VC medal auctioned for more $400,000

28 November 2006
Online edition, 3.14pm

A Victoria Cross belonging to an Australian WWI "maverick" has been sold for a total of $480,000 at an auction in Sydney.

The VC belonging to Lance Corporal Bernard Sidney Gordon of the 41st Battalion Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) was purchased by a woman acting on behalf of another party who wished to remain anonymous.

The medal sold at the hammer price of $400,000 with an extra 19 per cent added as a buyer's premium to cover taxes and commissions, taking the final figure up to $480,000.

The new owner is understood to be an Australian citizen. Heritage laws prevent the medal from being sent overseas.

Four bidders, three in person and one via telephone, were initially interested in the medal when bidding opened at $150,000.

"It's a fantastic result," said Tim Goodman, chief executive of auction house Bonhams & Goodman.

"Although I cannot disclose the buyer of the medal at this point in time, I believe all interested parties will be delighted with the outcome."

Mr Gordon was awarded the VC for "conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty" for his actions in the trenches of France, where between August 26 and 27, 1918, he single-handedly captured almost 70 German soldiers and six machine guns.

He was described as something of a "maverick" and went AWOL on a number of occasions prior to being awarded the VC.

The $400,000 price tag was double the figure the auction house thought it would sell for and makes it the second highest amount paid for a medal in Australia.

It is also the fourth highest figure paid for a medal anywhere in the world.

In July, businessman Kerry Stokes paid a record $1.2 million for a VC and collection of other medals won by Captain Alfred Shout, which he then donated to the Australian War Memorial.

Mr Gordon's granddaughter, Judy Burrows, was hopeful this VC would end up in the same place.

"Let's hope he's (the buyer) a generous person," she said.

Ms Burrows' sister, Margaret Schofield, said her grandfather would want the medal to be displayed at the War Memorial.

"It's part of Australia's history and I really feel that he'd want it in the museum," she said.

The sisters, who both live in Townsville, only found out about the auction last Friday but claimed to hold no grudges against the relatives who decided it was time to sell the prestigious honour.

After the war, Gordon spent 43 years as a dairy farmer near Beaudesert, in south-east Queensland, until he was forced to move to Hervey Bay because of ill-health just before his death in 1963.

"He used to play up in town at the local pub ... a real character," Mr Goodman said.

"He was an outrageous larrikin Australian in the true sense.

"One of our great war heroes."

This article can be found in The Age Online - Tuesday, 28 November 2006.

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