Records Smashed in Sheffield Medal Auction

Huge interest from around the world was once again focused on Sheffield Auction Gallery on 9th June as they offered at auction the second part of the ‘Dore Medal Collection’.  With successful purchasers ranging from Sheffield to New Zealand and world-wide in between, all but two of the 445 lots found a new home with many sale highlights. However it was left to the last lot of the sale to bring a new Sheffield Auction Gallery record for a medal group to set pulses racing. Lot 585, a world war one group of 5 medals to a Sergeant Franks.

Lot 585, a world war one group of 5 medals to a Sergeant Franks
Lot 585, a world war one group of 5 medals to a Sergeant Franks

John Morgan, Auctioneer and specialist valuer continues the story; “It was lot 585 and there had been significant interest before the sale in this group, and would be fought out with bidders in the room, on the telephone and on the internet. I opened the sale with a significant commission bid of £800 and there was early feverish bidding from all quarters. Finally settling down to a straight fight between a gentleman in the room and a telephone bidder, with the hammer finally dropping at £6,200 (£7,502 including buyers premium) to the telephone bidder. A fitting end to a wonderful sale that saw over £130,000 of medals sold in two auctions.”

But who was Sergeant Franks and what were his medals to create so much interest? The medals were a Distinguished Conduct Medal, a Military Medal with bar, a 1914 star, War Medal and Victory medal which in effect meant that Sgt Franks had received three medals for outstanding bravery and courage 99 years ago during the first world war. The lot also included paper work.

George Franks was born in Rotherham during 1893. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment in Pontefract in 1913. He served in South Africa before going to the western front shortly after the outbreak of World War One. George did not start his progression through the ranks until 1916 and by early 1917 his reputation was growing rapidly. Now a Sergeant, he was first Gazetted for a Military Medal on 22 January 1917. On 22nd February 1917 he was Gazetted again for another Military Medal (shown by a bar to the original) and on 12th March 1917 he was Gazetted for his highest award the Distinguished Conduct medal. His citation reads ‘…for conspicuous gallantry. Franks seized an enemy rifle grenade which was burning, threw it away, then tripped a nearby soldier and covered him with his body as the grenade exploded…’ Sergeant Franks war finally came to an end on 12th May 1917 when he was killed by an aerial dart while on the front line. He was buried in the Philosophe Commonwealth Cemetery.

Perhaps fittingly the letter written by Sergeant Franks commanding Officer, Lieut Fitzherbert to inform his sister, Mrs Millington of Franks death contains the following ‘….your brother was the best Sergeant and bravest man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting…’ The hand written letter is still with the medals.

Sheffield Auction Gallery’s next Militaria auction is on 18th August and entries are invited.