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The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 35, August 27, 2017, Article 26

CURRIE CANADIAN VICTORIA CROSS TO BE SOLD

This article from the Ottowa Citizen describes the history and sale of a group of WWII medal, including an important Victoria Cross. See the full article online for the photograph referenced in the first paragraph, and much more information on the topic. -Editor

Lt. Col. David Currie medals

In the famous photograph, Maj. David Currie holds a pistol in his right hand as several vanquished Germans soldiers march past, their arms raised in surrender. It is Aug. 19, 1944 and Currie and his small battle group of Sherman tanks and infantrymen have held fast under 36 hours of constant attacks from a trapped and desperate German army.

Now that Victoria Cross is for sale. Starting bid? $500,000. The sale takes place Sept. 27 in London through the auctioneer, Dix Noonan Webb

“It’s a very rare occurrence,” says Tanya Ursual, a military antiquarian in Kemptville who is acting as the auction house’s Canadian agent. In 27 years in the business, Ursual says, she’s handled about 10 Victoria Crosses through her company, Medals of War.

Currie’s story is special, she says.

“It’s the kind of things movies are made of, except it’s a real story. In spite of all odds, in the face of enormous danger, you make a choice that you will not be defeated. He’s a Canadian hero who, arguably, changed the course of the war.”

Currie’s VC was one of only 12 awarded to Canadians fighting in a Canadian units in the Second World War and the only Canadian VC from the bitter fighting of D-Day and Normandy. The simple bronze cross, embossed with ‘For Valour’ and hung from a plain purple ribbon, is the British Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

Major David V. Currie A native of Sutherland, Sask., Currie worked as a mechanic and welder before the war and had only had 10 days of combat experience before being ordered to hold a key road leading out of the Falaise Pocket where a German army lay trapped.

“During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter-attack after another against the Canadian force but so skilfully had Major Currie organised his defensive position that these attacks were repulsed with severe casualties to the enemy after heavy fighting,” his official citation reads.

“Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Major Currie’s gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all ranks of the force under his command.”

“The blocking action there is unbelievable,” said Tim Cook, a historian at the Canadian War Museum and author of a two-volume history of Canadians in the Second World War.

In the famous photograph, Maj. David Currie holds a pistol in his right hand as several vanquished Germans soldiers march past, their arms raised in surrender. It is Aug. 19, 1944 and Currie and his small battle group of Sherman tanks and infantrymen have held fast under 36 hours of constant attacks from a trapped and desperate German army.

The image is, in the words of the army’s official historian C.P. Stacey, “as close as we are ever likely to come to a photograph of a man winning the Victoria Cross.”

Some decendants were surprised to learn of the sale. The article explains how the medals left the family. -Editor

After the war, Currie went to work with a pulp and paper company but in 1959 was appointed Sergeant at Arms by prime minister John Diefenbaker. He and his wife, Isabel, lived quietly in Riverview Park until his death on June 24, 1986.

Isabel sold his medals after his death, said grandson David Currie. Isabel Currie is 105 and now lives in an Ottawa nursing home.

“It was always a bit of a family secret, but the money she got is what is supporting her now and the good care she is getting,” the younger David Currie said.

The sale is taking place in England, but the medals can’t be taken out of the country without an export permit because they are considered cultural property.

The export rule doesn’t stop a foreign buyer from purchasing the medals, so long as they stay in Canada.

To read the complete article, see:
For Valour, for sale: Historic Canadian Victoria Cross up for auction (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/for-valour-for-sale-historic-canadian-victoria-cross-up-for-auction)

In an article from CBC News, Museum officials are shocked, SHOCKED that the Victoria Cross is up for sale. -Editor

Maj. Keith Inches doesn't believe that anyone should benefit from the sale of Lt.-Col. David Currie's medals.

Medals belonging to Currie, including his Victoria Cross, are expected to sell for anywhere between $500,000 to $600,000 next month at auction in London.

"My first reaction was shock that they were being offered up for sale, instead of being donated," said Inches, the curator of the Saskatchewan Military Museum in Regina.

Only 16 Victoria Crosses were presented to Canadian soldiers during the Second World War, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. Currie's medal is the only Canadian Victoria Cross from the Second World War not on public display, making it quite rare.

Inches believes the medals should be donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, or the Government of Saskatchewan.

"[Paying] half a million dollars for something someone else won, I just feel uncomfortable with that," said Inches.

I'm uncomfortable with some third party telling the family and current owner what they can or should do with THEIR medal. These calls against the sale of such medals are well-intentioned but have many unintended consequences and do a great disservice to the recipients and their families. To the curator I would say, "YOU didn't win it either. If you want it so badly for your museum, you need to raise the funds to purchase it. Would you have taken it from his poor widow without proper compensation?" -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Sask. Military Museum curator shocked at upcoming auction of war hero's medals (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/david-currie-victoria-cross-sale-shocked-1.4257683)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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