November 14, 2006

Museum purchases medal, but agrees to leave it in its home country

Posted at 1:40 pm in Similar cases

Much as the British Museum feels that preservation of culture & artefacts means bringing them to London, it would appear that some other institutions take a more enlightened view.
The Imperial Museum in the UK has purchased a Victoria Cross medal awarded to a New Zealand soldier for its historical significance, but has agreed that it can be displayed in the Army Museum in Waiouru, recognising that this medal remains a part of New Zealand’s culture.

Stuff (New Zealand)

Upham medals sold to British museum but to stay in NZ
14 November 2006

The rare medals of New Zealand’s most decorated soldier, Captain Charles Upham, have been bought by an overseas museum but will stay in this country.

Captain Upham’s Victoria Cross and bar, the only double VC ever won by a combat soldier, have been bought by Britain’s Imperial War Museum and will be lent to New Zealand for 999 years.

The move ended a nationwide controversy when his daughters, Amanda Upham and Virginia McKenzie, said earlier this year they wanted to sell the medals and would take no less than the $3.3 million they had already been offered. The Government had offered the family $1m.

It is believed an English collector of Victoria Cross medals was prepared to pay $9m.

The medal and bar will be displayed at the Army Museum in Waiouru.

The Upham family refused to confirm the sale of the medals but the director of the Army Museum, Major Chas Charlton, said they had been sold and would go on permanent display at the museum.

“The medals have been sold to the Imperial War Museum in London and they have in turn loaned the medals to us for a period of 999 years and that is on the wishes of the Upham family,” Major Charlton said.

Captain Upham won his first VC In May, 1941, on Crete and the bar to the VC more than a year later in the Western Desert.

He was the only combat soldier in the Commonwealth to have won the medal twice. It is the Commonwealth’s highest award for bravery and of the 1353 medals awarded since 1856, only 21 have been to soldiers serving in the New Zealand armed forces.

Glyn Harper, who co wrote In the Face of the Enemy – the history of New Zealand winners of the Victoria Cross – said he was delighted the medals would stay in New Zealand.

“This is a VC and Bar and only one of three sets in the world.”

He said the medals were as rare as any military item.

“In terms of military memorabilia, they don’t come much rarer and of much greater value than the VC and bar. It just doesn’t happen.

“I am delighted they are staying in New Zealand because that is where they belong. I am even more delighted they are staying at the museum in Waiouru which despite its location is still accessible and has the largest collection of New Zealand Victoria Crosses.

“It is a good home for them,” Mr Harper said.

The other two double VCs were won by medical officers, not combat officers, he said.

The daughter of Clive Hulme who also won his VC on Crete in 1941, said she would decide what to do with his medal in two years when the loan term for the medal at the Army Museum expired.

Earlier this year Anita Hulme said she was also thinking about selling her father’s medal.

Doug Elliott said the VC won by his father Keith Elliott in the Western Desert in 1942, was in trust and would never be for sale.

It was due to become the property of the museum in 2017 but the family wanted to bring that forward to next year.

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