Some sourly say that the April-June 1944 battles in which British, Gurkha and Indian troops pushed back the Japanese from the gates of India would have been made famous by Hollywood had they involved Americans. However, it was the action of a gallant American which was the focus of bidding at Dix Noonan Webb as part of the Jack Webb collection sale.
Civilian volunteer Neil McDowell Gilliam, born to an American father and English mother, was at Princeton University in 1939 and rejected as too young by the Royal Canadian Airforce. Instead he joined the volunteer ambulance American Field Force, seeing service in the Middle East before being sent to India and Burma in 1943.
At Imphal he braved shell, mortar and rifle fire, returning time and again to the front line to treat or help evacuate wounded Gurkhas, carrying many of them to safety on his back.
He was recommended for ‘the highest possible honour’ by two generals and for the George Cross by General Slim, commander-in-chief of the 14th Army. As this civilian equivalent of the VC was only for British subjects, Gilliam was instead awarded the George Medal.
Gilliam died in the US in around 1965 and his medals were acquired by Webb from a non-family source in 1967.
Comprising the George Medal, the Africa Star, Burma Star and the War Medal the group was offered with his American cap badge and Indian Division cloth badge. Estimated at £8000-12,000, they sold at £15,000.