Dix Noonan Webb held an important medal sale yesterday. Much of the pre-auction publicity concerned a George Cross of disputed ownership, which was withdrawn from sale.
This did not reduce the excitement at the sale, however. On the contrary, many of the best lots went under the hammer easily in excess of their estimates - perhaps benefitting from the additional publicity the George Cross controversy brought.
One of the oldest sets of medals was a group of four awarded to New York-born Col Charles Stuart Campbell (1779-1854). Campbell served in Canada and Egypt, then in Portugal and Spain in 1808-9, where he was seriously injured by a musket-ball to the thigh.
His medals, in excellent condition, comprise: a Field Officer's Gold Medal 1808-14, for Vittoria, 1 clasp, St Sebastian; a Military General Service medal 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Corunna; a Portuguese Peninsular War Cross, for 2 Campaigns, and a Portuguese Commander's Medal, for 2 actions, circular gold medal, the obverse with two green enamelled lozenges inscribed 'Vittoria' and 'St Sebastian'. The group sold for £18,000.
Serving at the same time as Campbell, George Anson also served in Portugal, and received the rare Military Order of The Bath, alongside a General Officer's Large Gold Medal, for Talavera 1809, 2 clasps, Salamanca, Vittoria complete with all proper gold suspension fittings and full neck cravat.
This collection sold at the high end of its estimate for an impressive £50,000. Recently a BBC show revealed that one of Anson's descendents is a medal winner of a different kind: Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent is directly descended from him.
Towards the other end of the 19th century, Royal Marine Colour-Sergeant Benjamin White was awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his conduct at the battle of Kassassin in 1882. He was recommended for the award for braving prolonged heavy fire to prevent his company being outflanked.
The medal, along with eight service medals, beat its top estimate of £15,000 to go under the hammer for £21,000 (not including Buyer's Premium). Another CGM recently sold for £20,400, again performed in excess of the estimates.
The top lot however was a set of medals and memorabilia from paratrooper Captain Ian Bailey, who charged the Argentine position at Mount Longdon alongside Sergeant Ian McKay, the action which claimed most lives in the war, and which earned McKay a posthumous VC.
A Victoria Cross recently sold at auction for a record-breaking £348,000
Bailey received several injuries during the attack, and some of the shrapnel was only removed 20 years later. His medals, which include service medals in Northern Ireland and with NATO in Cyprus, were offered alongside a host of documentation detailing Bailey's military experiences and detailing some of McKay's actions which led to his VC.
Expected to sell for £50,000-60,000, the group beat even this to sell for £70,000.
The performance of these great pieces demonstrates the depth of interest collectors have in stories of heroism represented by these medals.
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