Korean War Military Medal group of Corporal John Pender – £36,000 at Noonans.

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During the Korean War an entire Chinese division attacked British troops on ‘United’ ridge and as ‘B’ Company King’s Own Scottish Borderers was on the point of being overrun, Pender, acting entirely on his own initiative joined Speakman’s party of grenade throwers, taking up a position right next to Speakman, despite being exposed to heavy machine-gun fire.

For almost four hours Pender charged repeatedly, firing his Bren machine-gun from the hip. Like Speakman, he was seriously wounded but carried on fighting until the KOSBs had withdrawn with all their casualties.

Pender was awarded the Military Medal and this honour along with four others came up for auction at Mayfair saleroom Noonans (24% buyer’s premium) on October 12 consigned by a private collector in the UK who had owned the group for a number of years.

It doubled the top estimate to take £36,000, bought via the phone by a private collector based in the UK; the under-bidder (a private collector based overseas) was bidding online.

Gallantry awards restricted

Speakman’s VC is one of just four awarded for the Korean War, all of which are displayed in different museums.

Noonans said: “The War Office strictly limited the number of higher gallantry awards for the Korean War.

“Although around 60,000 men served in Korea, of whom over 1100 were killed, the authorities approved fewer higher-tier bravery citations than the intensity of the fighting warranted, especially for desperate hand-to-hand struggles where British forces were vastly outnumbered, such as the battles near the Han and Imjin rivers in 1950-51 before the UN defence lines were stabilised in 1952-53 as armistice arrangements were slowly negotiated.”