THE first Victoria Cross awarded to a soldier in the British Army sold for £210,000 (plus 20 per cent buyer's premium) at Spink in London on April 22. The Conservative Party donor and VC collector Lord Ashcroft was beaten to the prize by an anonymous buyer.
The VC was awarded to Major John Knox (d.1897) of the Scots
Fusilier Guards for three acts of bravery between 1854 and 1855 at
the battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastapol during the Crimean
Originally estimated at £100,000-120,000, the medal was sold
along with several mementos including, somewhat gruesomely, the
cannonball, now mounted on a plinth, which blew off the Major's
left arm during an unsuccessful assault on the Great Redan at
After the battle, he recalled the moment he was wounded: "My
rifle was aimed at a Russian when I was struck in the left arm, the
weapon falling to the ground, upon which poor [Captain] Foreman
remarked, 'You are wounded.' I replied, 'I fancy I am.' He offered
me some brandy; this I declined. Having a stout handkerchief ready
for the work, he took it, and by chance placed himself in front of
me and bound up the wound. At that instance a shower of grapeshot
passed; he was struck dead, falling at my feet speechless, the
spirit gone. I remained standing, strange to say."
Descendants of Major Knox were disappointed that Lord Ashcroft
had been outbid, as they had hoped the medal would go on permanent
display with the rest of his substantial medal VC collection in a
new gallery at London's Imperial War Museum, due to open in
However, later in the Spink sale, Lord Ashcroft did bid
successfully for a VC awarded posthumously to Wing Commander Hugh
Malcolm, for his exploits as a bomber pilot in North Africa during
the Second World War, which also fetched £210,000.
By Anna Brady
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