Major John Knox of the Scots Fusilier Guards, whose acts of bravery during the Crimean War battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastapol, where his arm was blown off by a cannonball, earned him the first Victoria Cross awarded to a British soldier.

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The VC was awarded to Major John Knox (d.1897) of the Scots Fusilier Guards for three acts of bravery between 1854 and 1855 at the battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastapol during the Crimean War.

Originally estimated at £100,000-120,000, the medal was sold along with several mementos including, somewhat gruesomely, the cannonball, now mounted on a plinth, which blew off the Major's left arm during an unsuccessful assault on the Great Redan at Sebastapol.

After the battle, he recalled the moment he was wounded: "My rifle was aimed at a Russian when I was struck in the left arm, the weapon falling to the ground, upon which poor [Captain] Foreman remarked, 'You are wounded.' I replied, 'I fancy I am.' He offered me some brandy; this I declined. Having a stout handkerchief ready for the work, he took it, and by chance placed himself in front of me and bound up the wound. At that instance a shower of grapeshot passed; he was struck dead, falling at my feet speechless, the spirit gone. I remained standing, strange to say."

Descendants of Major Knox were disappointed that Lord Ashcroft had been outbid, as they had hoped the medal would go on permanent display with the rest of his substantial medal VC collection in a new gallery at London's Imperial War Museum, due to open in November.

However, later in the Spink sale, Lord Ashcroft did bid successfully for a VC awarded posthumously to Wing Commander Hugh Malcolm, for his exploits as a bomber pilot in North Africa during the Second World War, which also fetched £210,000.

By Anna Brady