Tranmere born naval officer’s Victoria Cross sells for £220k at auction

A Victoria Cross (VC) posthumously awarded to a Tranmere born senior naval officer has sold at auction.

The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lieutenant Commander Edgar Christopher Cookson of the Royal Navy who was killed while leading a ‘Cavalry Charge’ on water in 1915.

The VC sold for a hammer price of £220,000 at Noonans Mayfair in their auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Wednesday, 13 March.

The VC, which was estimated to fetch £180,000-220,000 was awarded during the operations involving the Tigris Flotilla where Cookson paid the ultimate price for his gallantry in the river gunboat Comet when, under a storm of point-blank fire, he leapt aboard a Turkish sailing vessel or dhow brandishing an axe – a fellow officer later observed “there were more bullet holes in him than they cared to count.” It was bought by a private collector.

The medals were being sold by a Private Collector and as Mark Quayle, Medal Specialist and Associate Director of Noonans commented, “The rarity of the award, and the repeated acts of gallantry, are all reflected in the price achieved on the day.”

The citation in the London Gazette of 21 January 1916 noted, “The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant-Commander Edgar Christopher Cookson, DSO, RN, in recognition of the following act of most conspicuous gallantry during the advance on Kut-el-Amara: On 28 September 1915, the river gunboat Comet had been ordered with other gunboats to examine, and if possible destroy, an obstruction placed across the river by the Turks.

“When the gunboats were approaching the obstruction, a very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was opened on them from both banks. An attempt to sink the centre dhow of the obstruction by gunfire having failed, Lieutenant-Commander Cookson ordered the Comet to be placed alongside, and himself jumped on to the dhow with an axe and tried to cut the wire hawsers connecting it with the two other craft forming the obstruction. He was immediately shot in several places and died within a few minutes.”

Edgar Christopher Cookson was born at Cavendish Park, Tranmere, in December 1883 and he entered the Royal Navy as a Cadet in Britannia in September 1897.

His DSO was sent to his mother in September 1915 and she received his VC from the King at Buckingham Palace on 29 November 1916 – she was his only immediate relative since he was unmarried, and his father had died.

Cookson was buried in Amara War Cemetery, but the grave was subsequently destroyed, and his name is now among those listed on the cemetery wall. He is also commemorated in the UK with a plaque in Whitechurch Canonicorum in Dorset.

Image: Cookson’s VC with the blue ribbon, showing that it was a naval award, and his DSO. Credit: Noonans Mayfair

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