Victoria Cross Medal and Burke and Wills Breastplate to Stay in Australia after Auction

. May 23, 2008

The future of two important pieces of South Australian history was secured following an auction by Bonhams and Goodman in Sydney on 20 May 2008, when a Victoria Cross medal group awarded to Vietnam War hero Major Peter Badcoe VC, along with a breastplate related to the Burke and Wills expedition, was sold to the State Government of South Australia in association with media owner and renowned philanthropist Kerry Stokes.

victoria-cross-medal.jpgIn a media release issued by the South Australian Government on the 21 May 2008, Acting Premier Kevin Foley said he accepted an invitation from Mr Stokes to enter a combined bid to jointly purchase Major Badcoe’s Victoria Cross, other medals and memorabilia, which sold for a total of $488,000 including the buyer’s premium.

The Government’s statement outlines the background behind the purchases as follows:

“When I spoke to Mr Stokes after the auction last night, he said that because the State Government had shared the cost of the bid for Major Badcoe’s lot he was also able to bid for the breastplate which he would gift back to the people of South Australia,” Mr Foley says. The breastplate was one of three presented to the Yandruwandha people of Coopers’ Creek by the Royal Society of Victoria in 1862 for the help given to explorers Robert O’Hara Burke, William Wills and John King during their fateful 1860-61 expedition, and sold for a total of $219,600 including the buyer’s premium.

In the release, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Atkinson says that under the agreement with Mr Stokes, Major Badcoe’s V.C. and other memorabilia will be on public display in Adelaide for twelve months before going on show at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The medal can also be brought back to South Australia for display on other important occasions.

Major Peter Badcoe, VC (1934-1967) is one of the most highly decorated soldiers in Australian history. In addition to receiving the Victoria Cross (the Commonwealth’s highest award for acts of bravery in wartime) Badcoe was awarded many further medals for bravery by the Australian and American military. The Badcoe Victoria Cross is one of only four awarded to Australians who fought in the Vietnam War. All four will now be on public display.

Bidding for the VC opened at $300,000 and the medal was hotly contested by four interested parties – two on the telephone and the other two in the room, with the hammer going down at $400,000. In a statement after the auction, Bonhams & Goodman Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Tim Goodman said he was delighted with the sale. Carey Badcoe, the daughter of Major Badoce who was just ten years old when he died, attended the auction and described the sale as “a wonderful recognition of our father”. She added that the family was delighted that the Victoria Cross will remain in Australia.

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