Captain of the Tiger Men leads the way at Dix Noonan Webb's medal sale

For a medal collector, there can be little more exciting news than that Dix Noonan Webb is holding another of its rostrum auctions. The one listed to start in two weeks' time will be the last one of 2010, and will not disappoint.

The medals leading the near 900 lot auction are mostly those from relatively recent times - awarded for conflicts within living memory rather than from Trafalgar or the Boer War, though unusually, one of the most significant medal sets includes awards from both the Great War and WWII.

This is a well-documented and remarkable set including a Second World War MBE, Great War Military Cross and Bar, Distinguished Flying Cross group of nine awarded to Wing Commander J H Norton of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Norton's published account of his experiences in the Palestine campaign 1917-18 include frequent mention of personal encounters with Lawrence of Arabia - among them the occasion he flew the great man to a desert rendezvous and his direct part in one of his classic "Train Wrecking" operations.

"Lawrence came among us and greeted us heartily. I was to learn later that he never shook hands and hated to be touched in any way. Another amazing thing about the man that I noted from the first was that he never looked any one in the face.

"Instead he stared at one's shoes intently .... He couldn't have been more than 27 or 28, yet I felt the force and strength of personality that I was to see accomplish so much later. His bluish-grey eyes, rather deeply set, reflected humour and at the same time were strangely hard."

The set will be sold with a great archive of war memorabilia including Norton's flight log book and many photographs. In total, the lot is expected to sell for £25,000-£30,000.

Next up is a highly important Malaya Emergency and Rhodesia "Bush War" group of eleven medals awarded to Lieutenant-General Peter Walls who served with the 22 Special Air Service Regiment in Malaya, and rose to the command of the Rhodesian Army under Ian Smith.

SAS Peter Walls's medals
SAS member Peter Walls's medals

Walls is regarded as a truly great counter-insurgency leader, and his protracted defence of Rhodesia stands as an exceptional military achievement.  His character is perhaps captured in this exchange with Robert Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe: "Why are your men trying to kill me?"
Lieutenant-General Peter Walls: "If they were my men you would be dead."

Walls's medals and an impressive archive of war documents and militaria is on offer with a listing of £30,000-40,000. Dix Noonan Webb's last auction was led by the sale of SAS legend Jack Byrne.

The last lot we'll focus on is the medal set belonging to a legend of the Vietnam War: Australian Army Captain Barry Petersen, who arrived in the country ahead of any combat troops under the secret command of the CIA.

Tiger Petersen's Medals won in Vietnam
'Tiger' Petersen's Medals won in Vietnam

Petersen was ordered to train and lead guerrilla squads of Montagnard tribesmen against the Viet Cong in the remote Central Highlands. He did this with great success and his fearsome militia were known as Tiger Men by the locals.

Surprisingly the CIA disowned him, having decided that he had 'gone native' and his team had formed a personality cult. He was lucky to make it out of the mountains alive.

The extraordinary collection is expected to sell for £60,000-80,000 in Dix Noonan Webb's sale which takes place in London and online on December 1.

Collectors and investors will also be excited to hear that the first Victoria Cross awarded to a soldier (rather than a sailor) is currently on the market.


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