Burnley-born WWI and WWII heroes' medals up for auction in Clitheroe

The Redfearn brothers' medal collections.
The Redfearn brothers' medal collections.
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Rare medals belonging to two generations of Burnley soldiers who fought in both World Wars are available at auction in Clitheroe, with the memorabilia telling the compelling story of one of the town's most interesting families.

A whole host of military medals and associated paperwork and memorabilia is set go under the hammer at Silverwoods Fine Art and Antiques Auction on Lincoln Way in Clitheroe on 30th May, including WWII medals awarded to a pair of extraordinary Burnley-born Redfearn brothers: Leonard, who was torpedoed and lost at sea on his own for 10 days, and William, who aided the evacuation at Dunkirk.

Harry Redfearn's collection.

Harry Redfearn's collection.

The memorabilia - belonging to Leonard, William, and their father, Harry - was bought in by Susan Senior, who is great-niece to the two brothers and whose mother and grandmother had kept the 10 medals and assorted ephemera together.

"It's relatively unusual to get a complete family story set over a couple of generations, usually they get broken up, but this has all been kept together, which is really nice," explained James Thompson, Silverwoods' military expert, of the collection pertaining to the Redfearns, who record show as residing on Reynolds Street in the town for many generations.

As a 19-year-old merchant seaman, Leonard was torpedoed in 1943 and was reported as “lost at sea” after 10 days, but returned to tell the tale after being picked up in an open boat, explaining that "We had a pretty fair idea of where we were and were quite cheerful... though we saw nothing but sharks and whales until the tenth day when a Coastal Command plane circled. We were glad!"

Not one to miss out, William himself was a Royal Marine who helped evacuate troops from Dunkirk and who had to be hospitalised during the Blitz after "a bomb fell a little too near him to be healthy," according to the Burnley Express report at the time, also served on the Atlantic and Russian convoys and on the HMS Duke of York when it took Churchill to meet the American President.

As well as the brothers' medal groups from WWII - including a mounted trio of the 39/45 Star, Atlantic Medal, Italy Star, War Medal, and Defence medal - their father's WW1 medal group - boasting a Silver War Medal, Victory Medal, Royal Artillery Cap Badge, Silver Sweetheart Brooch, and the Salonika 1915-18 Reunion Association badge and buttons - contains something decidedly more rare.

"The two brothers' medals are likely to got for £150 to £200, but what's perhaps a little more interesting is that there are couple of first world war badges which are quite unusual from the Burnley Volunteer Training Corps," explained James, describing Harry's North East Lancashire Volunteer Regiment Lancashire Volunteers Cap Badge, a mint condition Burnley Volunteer Training Corps Lapel Badge in gilt metal with enamel highlights, and a white metal medallion awarded by the Burnley School of Arms & Gymnastics in 1891.

"These things weren't kept, so it's quite likely they will themselves go for £200 as well - it's very possible that they belonged to [William and Leonard's] grandfather, but we've no evidence for that," he said. "Not mega-bucks, but interesting that these belonged to people who lived in almost the same street for several generations."