Australian buys Gallipoli VC for record $1m

25 June 2006
Jonathon King

An anonymous buyer last night spent more than $1.2 million to ensure that the nation's only remaining Gallipoli Victoria Cross still in private hands goes on permanent display at the Australian War Memorial.

The world-record price beats the previous highest amount paid for a service medal: $595,000 for a medal won by Lord Nelson's fleet captain Thomas Hardy at the 1805 battle of Trafalgar, paid in Britain last October.

Last night's buyer spent $1,214,500, including the auctioneer's premium, for the Victoria Cross, as well as the Military Cross and other medals of Captain Alfred Shout.

The Victoria Cross was won posthumously by Captain Shout, the most decorated Gallipoli Anzac, for leading an attack on Turkish trenches in the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.

A number of overseas collectors had registered interest in the medals, although legislation would probably have prohibited the export of the VC.

Following the sale, Double Bay auctioneers Bonhams and Goodman issued a statement saying the buyer was an Australian.

"We understand that he intends to work through the (RSL) to see the medals in the Australian War Memorial," the statement said.

"All nine Gallipoli Victoria Crosses could now be on public display as part of the most impressive public VC collection in the world."

Prime Minister John Howard earlier confirmed he had "taken a close and active interest in the matter".

He believed the VC should stay in Australia, ideally at the Australian War Memorial.

Captain Shout, having broken through the line into enemy trenches - where he was throwing handmade bombs at the Turks - was fatally wounded when one blew up in his face. He died three days later, leaving a wife and daughter in Sydney.

His grandson, Graham Thomas, who sold the medal last night, said keeping the VC in his family home had become too much of a responsibility. He also needed the funds to help his children and grandchildren, and to pay medical bills.

"Anyway, I think Captain Shout would support my decision to sell it to support his descendants," Mr Thomas said.

Captain Shout's medal was sold as part of a set including his Military Cross (won by Captain Shout for leading charges against Turkish machine-gun fire at the Gallipoli landing); Star (1914-1915); British War Medal (1914-1918); Victory Medal (1914-1919) and two medals he won in the Boer War: the Queen's South Africa Medal and King's South Africa Medal.

The price paid for the VC is the highest for any Victoria Cross in Australia.

Last year $575,000 was paid at auction in England for the VC won by World War II British Royal Air Force airman Norman Jackson for his actions during a night raid over Germany in 1944.

This article can be found in the Age - Tuesday, 25 June 2006.

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