Vietnam War Hero Victoria Cross Medal Group and Unprecedented Archival Material to be Auctioned in Sydney

. March 31, 2008

A highly valuable Victoria Cross group of Vietnam War medals will be offered at a Sydney Auction conducted by Bonhams & Goodman on Tuesday 20 May at 6.00pm.

The widow of the “Galloping Major” Peter Badcoe, VC has also consigned an extraordinary collection of archival material including 37 personal letters from her late husband containing an unprecedented insight into life at the front during the height of the Vietnam War. Most of the letters will be available at the viewing preceding the auction however the family has asked that a small group of sensitive letters be withheld from the public and only handed over to the eventual buyer. An Australian Museum once contacted the family in an attempt to secure the archival material for the national collection.

victoria-cross-medal.jpgMajor Badcoe, VC was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in Australian history. The Badcoe Victoria Cross was only one of four awarded to Australians fighting in the Vietnam War and is the last one still held in private ownership as the others are now all in the possession of museums.

“A battle hardened American Marine Colonel said on April 13, 1967, that ‘within two weeks (Badcoe) will have won every medal in the [Vietnam] war or be dead’. Tragically the Colonel was right on each count.” The Advertiser, 24 April, 1997.
“On 7th April 1967, in Huong Tra District, Major Badcoe was with a South Vietnamese company which came under heavy small arms fire and withdrew to a cemetery for cover. This left Major Badcoe and his radio operator about 50 metres in front of the leading elements, under heavy mortar fire. Seeing this withdrawal, Major Badcoe ran back to them, moved amongst them and by encouragement and example got them moving forward again. He then set out in front of the company to lead them on and when getting up to throw a grenade he was hit and killed by a burst of machine gun fire.” Extract from the Citation for one of the last awarded Queen Victoria/Victoria Crosses to Major Peter Badcoe, London Gazette, 17 October, 1967.

For further acts of bravery Major Badcoe, VC was awarded many other medals by the Australian and US Military.

The Badcoe VC medal group and personal memoirs estimated at $400,000-600,000 follows the sale of two lots by Bonhams & Goodman including the A.J. Shout Gallipoli VC for $1.2million and the Gordon VC group for an engagement in France, WWI for $480,000. The Badcoe VC is one of only two Vietnam VCs’ ever offered for public sale, the only other being the WO II Kevin (Dasher) Wheatley Vietnam VC group sold in 1993. A Vietnam VC group to WO II Keith Payne is rumoured to have sold privately to the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum in Queensland.

“This is one of the most important pieces of Australian military history ever to appear on the market,” said Giles Moon, Head of Collectables at Bonhams & Goodman. “It is impossible to speculate the final selling price. We can only use the few precedents available and gut feeling to arrive at a pre-auction estimate. What is really quite different with this offering is the unprecedented collection of personal archives” Moon adds.

The Badcoe letters depict a man passionate about right and wrong, a man who defended the poor Vietnamese villagers caught up in the crossfire up to his death and who sometimes provided controversial commentary on the things he saw around him.

For further information, contact Tim Goodman on 61 (0)2 9327 9904, tim.goodman@bonhams.com or Giles Moon on 61 (0)3 8530 3914, giles.moon@bonhams.com

Category: Auction News

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