Medals of the man who 'saved Winston Churchill from death' go to auction

Early next month, coin and medal specialists Dix Noonan Webb are offering one of their medal auctions, which are completely unmissable for collectors.

Amongst the many fine and fascinating pieces on offer, one stands out in particular: the Boer War Distinguished Conduct Medal group of five awarded to Warrant Officer 2nd Class C R Roberts.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal of Winston Churchill's saviour
Distinguished Conduct, Queen's South Africa, King's South Africa,
British War and Victory Medals
(Click to enlarge)

Clement Roberts was of Winston Churchill's unit of Montmorency's Scouts, and on hand when Churchill found himself in jeopardy at Dewetsdorp in April 1900.

Dismounting to cut a wire fence to allow safe passage for the horses, Churchill was surprised by 12 Boers and the close gunfire startled his horse so much that it darted off which he was still trying to re-mount.

Churchill picks up the story in his account:

"I turned and, for the second time in this war, ran for my life on foot from the Boer marksmen, and I thought to myself, 'Here at last I take it.'
Suddenly, as I ran, I saw a Scout [Roberts]. He came from the left across my front; a tall man, with skull and crossbones, on a pale horse. Death in Revelations, but life for me.
I shouted to him as he passed; 'Give me a stirrup.' To my surprise he stopped at once. 'Yes,' he said shortly. I ran up to him, did not bungle the business mounting, and in a moment found myself behind him on the saddle."

Roberts took Churchill to safety at a gallop, despite a nasty injury to his horse about which he was distraught.

All those present agreed that Roberts's action of pulling to a stop under the circumstances required recognition with a gallantry award, probably the Victoria Cross. Roberts received the Distinguished Conduct Medal instead.

He later inquired of Churchill (in 1913) whether it might be possible to upgrade the medal to a VC.

Winston Churchill letter to Roberts
Winston Churchill letter to Roberts
(Click to enlarge)

Churchill sent a commiserating reply in the negative.

"I need not say that I have myself very great admiration for the coolness and courage with which you assisted me at Dewetsdorp.

"I have always felt that unless you had taken me up on your saddle, I should myself certainly have been killed or captured, and I spoke myself very strongly to General Rundle on your behalf."

The letter will appear with the DCM and Roberts's four other medals on Wednesday, July 7 in London with the total listed at £30,000-40,000.

Collectors interested in Churchillian memorabilia may wish to know that signed photos and even an annotated typescript of his answers to Parliamentary questions are currently available.


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