Medal group and related items for Major Denis Rake MC – estimate £3000-5000 at Burstow & Hewett.

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Born in Brussels, Rake (1901-76) led a colourful and sometimes mysterious younger life as he is said to have belonged to the Sarrasani Circus as a young child. He later pursued an acting career under the name Denis Greer, before joining the Royal Army Service Corps at the start of the Second World War.

Having escaped two sinkings early in his military life, as a French speaker Rake managed to secure a place in the SOE French section as a telegraph operator. He had a controversial time in training, refusing to complete certain courses, but his skills and bravery so impressed that he was kept on and sent to the continent in 1942.

Taken prisoner

However, he ended up serving two terms as a POW in France and, after escaping, Spain. Even though he suffered permanent injury from interrogation he volunteered again in 1944 to return to France working with the resistance. Later that year he worked for Army Welfare Services organising entertainment for the troops.

His officer once said of him that “he says he is not afraid of death and I believe him”.

Rake said his lack of fear came from his need to prove himself because of the prevailing prejudice against his homosexuality, something he never hid.

After demobilisation he worked on cruise liners and also as a 2nd Butler for Douglas Fairbanks Jr and his family. When a piece of post came for him addressed to Major Denis Rake MC, Fairbanks handed him the letter and Rake apparently replied: “I was hoping you wouldn’t hear about all this nonsense”.

A later biography was written in 2009: The Shooting Star: The colourful life and times of Denis Rake, MC.

On August 24 Burstow & Hewett of Battle is offering a collection of items related to Rake’s life and war-time service to include his Military Cross for service in France, Croix de Guerre with Palm and Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur, a French Resistance Medal and miniatures which includes his DSO.

There are also related war-time papers from the French government, a signed copy of his book, postcards to his sister Esme from his time imprisoned in Spain and various photos of Rake throughout his life – and a signed photo to him from Douglas Fairbanks Jr and his family.

Estimate £3000-5000.