It took 28 injuries to stop him... George 'Snowy' Howell's Victoria Cross is for sale

Noble Numismatics is holding a sale of Important Australian & World Coins, Medals & Banknotes this spring. The details are still limited, in fact the auctioneer is still taking consignments for another week. But the likely top lot is already clear.

The  company has sold some interesting pieces for medal collectors before, such as a group of seven medals awarded to flight Observer Sergeant Overheu, headed by a Distinguished Flying Medal he was awarded jointly with his pilot Sergeant Leavers for their heroics in attacking an enemy convoy in 1941.

That group sold for A$13,000 (US$13,160) making it a good investment for a collector starting to build a significant collection. But the piece on offer here is a much rarer opportunity.

The lot is the VC and MM Group of Eleven of Corporal G J 'Snowy' Howell, with the main award for the WWI Battle of Bullecourt.

George Snowy Howell VC
George Snowy Howell VC

Sydney-born Howell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in June 1915. Assigned to the force's 1st Battalion, he served at Gallipoli prior to transferring to the Western Front.

On April 9, 1917, Howell took part in the 1st Battalion's attack on the German held village of Demicourt, pressing it home with determination against heavy machine gun fire. He was awarded the military medal, with the citation noting the role his "courage and devotion to duty" had had in the success of the attack.

The next month, Howell was involved in fierce fighting at the battle of Bullecourt. Fearing the Germans would outflank his battalion, Howell climbed onto the top of the parapet and began running along the trench line throwing bombs down on the Germans, all the while being subject to heavy rifle and bomb fire.

Soon exhausting his supply of bombs, Howell began to attack with his bayonet until he fell into the trench wounded. Due to his actions, during which he suffered at least twenty-eight separate wounds mostly due to his legs being machine-gunned, the ground which had been lost was soon retaken.

Noble Numismatics is offering the group with a listing of A$650,000 (US$658,000) in their auction which takes place April 5-7 in Sydney. Away from the auction, the first VC awarded to a soldier is available to collectors right now.


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