War hero’s medals fetch a grand price

Joseph Berry's medal collection.
Joseph Berry's medal collection.

Medals won by a Second World War hero – dubbed the Doodlebug Champion for destroying twice as many deadly V1 bombs than anyone else – have sold at auction for more than double their estimate.

The collection, belonging to RAF Squadron Leader Joseph Berry, included the very rare Distinguished Flying Cross and double bar and went under the hammer for £17,500.

Joseph Berry.

Joseph Berry.

County Durham-born Berry, who moved to Hampeth and was a former pupil at Alnwick’s Duke’s Middle School, died in action when he was shot down over Holland in 1944.

The memorabilia, which also comprised photographs, letters and newspaper cuttings, was sold at the Anderson and Garland Fine Arts sale in Newcastle last week.

The collection was the highest-priced single lot of the two-day auction and went to a collector from the south of England bidding by phone, who battled it out with a local bidder in the saleroom.

It was sold on behalf of Berry’s great-nephew, Alex Cann. His mother Chris, from Rothbury, said the family were amazed by the high price.

Mrs Cann said: “We’re delighted they’ve gone to someone who is a collector and they’re not going to be locked away in a bank vault. It’s lovely the person wants to meet us and we’ve arranged to see each other next week. It will give us closure to the whole thing.”

Anderson and Garland auctioneer Fred Wyrley-Birch said that the collection was expected to fetch between £5,000 and £8,000, but wasn’t surprised that the final value exceeded initial predictions.

He added: “Medals such as these are hard to value and you never really know until the market has its chance. In this case, the bidding stirred up a frenzy.

“It wasn’t too surprising that a group of medals such as this that were awarded to such a brave and fearless man should do so well.

“I personally feel it is a good thing that a collector who will appreciate them and look after them will have them, rather than them sitting in the back of cupboard.”

The sale also saw high prices for two Georgian tables, dating from around 1780, which previously belonged to the Fenwick family of Brinkburn Priory, near Rothbury, and were sold for a combined £19,000 to a London dealer.

Meanwhile, a Waterloo Medal, awarded to John Moore of the Coldstream Foot Guards, sold for £720.

Two paintings by pitman painter Norman Cornish, who died last year, sold for a combined total of £11,200. One was a view of the Gantry of Dean and Chapter Colliery, while the other was a colliery village.