The first Victoria Cross ever awarded to a British Army soldier sold for a staggering #250,000 at auction yesterday – more than twice its estimate.
The VC was awarded to Scottish-born John Simpson Knox in 1857 for his exploits during the Crimean War between 1854 and 1855.
The medal, which is the highest honour for gallantry, went under the hammer in London along with other militaria including the cannonball believed to have blown the hero soldier’s arm off.
The lot, which included three other medals, two portraits, a cap badge and a belt plate sold for #252,000 at Spink Auction House in London.
It had been estimated to fetch around #120,000.
Knox was awarded the accolade for his heroics during the Battle of Alma on September 20, 1854.
It was considered to be the first major conflict of the Crimean War and saw British and allied forces defeat the Russians despite fighting, quite literally, an uphill battle.
By the time of the War Knox, who joined the military at 14, had become a Serjeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards.
To win the Battle of Alma the Guards had to cross the river Alma, climb the bank on its far side, gain a small amount of level ground before mounting another steep bank, then climb another slope – only to meet the Russians, who had a fortified position, at the top.
Against all odds they came away from the battle as victors.
Afterwards Knox wrote a letter to his family saying: ”The scene that met my gaze was the most awful description: it made me shudder.
”The bodies of our opponents were so thick on the ground that for some distance I had to go on tiptoe to pass without touching – the enemy cheered, and endeavoured to drive us back; however, we stuck to them until we were masters.”
Knox survived the horrors of the Crimea even though his left arm was completely torn off by a Russian cannonball.
He was among 62 men who were awarded the Victoria Cross at its very first presentation on June 26, 1857, but his actions are regarded as the earliest for which a VC was awarded to a member of the British Army.
He lived out his days in Cheltenham, Glos., where he died aged 69 in 1897.
The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.