Auction of WWI family medals group with a fascinating Staffordshire history

A gallantry group of WWI medals set to sell at West Midlands’ auction house Cuttlestones’ Friday 7th September Specialist Collectors’ Sale in Wolverhampton tells a fascinating story of two local brothers’ experiences of the Great War. The lot comprises of two sets of medals awarded to the Tivey brothers of Newcastle-under-Lyme, one of whom was in the North Staffs Regiment, along with various photographs, letters and documentation relating to the brothers’ WWI story. The first group relates to Pte. R. Tivey (Reginald) and includes a Military Cross (MC), cased and unnamed as issued, a 1914/15 star, a British War Medal (BWM) and Allied Victory Medal (AVM). With this are numerous photos of Reginald on this own, at his wedding and with family, along with his white metal ID bracelet, giving detail “9th BATT. NORTH STAFFS REGT”, letters relating to the awarding of the MC, various newspaper clippings, his pistol holster and belt.

The second group relates to Reginald’s brother, Tom Brown Tivey, and includes a Military Medal, BWM and AVM the M.M. named “53132 SJT T. B. TIVEY 2/NTH’D FUS”, the pair named “3-16346 SGT T.B. TIVEY LEIC. R”. With this group are photographs and photocopies of documents – including his medical report and casualty form, and also a handwritten history stating he was mentioned in dispatches.

Before the war the young, unmarried brothers were explorers; Reginald spending time in Africa where he hunted elephant for the then-legal ivory trade, and Tom working as a fur trapper in Canada. Both returned to the UK and enlisted in the army with the outbreak of WWI. The brothers saw considerable action during their service – Reg received a shrapnel wound which resulted in severe damage to his right femur and Tom was gassed with mustard gas, leaving his lung function permanently impaired. While both brothers were awarded the Military Cross for their gallantry, Reg was unable to receive his personally from the King due to ill health, whilst Tom later returned his in an act of protest.

Perhaps even more remarkable, the brothers went onto marry a pair of sisters – who just happened to be the daughters of Alboin Birks; Minton’s lauded master of pâte-sur-pâte porcelain decoration. Reg married Elizabeth ‘Katie’ Birks, and the pair had one daughter, whilst Tom married Lilian ‘Madge’ Birks, and went on to become a respected author. MD and Head Auctioneer at Cuttlestones, Ben Gamble, says:

“This is a really incredible lot. The medals are being sold by the descendents of Reginald Tivey and Katie, which means it has been possible for us to discover this fascinating family story. The lot includes not only the medals but a lot of ephemera that relates to this history which, along with its links to one of Staffordshire potteries’ most famous sons, is likely to make it even more interesting to collectors. In an added twist, we also have a collection of Alboin Birks lauded pâte-sur-pâte in our Fine Art sale on the 14th September, together with personal photographs and ephemera.”

The Tivey brothers’ medal collection, carrying an estimate of £1800-2200, will go under the hammer at Cuttlestones’ 7th September Specialist Collectors’ Sale at its Wolverhampton Sale Rooms. The full catalogue will be available from Friday, 31st August online at www.cuttlestones.co.uk and viewing will be on Thursday, 6th September from 10am – 7pm. Live internet bidding via www.the-saleroom.com alongside telephone and commission bidding options will open the field to an International audience.

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