As reported on antiquestradegazette.com in December, London saleroom Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) offered a South Africa Medal 1877-79 awarded to Private Michael Minehan, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, which sold for £70,000 hammer price (or £84,000 when buyer’s premium is added).
The price paid by a British private collector set a record for a Rorke's Drift medal awarded to a defender who did not receive the Victoria Cross.
With only about 150 defenders involved in the 1879 action, South Africa medals awarded to Rorke’s Drift defenders have an obvious rarity value.
Just three months later, however, DNW has another: the medal with clasp for 1879 awarded to Driver Charles Robson, who was batman to the commanding officer Lieutenant John Chard during the epic defence.
It will be auctioned on March 1 with four original testimonial letters, including the one from Chard, several certificates, Robson’s Army Account Book and a bible presented by the Ladies’ Rorke’s Drift Testimonial Fund in 1879.
The lot was consigned by a direct descendant from the UK and is estimated at £30,000-40,000. It is believed that the consignment was secured because of the record Minehan result (that medal had been estimated at £26,000-30,000).
Somme Victoria Cross
Meanwhile, DNW has another highly sought-after medal in the March 2 sale: the good old VC.
This example of Britain’s highest-ranked military gallantry medal was awarded to Yorkshire hero George Sanders amid the horrific conditions of the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The VC will be offered with the Military Cross that he won later in the war and his other medals.
Sanders, who had enlisted in the Leeds Rifles, his local Territorial Battalion, took charge of an isolated party of men who were cut off as the British offensive on July 1, 1916, ground to a halt suffering more than 57,000 casualties, including 19,240 killed, in a single day. He and his band of 30 men fought off repeated German assaults over 36 hours despite having run out of food and water.
As an Acting Captain, he won the MC for his bravery during an overwhelming German assault at Kemmel Hill in April 1918. He was last seen standing wounded on the top of a pill-box rallying his men and firing his revolver at the Germans at point-blank range. Somehow he survived and was taken prisoner.
Sanders was the first Leeds Territorial to win the VC and received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his home city.
His medals have been consigned by a direct descendant based in the UK. To be sold with an archive of original documents and photographs, they are estimated at £180,000-220,000.