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Deep regret at possible sale of Upham medals

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence


18 April 2006
Media statement

Deep regret at possible sale of Upham medals


The sale of Charles Upham's Victoria Cross and bar to a private buyer would be a matter of real public regret, says Defence Minister Phil Goff.

"While the decision is one for his family to make, it would be hugely disappointing for the medals to be lost from public access," Mr Goff said.

"However the government does not believe it is appropriate for the public to pay the $3.3 million asked for the medals.

"This would clearly be unfair to the 19 other families who have gifted or lent VCs to New Zealand museums, seeking nothing in return. Their generosity and public spiritedness has made those medals accessible to the public and allows the bravery of the medal holders to be remembered and honoured by all New Zealanders for generations to come.

"The latest VC to be passed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum just last month was from the family of Sergeant James Ward, the airman who crawled out onto the wing of a Wellington bomber to smother an engine fire that was putting at risk the lives of the crew.

"Nor do I believe that the sale of the medals would have been approved by Charles Upham himself. Upham consistently stated that the credit for his VCs was not simply his, but shared with the men whom he led.

"At the end of the war he turned down a gift of 10,000 pounds offered by the Canterbury province, which would have assisted him to buy a farm.

"In a letter to the Mayor of Christchurch, he said: 'The military honours bestowed upon me are the property of the men of my unit as well as myself, and were obtained at considerable cost of the blood of this country … under no circumstances could I consent to any material gain for myself for my services.'

"I regard Charles Upham's achievement of a VC and bar as one of the finest and most important aspects of New Zealand's military history.

"The loss of public access to his medals would be a real shame. However the true value of the medals lies not in what can be bought and sold, but in the deeds of heroism he and so many others committed to earn them in the defence of our country," Mr Goff said.


ENDS

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