Poignant letters from drowned soldier torpedoed in WW1 come to auction

A MEDAL and poignant letters from a Staffordshire soldier who drowned in the Mediterranean when his troopship was torpedoed during the First World War are coming up for auction in Lichfield.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Coins, Medals & Militaria Sale on Monday, July 23, features the WW1 British War Medal to Sapper Thomas Rei Hartwell of the Royal Engineers.

He was from the Amington area of Tamworth and drowned a couple of months shy of his 21st birthday when the troopship Cameronia was torpedoed in the Eastern Mediterranean by a German U-boat on April 15 1917.

Hartwell was one of over 2,630 soldiers who were sailing to fight in the Mesopotamia theatre.

Included in the lot (pictured above right) along with his medal are several poignant letters – one written shortly before he left – numerous of photographs including formal and group pictures and other related ephemera.

Other fascinating items which have come to light include a glazed framed photo believed to be of North Staffordshire Regiment soldier Private J Oram together with a period named plaque and his WW1 pair of medals.

Also offered in the auction is an impressive archive (pictured above) relating to Sergeant Robert G Flowerdew, a member of the ‘Suicide Squad’ Machine Gun Corps, including original dog tags, British War and Victory medal pair and a photograph of Sgt Flowerdew in uniform with MGC insignia.

There is also a typed copy of a diary Sgt Flowerdew kept during his service in France from 1917-1918.

Nick Thompson, medals and militaria consultant at The Lichfield Auction Centre off Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, said the upcoming auction features a “huge consignment for the second sale in succession”.

“The items on offer cover all periods and many nations are represented in addition to the normal British offering of medals and militaria,” he said.

“Russia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Greece and the USA all feature in one way or another, and on the militaria side we have some sought-after and hard-to-find items of German Third Reich WW2 insignia.

“A Nazi Third Reich visor cap, a SA dress dagger and a glazed frame of Luftwaffe shoulder rank chevrons are amongst a number of interesting German items all brought in by one vendor.

“German badges and pins all feature in the sale too.”

Mr Thompson added: “There are items to suit every collector and every pocket and plenty are sure to attract attention.”

In the coins section, a $20 gold piece (pictured above) weighing almost an ounce from 1894 is expected to fetch £900.

The sale also features an Edward IV gold medal, pictured above, struck for his coronation in August 1902, which is valued at £450. The new king features on one side, his consort Alexandra on the other.

Both coins are on 9ct gold mounts.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Coins, Medals & Militaria Sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, starts at midday on Monday, July 23. View the catalogue here.

Viewing is from 9.30am until noon on Saturday, July 21 and from 8.30am on the day of sale.

Free general valuations including medals and militaria are carried out on Tuesdays from 9.30am-4pm. For coins, see Philip Bridge between 9am and midday.

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