News & Insights

A Rare Captain James Cook Medal

1st September 2023.

A rare silver medal struck to commemorate the death of Captain James Cook is to be sold in Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographica Sale on 20th September, with an estimate of £1,500-2,000 (all figures exclude buyer’s premium). Following Cook’s death in Hawaii in 1779, the Royal Society commissioned a medal designed by Lewis Pingo, depicting a bust of Captain Cook on one side with a figure of Fortune on the other. Only 322 of these medals were struck in silver, whilst there were 577 in bronze and only 22 in gold.

Other interesting medals in the sale include a Second World War MM Group of Eight Medals, awarded to Corporal Frank Shepherd of the 1st-5th Battalion the Queen’s Royal Regiment (estimate: £1,500-2,000). The medals comprise a Military Medal (Immediate Award), 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal with MID oak leaf, and Efficiency Medal. The Military Medal is sold with a letter from Buckingham Palace and a Recommendation Form detailing Shepherd’s actions which won him the medal; under heavy shelling outside Caen in 1944 he led a party of stretcher bearers and “In spite of continuous heavy shelling, and with complete disregard for his own safety, L/Cpl. Shepherd moved about the area, attending to the wounded and arranging for their evacuation. His constant cheerfulness, devotion to duty and fearless example was an inspiration to all the men, and by his action he was undoubtedly responsible for saving the lives of many of his companions”. A further interesting group of medals awarded to William (Bill) Hustler of the Royal Navy for the role he played in Operation Pedestal and Operation Tunnel in the Second World War are on offer with an estimate of £600-800.

Amongst a good offering of militaria in the sale is a Victorian 1847 Pattern Gilt Brass Helmet to an Officer 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards (estimate: £1,500-1,800), a First World War Cameron Highlander’s Kilt and Sash which belonged to Private George Potts Brown (estimate: £700-800), and an Early 19th Century Naval Officer’s Dirk (estimate: £600-800). Also of note are a Prussian Officer’s Pickelhaube to Anhaltisches-Infanterie-Regiment Nr.93 (estimate: £500-600), an Early 20th Century Officer’s Shako to the Cameronians the Scottish Rifles (estimate: £350-450), and a group of Militaria relating to the Royal Regiment of Artillery (estimate: £500-700).

A rare 19th Century Percussion Single Barrel Big Game Rifle by William Powell & Son of Birmingham leads a selection of fine guns in the sale (estimate: £3,000-4,000). The .52 calibre gun has a 77cm octagonal russet steel barrel and is housed in a mahogany case monogrammed ‘WP’. William Powell’s are still a thriving business, and it is thought that they know of only one other example of this rifle, which is believed to be in the United States. Also on offer are a Pair of 19th Century 40 Bore Side-by-Side Double Barrel Percussion Travelling Pistols (estimate: £2,500-3,500), and a Deactivated Second World War Czechoslovakian VZ/37 7.92mm Heavy Machine-Gun or Kulomet (estimate: £1,200-1,800).

Finally, a rather curious tea cosy in the guise of a leather-outfitted soldier, thought to have been made during or just after the First World War (estimate: £150-250). The cosy has a bisque china head, a leather peaked cap and a leather quilted greatcoat and is sold with a pair of despatch rider’s leather gauntlets.

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