Victoria Cross awarded to Canadian Second World War hero sold to UK buyer

By The Canadian Press
September 27, 2017 - 9:45am

A Victoria Cross and other medals awarded to one of Canada's Second World War heroes have been sold at auction to a buyer in the United Kingdom for $660,000.

Maj. David Currie was given the Commonwealth's highest medal for valour in recognition of his service at a brutal battle during the 1944 Normandy campaign in France.

"During a blitz of fighting, he decided he wouldn't be defeated (and) went in under extreme gunfire. It was the only Canadian Victoria Cross won for Normandy," Tanya Ursual, a spokesman for the auction firm Dix Noonan Webb, said Wednesday.

"It is the kind of thing movies are made of, except this isn't a movie. It was real, and he was Canadian."

According to the firm, Currie's widow, Isabel, sold her late husband's medals to a Canadian buyer in 1989 a few years after he died.

The man who purchased them, who doesn't wish to be named, decided to sell the medals at the U.K. auction.

Ursual said there is a lot of international interest in military awards for bravery, especially in rare medals such as the Victoria Cross.

Currie, who was later promoted to lieutenant-colonel, was one of only 16 Canadians given the Victoria Cross during the war.

The citation for his medal recounts a key battle when Canadian forces were part of an Allied plan to prevent a German army from retreating from the area.

Currie led a force of tanks and troops from the South Alberta Regiment that fought to take and hold a village along the German line of retreat.

After days of gruelling combat, Currie finally collapsed from fatigue, but only after his unit was relieved by other Canadian forces. 

"During this operation the casualties to Maj. Currie's force were very heavy; however, he never considered the possibility of failure," reads the Victoria Cross citation.

"There can be no doubt that success of this force's task and stand against the enemy at St. Lambert Sur Dives can only be attributed to this officer's coolness, inspired leadership and skilful use of the limited weapons at his disposal."

Currie, who grew up in Moose Jaw, Sask., later served as sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons for 17 years. He died in 1986.

Isabel Currie, who is 105, lives in an Ottawa senior's home.

Ursual said the man who sold the medals allowed Currie's grandson to see them last month before they were put up for auction.

"The family was hopeful that a Canadian buyer would come forward," she said. "Where was somebody from here?"

The London-based auction company said it will now apply for a federal export permit to ship the medals from Canada to the U.K.  

John Cotter, The Canadian Press

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