On December 2 a George Cross medal awarded posthumously to Naik Kirpa Ram of the Indian Army who died in 1946 is being offered for auction by Dix Noonan Webb.
Kirpa Ram was honoured with the award as the result of his actions during a catastrophic accident during a field firing exercise, when a grenade his section fired fell short, a matter of yards in front of the company.
Kirpa Ram, rather than scrambling back to cover himself, sprinted forward in an attempt to fling the grenade to where it could not harm his fellow soldiers, and shouted back that they should take cover.
The grenade went off as Kirpa Ram was throwing it and he absorbed much of the force of the blast, dying from his injuries. His actions are believed to have saved lives.
The sale has caused a great deal of controversy as his widow, Smt Brami Devi, apparently claimed that the medal was stolen several years previously in 2002.
For its part, Dix Noonan Webb has produced affidavits to demonstrate that it is acting in good faith. The documents appear to confirm that Smt Brami Devi relinquished ownership of the medal (and Kirpa Ram's others) to a resident of New Delhi in 2000, before the robbery is supposed to have taken place. Dix Noonan Webb is continuing to investigate the matter.
If the sale does go ahead, the George Cross is estimated to sell for £20,000-25,000.
The George Cross, which is taken to be equivalent to the Victoria Cross, was not intended to be awarded to military personnel. Whilst both are awarded for extraordinary acts of valour, the VC is awarded for those who act 'in the face of the enemy'.
Kirpa Ram is not unique in receiving the award whilst serving, however. A few George Crosses have been associated even with the military excursions into Iraq and Afghanistan after major combat operations had concluded, as well as a 2003 'friendly fire' incident where the danger was not from the declared enemy.