Victoria Cross General George Channer
The VC awarded to General George Channer for his role in the Perak War in 1875. It sold at Dix Noonan Webb for £200,000 and was bought by Lord Ashcroft.

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The former Conservative Party treasurer is well known for collecting VCs to be displayed in the Imperial War Museum gallery named after him. He paid a mid-estimate £200,000 (plus 20% buyer’s commission) on July 22 to secure the only VC awarded during the Perak War in what is now Malaysia in 1875.

General George Channer

General George Channer who was attached to a regiment of Gurkhas that stormed a stockade during the Perak War in what is now Malaysia in 1875. His VC medal sold at Dix Noonan Webb for £200,000.

Lord Ashcroft’s unrivalled collection of VCs and George Crosses (the equivalent of the VC awarded for actions not in the face of the enemy, such as bomb disposal) is ever-growing and he is particularly interested in honours that are the very best of their type or unique.

The Perak VC was won by General George Channer as a 32-year-old captain. He stormed a stockade during this little-known colonial campaign. Channer had been attached to a regiment of Gurkhas for the 1875-76 conflict, which followed a rebellion in Perak. The Gurkhas were part of the force sent to restore British authority.

The medals were market-fresh and were being sold by a direct descendant.

It is not the highest VC result at DNW, but in terms of their recent VC sales it is well up there. Watson (North West Frontier 1897) fetched £260,000 hammer in December 2014. Next comes Channer and then Garvin (Indian Mutiny) in September 2014 for £190,000 hammer.

The highest price for a ‘unique’ VC at auction – i.e. the only one awarded for a campaign – is believed to be £340,000 for the only one presented for the British campaign in Tibet, 1904, another little-known conflict. It sold at London saleroom Morton & Eden (20% buyer’s premium) in July 2014.

George Cross

Dix Noonan Webb, who last July sold the SOE George Cross group awarded to Violette Szabo for an auction record £260,000 (Lord Ashcroft was the buyer), offered another extraordinary Second World War GC estimated at £120,000-150,000 on July 22.

It was awarded posthumously to John Alexander Fraser (1896-1943), a Somme veteran who became civilian defence secretary and assistant attorney-general in Hong Kong. When the Japanese invaded he organised escape plans and a clandestine wireless service at Stanley Civilian Internment Camp.

Brutally beaten and tortured over a prolonged period, on October 20, 1943 – having failed to break Fraser’s remarkable spirit – the Japanese took him and 32 others to a beach and beheaded them all.

The Fraser GC was bought by an anonymous phone bidder for £190,000 hammer. It is the second-highest price for a GC after the Szabo honour. It was sold by Fraser’s grandchildren.

At DNW on February 24 this year Lord Ashcroft bought the GC awarded to Wing Commander Leonard Harrison RAF for £120,000. Until this Fraser GC, it was the second-highest auction price for a GC.

Lord Ashcroft began building his collection in 1986 when he bought his first VC at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London: that awarded to Acting Leading Seaman James Magennis, paying £29,000 plus buyer’s premium and VAT. Magennis was the only man from Northern Ireland to be awarded a VC for Second World War service.

In an Antiques Trade Gazette interview in November last year, Lord Ashcroft said: “Initially, I intended the purchase to be a one-off. But, after taking possession of the medal, I felt a surge of pride at being so close to the rewards of one man’s gallantry – and so I resolved to build a collection.”