Leeds & West Yorkshire

Medal collection including a Somme VC sells for £240k

Captain George Sanders Image copyright DixNoonan
Image caption During one battle, George Sanders was seen standing wounded on the top of a pill-box firing his revolver at point-blank range

A collection of six medals including a Victoria Cross (VC) awarded for bravery on the first day of the Battle of the Somme has sold for £240,000.

George Sanders was awarded the VC for fighting off German attacks after straying into enemy territory.

"Sanders impressed on his men that his and their duty was to hold the position at all costs," newspaper reports said.

He was one of only nine soldiers to be awarded VC medals for bravery on 1 July, 1916.

According to auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, the collection was bought by Lord Ashcroft and will go on public display as part of his gallery at the Imperial War Museum in London, which contains the largest collection of VC medals.

First awarded in 1857, the VC is the highest award for gallantry in the British and Commonwealth armed forces.

During World War One, 628 were awarded, a quarter of them posthumously.

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The first day of the Battle of the Somme, in northern France, was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

British forces suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 fatalities, and gained just three square miles of territory.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Somme offensive was intended to achieve a decisive breakthrough for the British and French allies after 18 months of trench warfare
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The fighting dragged on with neither side making any real progress. The British Fourth Army is said to have advanced just 900m between 15 July and 14 September at the cost of 82,000 casualties

Sanders, who enlisted in the Leeds Rifles, his local territorial battalion, in November 1914, took charge of an isolated party of men who were cut off as the British offensive ground to a halt.

He was also awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during a German assault at Kemmel Hill, in April 1918.

During the fighting he was seen standing wounded on top of a pill-box firing his revolver at point-blank range but was later taken prisoner.

Also among his collection of medals, sold in London earlier, was the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and George VI Coronation Medal.

After the war, Sanders worked at the Meadow Lane Gasworks in Leeds. He died aged 55 and was given a full military funeral.

Image copyright DixNoonan
Image caption The medals sold included a Victoria Cross (left), Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal

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