THE Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft has reportedly paid nearly £1.5m for the only double Victoria Cross awarded during the First World War.
The VC and bar were awarded to Captain Noel Chavasse, who received one of only three double VCs given since the medal was introduced in 1854.
The medals were left to St Peter’s College, Oxford, which was founded by Chavasse’s father. Lord Ashcroft is understood to have paid the college for the medals, adding to his existing collection of 160 VC medals, the largest in the world.
They will be housed in the new Lord Ashcroft Gallery, due to open in the Imperial War Museum next year and funded by a £5m donation from the peer. Lord Ashcroft told The Sunday Telegraph last week: “I always felt the collection would never be complete unless it has a VC and bar in it – and this is the ultimate VC and bar.”
Chavasse had already won the Military Cross when he received his first VC in 1916 after saving the lives of 20 injured men during the Battle of the Somme. He tended to wounded soldiers day and night under heavy fire, and was awarded the VC for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”.
He was awarded the second posthumously after being injured in Ypres, Belgium, a year later. The 32-year-old doctor refused to be evacuated and crawled for half a mile with at least six injuries to get help for fellow soldiers before he died.
His final letter to his fiancée said: “Duty called and duty must be obeyed”.
Meanwhile, at Spink in London on November 19, a collector from London paid £348,000 for a Victoria Cross, a new auction record for a VC say the auctioneers.
The medal was presented to Flight Lieutenant Bill Reid for his part in a bombing raid over Germany in 1943 where he flew his Lancaster bomber 200 miles towards its target despite being wounded in two separate fighter attacks. He also managed to get the plane home after the attack, despite the death of his navigator and the fatal wounding of his wireless operator.
Flt Lt Reid later joined the RAF’s 617 Squadron, better known as the Dam Busters, but was shot down in 1944 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.
Five other medals belonging to Flt Lt Reid were also sold as part of the lot, consisting of a 1939-1945 Star, an Air Crew Europe Star, a War Medal, a 1953 Coronation Medal and a 1977 Jubilee Medal.
By Anna Brady