An important and unique medal group has come up for sale at Leonard Joel auctions this week. In fact the auctioneer is so excited that it's keeping the lot in its own sale.
This is the WW1 DFC, DCM group of eight awarded to flying ace and Qantas Co-Founder Lieutenant Paul Joseph McGinness mounted on display bar.
It is believed to be unique as no other Australian serviceman is known to have received both the Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal during WWI OR WWII.
Paul Joseph McGinness was born in Framlingham, Victoria on 4 February, 1896. He attended St Patrick's College in Ballarat and at age 18 enlisted in the A.I.F. with the 8th Light Horse. He was one of the few survivors to take part in the ill-fated charge at the Nek at Gallipoli and was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for action against the Turkish Army at Jifjafa in 1916.
The success of this mission was particularly significant as it proved to the British High Command the effectiveness of the Australian Cavalry in the Middle East.
At age 20 McGinness requested a transfer to the Flying Corps. This decision was to shape his future, which he seemed to be well aware of. In a letter he wrote to his mother in 1916 from the Sinai Desert he explained
"... You cannot get a commission in the (A.I.F.) Light Horse or Infantry unless you are over 23 years of age. Now in the Flying Corps you can get a commission at 21 and with a DCM to my credit, I should have a good chance.
"Another reason is that aviation is only in its childhood and, say, if a man had a good deal of experience in it here, after the War he might follow it up in Australia - if not in the military, then perhaps as a profession."
He flew Bristol Fighters in the Middle East, gaining seven victories and recognition as a flying ace - five victories was considered the qualification. He was awarded the DFC for action on 24 August, 1918.
After the war, McGinness looked to enter the Great Air Race. A prize of AU$10,000 was on offer to the first Australians to complete a flight from Great Britain to Australia in less than 720 hours before midnight on 31 December, 1919.
Unfortunately, he could not enter due to a loss of funding when his sponsor died suddenly, but did surveying work for the programme, seeking out good landing sites.
It was during this period that the plans for a local air service began to form. McGinness and partner Fysh had used a Model T Ford to complete the survey. This was a phenomenal achievement considering the complete absence of sealed roads at this time.
The journey had been painstakingly slow with roads and bridges often rendered impassable due to flooding. With these experiences, the two aviators realised that there was huge potential for a local commercial air service.
The Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Service (QANTAS) was formally established at the Gresham Hotel, Brisbane on 16 November, 1920.
The collection is expected to sell for AU$160,000-200,000 (up to US$205,000) in Melbourne or online on November 20.
Giles Moon, Head of Collectables & Books at Leonard Joel, explained how delighted they were to have the opportunity of offering the medals:
"Leonard Joel has sold important medal groups in the past though none quite as significant as the McGinness Collection. We are particularly excited to be offering this group as it is being offered with a remarkable archive associated with the formation of QANTAS which was co-founded by McGinness in 1920.
"The collection includes photographs of some of the first QANTAS flights piloted by McGinness in the company’s first aircraft, an Avro 504K."
Collectibles such as medals associated with heroic actions will always be treasured by collectors. For example, we're currently proud to own a list of recipients of the Victoria Cross which has been signed by VC winner Rambahadur Limbu.