The impending sale of a rare Albert Medal at auction in London has prompted the great nephew of a man who died during Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17 to appeal for help in solving a mystery.
Peter Hayward’s great-uncle, Victor Hayward, was posthumously awarded the medal by King George VI for gallantry ‘in saving and endeavouring to save life in the Antarctic’ during a journey of 950 miles lasting more than five months.
The medal is believed to have been passed on to Victor’s brother Harold Hayward but it has not been seen or heard of for decades until it was put up to be auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb on December 8. It is expected to fetch between £40,000 and £60,000.
Peter explained that the medal had been in the possession of an American collector who had died and his family was now selling it, along with many others from their collection.
His family believe the medal was being kept by Harold at his house in Olmstead Green, Castle Camps, and that it was stolen while he was in hospital in Saffron Walden, where he died on May 21, 1978, aged 93.
Harold was a widower who lived alone.
He was estranged from his son Maurice and his daughter Beatrice Alma Simpson lived in Wales, so any robbery of the medal is most likely to have gone unreported and possibly unnoticed at the time.
His house also stood empty after his death.
Peter, who lives in Huntingdon, said the family wants to donate the medal to the National Maritime Museum, adding: “The family is distraught that the medal is going to be sold when it might be stolen. We think it should be going to the National Maritime Museum.”
He now hopes someone in the Castle Camps area who knew Harold or his daughter may even recollect something of the medal, saying: “Maybe someone out there remembers Alma and remembers Alma telling someone about it.”
Victor was 28 when he and Lieutenant Aeneas Mackintosh disappeared on May 8, 1916 having, against advice from their colleagues, attempted to walk from Hut Point across the ice of McMurdo Sound to their winter quarters at Cape Evans.
The ice covering the sea was most likely not set enough, and the two men were never seen again, nor were their bodies ever found.
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