Thursday, March 25, 2010

One of the first VC's to be sold

A very important artefact of military history is about to go under the hammer. The Victoria Cross awarded to then-Lieutenant John Simpson Knox (shown at left) is to be auctioned - uniquely, along with the cannon-ball that took off his left arm during the second of the two actions for which the medal was awarded!

The VC was awarded for the first time during the Crimean War, with the first three medals going to Royal Navy personnel. Master's Mate Charles Davis Lucas of HMS Hecla was awarded his for heroism on June 21st, 1854; and Lt. John Bythesea and Stoker William Johnstone of HMS Arrogant received theirs for their actions on August 9th of the same year. The next six VC's were all awarded to soldiers for heroism displayed on September 20th, 1854 at the Battle of the Alma during the Crimean War. Knox's VC is one of those six.

He was a Sergeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards at the time, and was commissioned after that action. His VC citation also mentions his subsequent heroism during the Siege of Sevastopol, when on June 18th, 1855, as a Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade, he formed part of the ladder party in an attack on the Redan. He lost his left arm during that assault.

The Times reports:

The first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a soldier is being auctioned and is expected to fetch £120,000 [about US $180,000].

The medal is being sold with a Russian cannon ball that took off the arm of the recipient, Major John Simpson Knox, during the Battle of Sebastopol in the Crimean war.

The VC, on the left in the picture, is being sold with three other medals Knox was awarded, the Crimean Medal, next to it, the Légion d’honneur and the Turkish Crimean medal.

. . .

The sale is at Spink next month. Oliver Pepys, a medal specialist at the auctioneers, said: “We have researched the circumstances around the loss of Major Knox’s arm and have discovered a fellow soldier picked up the ball and gave it to him as a memento.”

There's more at the link.

The Times article is not correct in describing Knox's VC as 'the first awarded to a soldier'; as pointed out earlier, it's one of six awarded to soldiers for heroism on the same date. Nevertheless, it has real historical significance as one of the six. I hope a military museum can afford to buy it and put on display. It's indisputably an important part of the UK's martial heritage, and it'd be a shame to have it vanish into private hands, unavailable for public viewing.


1 comment:

Old NFO said...

I'm sorry, but as far as i'm concerned, it should be illegal to sell ANY medals from ANY country.