Auction News

Naval medals have £2 million estimate


The outstanding Great War V.C. group of six awarded to Captain H. P. Ritchie, Royal Navy
Image courtesy of Noonans Mayfair.

A collection of naval medals put together by an American former navy officer is expected to realise around £2 million at auction in London this month.

The Jason Pilalas collection may be the best naval medal collection ever assembled.

Among the 250 medals being sold are the first naval Victoria Cross won in World War I.

That is being sold in a group of six medals. The VC was won on November 28, 1914 at Dar-es-Salaam (then in German East Africa) by Captain H P Ritchie. Ritchie was shot eight times during an action but survived.

The set carries an estimate of £200,000 to £260,000.

Captain Ritchie was invalided out of the navy after his heroic action and died aged over 80.

A group of 10 medals awarded to Lieutenant-Commander W. E. Hiscock during World War Two carry an estimate of £80,000 to £120,000/

Hiscock defused numerous mines during the siege of Malta. Tragically, he was killed along with his wife in a bombing raid just after the award of the George Cross in this group was announced.

The Pilalas collection goes back to the 18th and 19th centuries too.

A group of five medals won by Colonel Sir John Morillyon Wilson of the 1st Foot carry an estimate of £24,000 to £28,000.

Jason Pilalas was from Connecticut, USA. His interest in naval history was sparked by three tours of Vietnam in the US Navy.

Nimrod Dix, Deputy Chairman of Noonans, who are handling the sale, and Director of the Medal Department said: “He was not only a man of many talents, but he was also a man of many interests, none more so than his relentless pursuit of knowledge of all things relating to the Royal Navy.

“This voracious appetite for knowledge being matched only by his seemingly unquenchable thirst to collect objects relating to his passion.

“However, as much as Jason cherished his collection, he was always mindful of the fact that he was just the custodian of these objects in his own lifetime.”

This is a major sale in the militaria category.

Medals can be bought for very affordable prices. But, the most valued awards, if they are linked with a compelling story can reach very high prices.

Victoria Crosses are the most valuable UK military awards, and many are in museum collections.

The most recent sale was of the VC awarded to Captain Hastings Harington during the “Indian Mutiny”. It realised £140,000 in April this year.

One of the biggest buyers of VCs is Lord Ashcroft, whose enormous collection of medals is largely on loan to the Imperial War Museum.

The most valuable VC is that awarded to Irishman Thomas Kavanagh (a civilian) which realised £930,000 in 2022. In July 2023 the VC awarded to Australian WWII soldier Corporal John French was sold at auction for £755,000.

The Pilalas collection will be sold at auction on July 23.

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