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The stories of courage behind Lord Ashcroft's collection of heroic medals

From the Telegraph -

The applause had barely ceased at the close of Lord Ashcroft’s Victoria Cross lecture at the Cheltenham Literature Festival when a boy dashed to the front of the hall, desperate to speak to him. Who, he wanted to know, was the VC holder whose tale of derring-do was most impressive?

'In many ways, he reminded me of myself as a young boy,' Lord Ashcroft smiles. 'His father told me he had begged to come to the lecture and had read my book, Victoria Cross Heroes. As a young lad, I, too, was utterly entranced by the stories of bravery in the face of the enemy, the tales of ultimate sacrifice that so many British soldiers have shown – and continue to show – throughout so many wars. I was intrigued with the concept of danger and that, in turn, led to an almost obsessive interest in some of the heroic figures of the Second World War. And it is a passion that has never left me.'

. . .Lord Ashcroft’s fixation with bravery led to his resolve one day to own a Victoria Cross. He bought his first in 1986, when he was 40. As he held it in his hand, reading the citation that told the story of its holder, he felt a surge of pride. 'I wanted more. I set my heart upon building a formidable collection,' he says. And an obsession was born. Today, he owns 164 VCs, the largest private collection in the world. 'The collection is, simply, my pride and joy,' he says. Its value for Lord Ashcroft can only be measured in terms of respect and sentiment, but it is estimated to be worth more than £30 million.

'. . .Descendants of VC holders often contact me, desperately wanting to see their ancestor’s medal. Many weep, many want to hold the medal. Just once. Those are sobering occasions.'

Determined that the collection should be on public display, Lord Ashcroft donated £5 million to build the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum, which opens on November 12. His medals will be displayed next to those already owned by the museum in the Extraordinary Heroes exhibition. 'My hope is that it will be a national celebration of those men – and women – who deserve to be described as the bravest of the brave'.

We never tire hearing about bravery, and imagine that your spirits are uplifted, too.

Our file on Victoria Cross heroes is here.

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