Sidney Day VC goes to Lord Ashcroft
Lord Ashcroft has the world's largest collection of Victoria Crosses and George Crosses, which is on public display at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Bidding for the Sidney Day medals started at £110,000 and a contest between a telephone bidder and an internet bidder pushed the final hammer price to £160,000 which means that the purchaser paid £192,000 with buyers' commission. The successful telephone bidder was bidding on behalf of the Lord Ashcroft Collection.
Day’s Victoria Cross, the three campaign medals that he was awarded for World War I and two medals for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II were sold by order of his family with an emotive archive of material. This included a cigarette case given to him by the parents of a young officer whose life he unsuccessfully tried to save, a leather compass case which stopped a bullet that could have killed him and a Government document compensating him for the destruction of his home and business by German bombers.
Norwich-born Day, who won his VC in 1917, was one of only two men of the Suffolk Regiment ever to be awarded Britain’s highest gallantry decoration, and later went to live in Portsmouth where he narrowly escaped death in the 1941 Blitz.
“Sidney Day’s survival in World War I was nothing short of miraculous,” said Mark Quayle, medals specialist at Dix Noonan Webb. “He suffered five wounds, was saved from serious injury on two occasions when equipment and personal possessions deflected bullets and was twice forced to crawl back to British lines. He was eventually taken prisoner. His later plan to live a quiet life by opening a tea rooms in Portsmouth went somewhat awry when his business and home were destroyed by the Luftwaffe in World War II. Needless to say he survived the bombing.
“However he was desperately unlucky not to have been rewarded with at least one other gallantry decoration during World War I. He performed the most astonishing feats of bravery over a two-year period before he was eventually given a long-overdue Victoria Cross. Other men of his calibre emerged from the conflict with a row of gallantry awards.”
After years of declining health, partly the result of his old wounds, Sidney died on 17 July 1959 and is buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth. A stone commemorating Day in front of the Norwich War Memorial was dedicated on 26 August 2017 – exactly 100 years after the deeds that won him the Victoria Cross.
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