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Rare medal celebrating heroism of Staffordshire railway worker to sell in Wolverhampton

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An incredibly rare gallantry medal awarded to a Lichfield-born railway worker for saving the life of a child is set to come under the hammer at Wolverhampton Auction Rooms on Friday 19th April, just a few miles from where the act of heroism took place.

On 2nd October, 1908 19 year-old Arthur Eccleshall was working as a porter at the Staffordshire station of Bushbury – which closed in 1912 but was then just a few miles north of central Wolverhampton – when he saw three children making their way across the level crossing. Eccleshall noticed 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 and 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. Civilian gallantry medals, awarded for deeds performed ‘not in the presence of the enemy’ are all especially rare. Albert Medals (AM) are exceedingly so. Eccelshall 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 Dunsltall 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.

This local hero’s bronze second class Albert Medal will sell along with a significant amount of ephemera; including 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, signed by the author and dedicated ‘To the family of Arthur Eccleshall AM with compliments, best wishes & thanks’ and dated the 25th November, 1988. With its strong local connections, rarity and exceptional story this is a very special lot, as Cuttlestones’ MD & Head Auctioneer, Ben Gamble, explains:

This is a very interesting lot due to its rarity, but when you add the fascinating story of how Arthur was awarded his medal and its local links, it makes it completely unique. Medal collectors aspire to have specimens like this in their collection –the human story behind a medal, whether it’s a rare example or not, adds to its provenance and therefore value. In addition to being of interest to avid medal collectors, this lot is also likely to appeal to the equally ardent railwayana collectors due to its links to the golden age of rail travel, and to those with a keen interest in the history of Staffordshire and the Black Country. It’s a great piece of local history and we’re proud to be selling it on behalf of the vendor.”

The lot will come under the hammer on Friday, 19th April as part of Cuttlestones’ Wolverhampton Auction Rooms Specialist Collectors’ Sale. Viewing will be from 10am – 7pm on Thursday, 18th April and the morning of the sale, with the catalogue available online at from Friday, 12th April. For those unable to attend on the day of the sale, telephone, commission and live internet bidding options are available. For further information call 01902 421985.

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