16 November 2006

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham,
20th Bn, ( Canterbury Regiment ) 2nd NZEF

  • Victoria Cross & Bar
  • 1939-45 Star
  • Africa Star
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 ) + MiD Oakleaf
  • New Zealand War Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
  • New Zealand Commemorative Medal ( 1990 )

Captain Charles Upham's Victoria Cross & Bar, the only double VC ever awarded to a combat soldier, has been bought by the Imperial War Museum in London, England. Under the purchase agreement the VC will be lent to New Zealand for a period of 999 years and therefore will remain in the country. The director of the Army Museum, Waiouru, confirmed the VC & Bar group had been sold and would go on permanent display at the museum.

The Imperial War Museum's 'Summary of Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Trustees held on 6th September 2006' states that:

"The Trustees approved the acquisition of the medals of Charles Hazlitt Upham VC, subject to full funding being provided by the Garfield Weston Foundation, and an agreement which would permit the medals' subsequent long term loan to the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum in New Zealand."

Founded the in 1958 the Garfield Weston Foundation is a UK based, general grant-giving charity endowed by the late W. Garfield Weston and members of his family. In the year to 5th April 2005, the Foundation supported 1,862 applications with grants totalling over 38.7 million pounds.

In April 2006 New Zealand newspapers reported that the daughters of Charles Upham were prepared to sell their father's Victoria Cross medal group as they were all in agreement. The family thought it only proper to offer the group to the New Zealand government for a sum of NZ$3.3 million ( 1.17 million pounds ), the same sum they were offered a year earlier by a private overseas collector. The New Zealand Defence Minister said "The sale of Charles Upham's Victoria Cross and Bar would be a huge public loss. However, the Government does not believe it is appropriate for the public to pay the NZ$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".

Therefore, this move by the Imperial War Museum has ended nationwide controversary in New Zealand over the fate of the Charles Upham VC & Bar and the wishes of the Upham family have been met.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 14 October 1941 ]. Maleme, Crete, 22nd - 30th May 1941 - Second Lieutenant Charles Hazlitt Upham, 20th Bn, ( Canterbury Regiment ), 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force

He displayed outstanding gallantry in close-quarter fighting, when blown up by two mortar shells and badly wounded. In spite of this and an attack of dysentry which reduced him to a skelatal appearance, he refused hospital treatment and carried a badly wounded man to safety when forced to retire. Eight days later he beat off an attack at Sphakia, 22 Germans falling to his accurate fire.

For the award of a Bar to the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 26 September 1945 ]. El Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt, 14th - 15th July 1942 - Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham, 20th Bn, ( Canterbury Regiment ), 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force

When leading his company attacking an enemy held ridge overlooking the El Alamein battlefield, he was wounded twice but took the objective after fierce fighting. He personally destroyed a German tank, several guns and vehicles with grenades, despite a broken arm. After his wounds were dressed, he returned to his men but was again severely wounded and unable to move.

Following the war Charles Upham was offered the New Zealand government's scheme of giving ex-soldiers the chance of owning a farm of their own. However, Upham didn't believe he deserved special recognition and therefore turned the offer down and instead asked for the sum to be put into the form of a scholarship. He later purchased a farm of his own by financing it himself. He lived in peace and relative solitude on his North Canterbury farm for the rest of his life apart from making the long journey to the United Kingdom in 1956 to attend the Victoria Cross Centenary Review held in Hyde Park, London.


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Iain Stewart, 16 November 2006