Rare Gallipoli VC for sale

13 June 2006
Geoff Maslen

What price can be put on an award for high-minded courage?

That was the question facing auctioneers Bonhams & Goodman of Double Bay, Sydney, when the terminally ill grandson of Captain Alfred John Shout asked the firm to sell the Anzac hero's seven war medals, including the last remaining Gallipoli Victoria Cross in private hands.

Shout was with the Australian troops who landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. Twice wounded in action over the next two weeks, his bravery led to the award of a Military Cross and a mention in dispatches.

In the Battle of Lone Pine three months later, Shout was again conspicuously courageous and became one of seven Australians awarded the Victoria Cross there, five of them for actions on one day alone.

"Only nine VCs were won by Australians at Gallipoli, and eight are at the Australian War Memorial," Giles Moon, head of collectables at Bonhams & Goodman, said. "As these medals were all donated or loaned, we believe no other has ever come up for auction, so there are no prices to indicate what the Shout VC might be worth."

Mr Moon said the world auction record for a Victoria Cross was 235,250 ($A579,000) for a medal awarded to a Royal Air Force pilot in 1944.

Official war historian Charles Bean described the battle at Lone Pine as a battle of bombs and hand-to-hand fighting, "the heaviest of its kind in which Australian troops ever took part". Australian casualties were more than 2000, while the Turks estimated their losses at nearly 7000.

On the morning of August 9, Shout charged down enemy-held trenches using bombs to rout the Turks. In the afternoon, cheering his men on, he lit three bombs but the third burst in his hand, blowing it away and shattering one side of his face and body.

Despite shocking injuries, he remained cheerful but died on a hospital ship and was buried at sea. Clerical errors made his death all the more traumatic for his young wife and 11-year-old daughter: Rose-Alice was first informed he had died, later that he was wounded and returning to Australia, and finally that he had died of his wounds.

Now, the medals she and her descendants have kept for nearly 90 years will be offered for sale in Sydney next month. As well as the Military and Victoria crosses, the collection includes the Star 1914-15, the British War Medal 1914-18, the Victory Medal 1914-19, the Queen's South Africa Medal and the King's South Africa Medal.

The War Memorial will not bid for the medals as it does not wish to influence auction prices.

This article can be found in the Age - Tuesday, 13 June 2006.

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