Medal belonging to first British soldier killed in Great War sells for £17,000

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A medal won by the first British soldier to be killed in action during the First World War has sold for £17,000 at auction.

The 1914 Star medal was given to Private John Parr who died near Mons on August 21 1914 – just weeks after war was declared.

It belonged to keen historian Barry Hobbs, who died in May aged 78, and was among a large collection sold at auction in London.

Auction house Dix, Noonan, Webb said Pte Parr’s medal, which had been estimated to sell for around £2,000, was bought by a UK-based collector with an interest in the Great War.

Major Freddy Small
Major Freddy Small was the first member of the Royal Flying Corps to shoot down an enemy aircraft with a machine gun (Dix, Noonan, Webb/PA)

Associate director Christopher Mellor-Hill said: “This is an incredible price achieved for what is a most iconic medal for the First World War and reflects greatly on all those who also lost their lives so tragically during the Great War.

“We are extremely pleased how much interest it attracted as well as from military institutions and educational establishments, and we hope that the successful buyer, who is a keen battlefield enthusiast of the Great War might put it on display so that its importance will be known to future generations.”

Officers and soldiers who served in France or Belgium between August and November 1914 received the medal, known as the Mons Star.

Also sold was a group of medals won by Major Freddy Small, from Keynsham in Somerset, who was the first member of the Royal Flying Corps to shoot down an enemy aircraft with a machine gun.

His medals sold for £5,500 and were bought by a collector with an interest in military history.

A group of medals won by Lieutenant William Tapsell
A group of medals won by Lieutenant William Tapsell sold for £10,000 (Dix, Noonan, Webb/PA)

Mr Mellor-Hill said: “This group made a spectacular price and is a reflection of the daring and equally characterful stories of the early days of those pioneering flyers at the beginning of World War One when they were such a new and novel aspect of warfare.”

A European-based collector bought a group of medals for £10,000 won by Lieutenant William Tapsell, including a Distinguished Conduct Medal, for his bravery on the Western Front in 1917.

He was killed at the second Battle of the Somme just weeks before the war ended.

Mr Hobbs was born in Norfolk following the evacuation of his mother from the East End of London during the Blitz.

After leaving school, he followed his father in working at the Port of London Authority as a docker until an industrial accident forced his retirement in 1990.

He used compensation money to buy an old farmhouse in northern France near to several Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries where he could follow his passion for military history.

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