George Cross medal realises $278,000 in London sale

Medal collector Lord Ashcroft paid £216,000 ($277,905) for a George Cross set at Dix Noonan Webb in London on May 11.

It was awarded to merchant seaman George Stronach in 1943.

George Cross set

The George Cross is Britain's highest civilian honour 

Stronach was the chief officer aboard the SS Ocean Voyager, which came under attack from German rockets while anchored in Tripoli harbour.

The ship’s captain was killed in the assault and Stronach took control of the rescue efforts.

He went down into the hold of the blazing vessel several times to help bring out wounded men.

It’s worth noting that the Ocean Voyager’s main cargo was ammunition - and lots of it.

Stronach described the desperate situation in a contemporary interview with the London Gazette: “The ammunition in number one and two holds was exploding; there were bombs in number three; the flames were now at a terrific height.

“We expected her to go up at any minute. The ship was an inferno - fire. fore and aft. There was no time for formalities.”

This is one of only three George Crosses presented to merchant seamen during the second world war.

While Lord Ashcroft primarily collects Victoria Crosses - the highest honour available to members of the British armed forces - he has also started buying George Crosses, which are the civilian equivalent.

The record for a George Cross is £260,000 ($334,453), which Ashcroft paid for a set awarded to British secret agent Violet Szabo in 2016.

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