Vanished war medals back with family of Royal Norfolk Regiment soldier
PUBLISHED: 09:06 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:40 06 March 2019
The grandson of a soldier who served in the Royal Norfolk Regiment has celebrated victory after recapturing a treasured collection of bravery awards.
Nick Johnson successfully bid £8,000 at an auction on Wednesday (February 27) to reclaim the medals 20 years after they disappeared from the family in mysterious circumstances.
The honours including a Distinguished Service Order, earned while serving with the 7th Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1940, were awarded to Gordon Saffrey Johnson during a three-decades long career spanning two world wars.
Recalled out of retirement in 1939, Johnson, who had won a Military Cross and an MBE with the Indian Army, was recognised a third time for his leadership during a rearguard action in Normandy.
In the wake of Dunkirk, Johnson, from Dover in Kent, was among more than 10,000 British troops cut off and forced to capitulate after finding themselves trapped, with their backs to the sea, in the tiny French fishing port of St Valery-en-Caux.
His ten medals remained in the family after his death in 1977 but at some point are believed to have been sold.
“We don’t really know what happened to them,” said Nick, who lives in Dunstable. “Going back some 20 years we just became aware they were no longer there, but now, at last, we have them back and it’s a wonderful relief.”
Speaking with pride at his grandfather’s achievements as a soldier, he added: “He was a very modest man, not very big, but he had what you might call a commanding presence about him.
“He could be quite strict, though he did have a good sense of humour. My abiding memory of him as a child is of him in his garden. He’d be out there for hours. Not very military-like, but it kept him very fit.”
At the same auction, a British Medal Empire and an Imperial Service Medal awarded to Post Office telephonist Dorothy Dallimer, a heroine of the Lowestoft Blitz, fetched £1,600, more than three times their original estimate.
Another British Empire Medal to Wilfred Tebbet, who suffered burns in an effort to save the crew of an American bomber which crashed at Frettenham in May 1944, made £650.
According to the auctioneers, the medals held special appeal to collectors by virtue of their sheer range.