WWII heroine Violette Szabo's medals fetch £260,000 at auction

Medals of Violette Szabo
(Arthur Edward/The Sun/PA )

A George Cross awarded to a Second World War heroine who was tortured and murdered by the Nazis has fetched a record price at auction.

The bravery medal along with four others belonging to Violette Szabo, who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in occupied France, sold for £260,000 within a minute of going on sale in central London.

They were bought on behalf of Lord Ashcroft and will go on display at the Imperial War Museum.

Auctioneers Dix Noonan Web said the sale price for the collection – which reached £312,000 including commission – meant a record price had been paid for a George Cross, surpassing the previous highest total of £93,000.

Szabo, an Anglo-French undercover agent who was executed at a concentration camp aged just 23 in 1945, was one of four women to be awarded the George Cross, the UK's second highest military honour.

Her daughter Tania, 73, who decided to sell the medals after a fire gutted her home in Wales, said: "I'm very happy with the result. "They're going into a safe place where people will be able to view them – many thousands of people – so a good result."

Michael Naxton, curator of the Ashcroft collection, said: "It's probably one of the most iconic bravery medals of the 20th century. It's very rare for a George Cross to be awarded to someone in enemy territory on active duty.

"The previous highest price was significantly lower and I'm not in the least surprised this one has created a new record."

Tania, who watched the auction at London's Washington Mayfair Hotel, admitted it had been a "difficult decision" to sell the medals after years of supporting the legacy of her "gallant mother".

Tania Szabo, Violette's daughter, with actress Virginia McKenna
Tania Szabo, Violette's daughter (L), with actress Virginia McKenna (Lauren Hurley/PA)

She said: "I have no children and therefore the ongoing custodianship of Violette's medals needs to be addressed. Moreover, I have my own future security to consider. Therefore, after examining the options, I decided to place her awards in auction.

"I do so with regret but it is a decision derived from much careful thought and I have every confidence that the successful purchaser will cherish and take great care of them."

Actress Virginia McKenna, who played Violette Szabo in the 1958 film Carve Her Name With Pride, was also at the sale.

She said: "It's a lot of money but what has been sold is worth a great deal. It's not just a physical medal but the reason that medal was awarded. It deserves to be seen by people in memory of this extraordinary woman."

Violette Szabo
Violette Szabo (PA)

Violette Szabo was born in Paris in 1921 but her family moved to Stockwell, London. She married a French Foreign Legionnaire, Etienne Szabo, who was killed at El Alamein in North Africa before their daughter Tania was born.

His death encouraged Violette to join the SOE which carried out espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe during the war.

Two days after the D-Day landings, Violette was captured by the SS after running into a road block near Limoges in France.

She endured months of torture and was shot dead at Ravensbruck concentration camp in January or February 1945.

In December 1946, she was posthumously awarded the George Cross – second only to the Victoria Cross in the honours system.

Tania, then aged four, collected it at a private investiture by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

As well as the George Cross, the lot sold to Lord Ashcroft contained a French Croix de Guerre and three other campaign medals, plus a parachute bag, documents and photographs, some previously unseen.

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WW2 Heroine Violette Szabo's George Cross Fetches £260,000 at Auction
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