He faced a shark and won a George Cross... Hero's medal appears for sale

At Paul Fraser Collectibles we don't usually make special note of lots which remain for sale after an auction is over - generally if an item is worth covering it we try to mention it ahead of the sale.

But one lot at Status International's auction is too good to ignore, and it seems to have passed most people by, despite its covetability and value as an investment.

This is the George Cross group of Squadron Leader Robert ('Bob') Murray Kavanaugh of New South Wales. It is an exceptionally scarce award grouping, not least as only 22 awards of the George Cross have ever been made to Australians.

It is an exchange medal, awarded as the alternative to an original Albert medal award.

The Albert medal was awarded with the following citation on October 17th 1930:

"His Majesty The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Decoration of the Albert Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea on Robert Murray Kavanaugh, of Darlinghurst, New South Wales, in recognition, of his gallantry in the following circumstances: -

"On the evening of the 12th January, 1929, Colin J Stewart, a boy of 14 years of age, was bathing at Bondi Beach, New South Wales, some fifty yards from the shore, when he was attacked by a shark which inflicted serious injuries to his right side & hip.

"Robert Murray Kavanaugh, aged 22 years, of Darlinghust, New South Wales, who was bathing some few yards from Stewart, without hesitation swam to his assistance and had almost reached him when the shark made a second attack on Stewart.

Robert Murray Kavanaugh George Cross
Not swimming scared - Kavanaugh's George Cross
(Click to enlarge)

"Undeterred by the danger to himself, Kavanaugh secured hold of Stewart and struggled with him towards the shore. He had gone a considerable distance when he was met by two other men and together they carried Stewart to the beach, where he was given medical attention and then conveyed to hospital. Stewart, however, succumbed to his injuries the following morning"

The Albert Medal was presented by Governor Sir Philip Game, 1930 and was exchanged at Buckingham Palace 1972 for the George Cross personally presented by Queen Elizabeth II.

Equal in standing with the Victoria Cross, the George Cross is Britain's, and hence the Commonwealth's, highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy and was created in response to civilian bravery displayed during the London Blitz.

The simple yet beautiful silver cross is offered with Kavanaugh's WWII service medals and a photograph of him meeting Queen Elizabeth. It would make a fantastic centrepiece to any medal collection, and is currently offered at A$40,000 (US$40,250).


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