Great War centenary auction at Raynham Hall aims to raise £1m to help bomb blast victims

Launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith Launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
6:30 AM

One of Norfolk’s finest country homes will host a major auction aiming to raise £1m towards pioneering research into reducing the effects of bomb blasts, it has been announced. ADAM LAZZARI reports.

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Lord Dannatt at the launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill SmithLord Dannatt at the launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

In a year which marks the centenary of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the sacrifices of members of the armed forces is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Now the organisers of an auction which is attracting world-wide interest are hoping that shared perspective will encourage people to support their ambitious efforts to raise £1m to fund research to help bomb blast victims.

Plans to hold The Great Centenary Charity Auction at the 17th-century Raynham Hall, East Raynham, near Fakenham, were announced during a ceremony there yesterday.

Dignitaries included General The Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army and the Norfolk Royal British Legion’s patron, Dr Chris Simpkins, director general of the Royal British Legion, Richard Jewson, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Lord Townshend of Raynham Hall and David James, chairman of the Fakenham and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, who is organising the auction which is being held in September.

Lord Townshend at the launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill SmithLord Townshend at the launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Mr James, who runs James & Sons auction business in Fakenham, organised an auction which raised £250,000 in money and goods for soldiers returning from the Falklands War in 1982.

He said: “If we can raise four times the amount we raised back then, it would be quite something.”

He added: “Charles Townshend has accepted our invitation to hold the auction here and he has been a breath of fresh air.

“He has taken to what we want to do incredibly well.”

Launch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill SmithLaunch of the Royal British Legion national auction, at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Mr James is now appealing to the public to donate items to be put up for auction.

As well as military memorabilia, including First and Second World War uniforms and medals, he is accepting items from all other conflicts and any other antiques from the 1920s to the 1960s which may be of interest.

The auction is raising money to support The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College, London.

The Royal British Legion is contributing £5m to establish the centre over a five-year period.

Raynham HallRaynham Hall

Dr Simpkins said: “This research centre is something truly special.

“There are some incredibly intelligent people there who are leading the world in research to help victims of bomb blasts.

“This auction is attracting interest from the across the world – it could be absolutely massive – I hope it will be, and I hope lots of people support it.

“Virtually every family in the land will have forebears who were involved in the First World War and many will have incredibly valuable items hidden away somewhere which they didn’t even know about.”

Centre is the first of its kind in the UK

The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College, London is the first collaboration of its kind in the UK, where civilian engineers and scientists work alongside military doctors, supported by charitable funding, to reduce the effects of roadside bombs or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) – the leading cause of death and injury for service personnel on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The goals of the new centre are to increase understanding about blast injury patterns, improve treatments and recovery and develop better ways of protecting those serving in current and future conflicts – thus reducing the long-term impacts of such individuals and their families.

The Royal British Legion is providing £5m to establish the centre.

Imperial College London will lead on the scientific research, which builds on the work already carried out by the Imperial Blast research group at the college.

Lord Townshend, president of the Fakenham and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, said he is delighted hold the auction at his home.

After The Great War his ancestor, General Sir Charles Townshend of Kut, donated a building in Fakenham as a servicemen’s family club, which is now the Royal British Legion Club. Lord Townshend also has his own personal reasons for supporting the auction.

He said: “My friend and co-church warden, still a serving senior warrant officer, is himself a victim of bomb blast injuries in Afghanistan and is fighting for his physical improvement his future.

“The work done at Imperial College, London’s Centre for Blast Injury Studies will help people all over the world.”

Lord Dannatt said: “This is a fantastic initiative to come up with – holding an auction of fascinating artefacts to raise money for a really important Royal British Legion sponsored cause.

“I have every confidence that a good amount of money will be raised and wish it every success.”

Yesterday’s ceremony was supported by members of the 2534 (Fakenham) Squadron, Air Training Corps, who assisted with car parking and serving refreshments to guests.

To find out more about the auction, go to www.jamesandsonsauctioneers.com or call 01328 855003.

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