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About 50 honours in total given to the versatile actor, who died in 2015, have been consigned by his family to the London auction, ranging from his wartime medals to a BFI Lifetime Achievement Award.

The collection charts the life and career of the legendary actor starting from his active service as a young RAF officer.

Lady Lee says: “Christopher was greatly appreciative of the recognition of his fans and his peers, and these honours and awards adorned our apartment for many years, bringing him great pleasure.

“It’s fitting that now a wider audience might have the opportunity to enjoy them, and to celebrate so many highpoints of his life. These awards represent a lifetime of dedicated work and diverse experiences, starting with his role as an RAF officer in the war, a period that went on to influence him throughout his life.

“He remains sorely missed but his family hope that the forthcoming auction will be a celebration of his life and achievements, and a catalyst for future owners of his awards to have many happy memories of their own. I am happy to confirm that a percentage of the sale proceeds will be donated to Denville Hall, Northwood, the retirement home for actors and actresses.”

Wartime work

While Sir Christopher was not part of the Special Operations Executive or other special forces, as has sometimes been suggested (and it seems he kept details vague when asked, perhaps deliberately so to preserve the mystique), his campaign medals reflect his role as a liaison officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

He was attached to the SAS and SOE at various times between 1943 and 1945. Whatever the exact details of his wartime work may or may not be, his service was undeniably valuable, including a mention in despatches for gallant and distinguished services in 1944.

Other honours on offer include official insignia and awards, such as his Knight Bachelor’s Badge (he was knighted in 2009) and his CBE (2001).

The official medals, orders and awards will be sold as Lot 1, which include the Knight Bachelor’s Badge, CBE, Order of St John, his wartime medals with Mention in Despatches certificate and an SAS certificate of service. They will carry an estimate of £3000-5000.

Film honours include Sir Christopher’s World Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to him by Mikhail Gorbachev at a ceremony in Vienna in 2003. It comprises a finely cast bronze figure of a seated Atlas and weighs in at about eight kilos (estimate £700-900). As its grateful recipient later recalled in his biography Lord of Misrule, it was quite a struggle to carry his newly acquired honour off stage: when "…the Pope received his he very wisely made no effort to pick it up’".

Diverse career

David Erskine-Hill, medal specialist at Spink, said: “The auction highlights the diversity of his achievements, as well as the numerous awards earned through an acting career lasting almost seven decades and in which he appeared in over 250 movies.”

The auction lots will be offered with estimates from £100 and with no reserves, “presenting an exciting opportunity to acquire a piece of memorabilia for a relatively modest price”, says Spink. This sale follows Spink’s auction of personal articles from the life and career of Bruce Lee which took place in Hong Kong in December 2013.

The catalogue will include an introduction by Dame Harriet Walter DBE, Sir Christopher’s niece.