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Rare Albert Medal celebrating railway heroism sells for over £10k

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The rare Albert Medal which sold for over £10,000 at a
West Midlands auction house on Friday, 19th April.

An incredibly rare gallantry medal, awarded to a Lichfield-born railway worker for saving the life of a child, has sold for £10,030* at West Midlands auction house Cuttlestones on Friday, 19th April. 

 

Civilian gallantry medals, awarded for deeds performed ‘not in the presence of the enemy’ are all especially rare. Albert Medals (AM) are exceedingly so. This particular example was awarded to 19 year-old Arthur Eccleshall for saving the life of a child while working as a porter at Bushbury Station – just a few miles from the Wolverhampton Auction Room where it was to sell over a century later.

 

The event took place on 2nd October, 1908, when Eccleshall saw three children making their way across a level crossing. Noticing that a light engine was approaching the station at around 10mph and that the children’s lives were at risk, he shouted to alert them. Two of the children ran clear of the rails on which the train was travelling, but a third little boy tried to run between the platform and rails to escape. Eccleshall put his own life in danger by jumping off the platform onto the rails in front of the approaching train and lifting the child clear, before being struck by the train himself and left unconscious.

 

This selfless act would see Eccleshall become the youngest railwayman to receive the prestigious Albert Medal gallantry award in the UK. He was awarded the second class AM for gallantry on land, a solid bronze oval-shaped medal of which only 290 were ever issued. They are made rarer still by the fact that at least 49 of these were returned when the living holders were offered the chance to exchange them for a George Cross in 1971. Arthur Eccleshall, however, never got the opportunity to exchange his medal.

 

He went onto marry a local girl, Edith Emily Banks, in 1915 and the couple had two daughters. During WWI he served as a Private in the 2/6 South Staffordshire Regiment, during which time he was held as a prisoner of war at Minden, and for which he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. His railway career continued for a further 47 years, working for the London & North Western Railway LMS and British Rail respectively, before he retired in 1950 as Chief Clerk at Dudley Passenger Station. A keen lifelong sportsman, with a particular interest in Wolverhampton Wanderers and County Cricket, Arthur was an active member of the community; holding the post of treasurer at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Dunstall Road, Wolverhampton for 25 years and, during retirement, was Voluntary Steward at Cannock Hockey Club. While watching his beloved Wolves ‘at home’ at The Molineux on 30 August 1958, Arthur suffered a severe heart attack. He died later that day at the Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, aged 69.

 

Arthur’s second class Albert Medal was sold along with a significant amount of ephemera. This includes the original paperwork associated with the medal, various newspaper cuttings and a copy of the book ‘Brave Railwaymen’ by Allan Stanistreet, which features Arthur’s story and is signed by the author; dedicated ‘To the family of Arthur Eccleshall AM with compliments, best wishes & thanks’ and dated the 25th November, 1988. MD and Head Auctioneer at Cuttlestones, Ben Gamble, says:

 

We’ve always had high hopes for this lot. Not only is it a very rare medal in its own right but the provenance – which is so important to collectors – is phenomenal and this is one occasion where our original estimate of between £4,000 – £5,000 was well and truly shattered!

 

The lot sold at Cuttlestones’ Friday 19th April Specialist Collectors’ Sale, held at its Wolverhampton Auction Rooms. For further information on Cuttlestones’ valuation, auction and house clearance services visit www.cuttlestones.co.uk or call 01902 421985.

 

*Including buyer’s premium

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