist and county President for the Hertfordshire British Red Cross Society. The top estimate of £35 was easily overtaken, the lot being knocked down for £204.