Victoria Cross awarded to WWI Tranmere naval officer could fetch £220k at auction

The Victoria Cross (VC) awarded to a World War One hero born in Tranmere is expected to fetch £180,000-220,000 at Noonans Mayfair in their auction on Wednesday, 13 March.

The outstanding Great War posthumous VC 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 was awarded during the operations involving the Tigris Flotilla where he 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.”

The medals are being sold by a Private Collector and as Mark Quayle, Medal Specialist and Associate Director of Noonans commented, “Cookson’s repeated acts of gallantry, in the harshest of environments, led to him making the ultimate sacrifice for both duty and for those who meant the most to him – the men under his command.

“Leading a ‘cavalry charge’ on water in a desperate attempt to force his way through the enemy position ultimately proved futile, but his act was one of cold, calculated bravery in the face of certain death. Alas, he rolled the dice one too many times.”

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, Cheshire, on 13 December 1883 and he entered the Royal Navy as a Cadet in Britannia in September 1897. His Distinguished Service Order (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 U.K. with a plaque in Whitechurch Canonicorum in Dorset.

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

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