Medal posthumously awarded to Falklands bomb disposal expert for bravery fetches world record of £118,000 at auction
A medal awarded posthumously to a bomb disposal expert who was killed while trying to defuse a huge missile in the Falklands War has sold for the record-breaking sum of £118,000.
Staff Sergeant Jim Prescott, 37, died instantly when the 1,000lbs bomb went off on board HMS Antelope, which sank the following day.
A photograph of the frigate engulfed in an enormous fireball became one of the defining images of the 1982 conflict with Argentina.
Bravery: Sergeant Jim Prescott's Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, left, alongside his other military awards. The CGM is the only one of its kind to have been awarded during the Queen's reign
Fireball: An Argentinean bomb explodes on board the Royal Navy frigate HMS Antelope, killing Sgt Prescott. This was to become one of the most memorable images of the 1982 conflict
After his death Sgt Prescott, of the Royal Engineers, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his brave actions - the only one handed out during the war.
On the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, his family have sold the medal for £118,000, a record price for a CGM and nearly 12 times the estimated value.
They decided to auction it after Sgt Prescott’s bomb disposal partner, Warrant Officer John Phillips, recently sold the Distinguished Service Cross he won for the same incident for £120,000.
Fearless: Sgt Prescott was standing just 30ft from the bomb that killed him when it exploded on board HMS Antelope
Sgt Prescott’s CGM is said to be unique because he is the only soldier to be awarded it during the Queen’s reign.
David Erskine-Hill, of the London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, said: 'This is a record for a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
'There is no CGM that has sold for more than this one at auction.
'Quite unique in the annals of modern British gallantry awards for bomb disposal work is the CGM awarded posthumously to Staff Sergeant Prescott for his extraordinary bravery.
'It is unique on two counts: for being the only award to an army recipient in the current reign and by virtue of the fact it was a posthumous award.
'Moreover, when the honours system was overhauled in 1993, the CGM became obsolete.'
He said the family of Sgt Prescott, who was originally from Wigan, Lancashire, were ‘very pleased’ with the sale price.
Sgt Prescott and WO Phillips had been tasked with making safe the gigantic bomb that had penetrated HMS Antelope on May 23, 1982 but had failed to go off.
The previous day the pair had disarmed a similar bomb on board HMS Argonaut.
They made several attempts to blow the fuse of the Antelope missile, but nothing appeared to have happened.
Unknown to them, the device had a 28-second delay and exploded as WO Phillips was preparing to inspect it.
They were stood just 30ft from the explosive when it went off.
Devastation: A helicopter hovering above HMS Antelope as it burns in Ajax Bay in the Falklands. Warrant Officer John Phillips, who was also trying to defuse the bomb, lost an arm in the blast that killed Sgt Prescott
WO Phillips lost an arm in the blast while his colleague was killed instantly.
He later recalled: 'Jim was standing right next to me. We had a momentary glance at each other as if to say “oops”, then I was flying through the air.
'The build-up of pressure had been so great that it ripped the hinges on the doors off and blew them towards us.
Heroic: Sgt Prescott, originally from Wigan, in Lancashire, was 37 when he died
'The nearest one hit Jim square in the chest and killed him outright, and at the same time took my left arm.'
The citation that described Sgt Prescott's heroics concluded: 'Staff Sergeant Prescott displayed courage of the highest order in persevering with attempts to defuse the bomb in HMS Antelope, fully aware that the condition was particularly dangerous.'
The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal was awarded to British Armed Forces personnel below commissioned rank.
In 1993 it was replaced by the Distinguished Service Cross, which is awarded not only to officers but to all ranks of the forces.
Mr Erskine-Hill said: 'The gallant work of bomb disposal personnel first came to the public’s notice on a significant scale during the Blitz in the last war.
'It captured the admiration and respect of one and all, and largely prompting George VI to introduce the George Cross and George Medal.
'And we are constantly reminded of that cool courage and sacrifice as a result of today’s equally gallant personnel, who deal on a daily basis with IEDs and other devices in Afghanistan.'
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