Train driver’s George Cross to lead September 2 sale

A George Cross posthumously awarded to heroic train driver Wally Oakes in 1965 is poised to set a new railwayana record.

It will cross the block at the Great Central Railwayana Auction in Crewe on September 2.

Train George Cross

Wally Oakes saved the lives of all those on board his train

On June 5, 1965, Oakes was driving a relief passenger train on the West Coast Mainline from Crewe to Carlisle.

Just a few miles from its departure point, the engine cab caught fire.

The fireman leapt from the box, but was able to hold on to the steps of the cab – away from the flames and the worst of the heat.

Suddenly, the train ground to a halt. When he returned to the cab, the fireman saw Oakes had managed to apply the brakes - saving everyone on the train but himself.

Oakes' burns were near total and he died in hospital some days later.

The George Cross is the highest award that can be given to a civilian in the UK. Only six have ever been awarded to railway crew.

The biggest result at auction is £260,000, paid in 2015 for the one awarded to British spy Violet Szabo after her prolonged death at the hands of the Nazis in 1946.

It’s unlikely that this medal will exceed that result, given Szabo’s relative fame, but it could well beat the £60,000 ($77,264) paid for the nameplate for the LNER Golden Fleece – still the record for a piece of railway memorabilia.

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