Military Cross included in medal group to be sold in February auction

A medal group belonging to a distinguished South African born soldier is expected to fetch up to £3,000 when it goes up for auction in the new year.

Major Edward St John O’Dell, who was born in Grahamstown, South Africa in 1877, received the Military Cross in the First World War and gave false dates of birth to be allowed to serve in both the Boer War and Second World War.

His impressive group of 11 medals, together with a collection of related documents and photographs, have been consigned to our militaria and toys auction on February 17.

Major O’Dell, the youngest of five children of Colonel George Frederick O’Dell, was educated at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, and Bedford Grammar School in England.

In 1893, at the age of 16, he joined the Bechuanaland Border Police after using his brother David’s name and date of birth. He then served in various forces including the Cape Mounted Rifles, Orange River Colony Police, 4th Regiment South African Infantry and South African Field Artillery.

During the First World War he was promoted consecutively to Major and awarded the Military Cross. From 1920-’24, he farmed in Rhodesia and was involved in big game hunting before settling in England in 1925 where he married and had two sons, Derek St John and Bryan Edward, who joined the Household Cavalry (the Blues).

In the Second World War he again gave a false date and place of birth so that he could take a commission as Lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

In addition to the Military Cross, the medal group comprises the Military South Africa Company’s Medal (one clasp, Rhodesia), Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal (one clasp, Bechuanaland), Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 ( five clasps), King’s South Africa Medal (two clasps), Natal Rebellion Medal 1906 (one clasp), 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-1919 with Mentioned in Despatches emblem, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Jubilee Medal 1897 and Colonial Forces Long Service and Good Conduct Medal George V.

“This is a superb medal group, which we are sure will attract international interest from collectors,” said Caroline Dennard, our militaria specialist. “From his military record, Major O’Dell was obviously a very courageous soldier who was determined to not let age stand in the way of war service.”

Other early consignments include a French firearm and a mid-20th century frigate in a glass display case valued at up to £300.

Caroline is now accepting medals, weapons, maritime pieces, uniforms, documents and photographs associated with military campaigns and service for the February auction.

She will be holding a free militaria valuation day on January 11 from 10am to 2pm at our Shrewsbury headquarters. We also hold a free valuation session every Monday morning from 10am to 2pm.

Caroline Dennard may be contacted on Tel: 01743 450700 or email

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