Sask. Military Museum curator shocked at upcoming auction of war hero's medals
Lt.-Col. David Currie awarded Victoria Cross in Second World War, estimated to sell for $500K
Maj. Keith Inches doesn't believe that anyone should benefit from the sale of Lt.-Col. David Currie's medals.
Medals belonging to Currie, including his Victoria Cross, are expected to sell for anywhere between $500,000 to $600,000 next month at auction in London.
"My first reaction was shock that they were being offered up for sale, instead of being donated," said Inches, the curator of the Saskatchewan Military Museum in Regina.
Only 16 Victoria Crosses were presented to Canadian soldiers during the Second World War, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. Currie's medal is the only Canadian Victoria Cross from the Second World War not on public display, making it quite rare.
It's a shame that they're going for that much money and the family doesn't benefit from it.- Keith Inches, Saskatchewan Military Museum curator
Inches believes the medals should be donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, or the Government of Saskatchewan.
"[Paying] half a million dollars for something someone else won, I just feel uncomfortable with that," said Inches.
According to the auction house Dix Noonan Webb, Currie, who died in 1986, was born in Saskatoon and was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Normandy campaign in 1944. Currie's unit was ordered to cut off escaping German forces by taking the village of Saint-Lambert and trapping them in a bottleneck known as the Falaise Gap.
During the battle, the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps killed 300 German troops, wounded 500 and took 2,100 prisoner. Military historians call the victory one of the most important in the campaign.
While the medal was awarded to Currie, he acknowledged the soldiers in his unit when he was presented with the Victoria Cross, making a sale even more problematic.
"As [Currie] said, he represented the men that he was leading when he closed that gap," said Inches. "He was inspiring them to hold their ground and go forward. But he didn't do it by himself."
The Victoria Cross is the highest military award presented by the United Kingdom, and is awarded for "gallantry in the face of the enemy." Currie was the only Canadian to receive the medal in the Normandy campaign.
The current owner bought the medals from Currie's widow in 1989 and has kept them ever since.
"It's a shame that they're going for that much money and the family doesn't benefit from it," said Inches. "I don't think anyone other than the family members should benefit from that, because they were awarded to him."
According to Dix Noonan Webb, the Victoria Cross is quite rare.
"It's not often that Victoria Crosses come up for sale," said spokesperson Tanya Ursual. "In recent years, a large number of Victoria Crosses have made their way to the Imperial War Museum in London, where they are on permanent display. A large number of them have disappeared from the marketplace."
As well, Currie's Victoria Cross was made specifically for the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, making the medal even more valuable, according to Ursual.
'If you look at the auction archives around the world of Victoria Cross sales, you will see some that have gone on sale in Australia and other parts of the world for close to $1 million," she said. "[Dix Noonan Webb] just sold one in March of this year that got $500,000."
If the medals' new owner decides to remove them from Canada, they would have to make a special application with the federal government.
The auction will be held Sept. 27 in London.
With files from The Afternoon Edition