On the 11th November 2002, VC Research received an e-mail from
Heather Crew-Gee, (née Sinnott), of Winnipeg, Canada, with
an enquiry about her Great-great Grandfather, Lance-Corporal John
Sinnott VC. She had been surfing the Web for information regarding
Heather was directed, by the web, to the site of the Central
Library and Arts Centre, Rotherham. This is the home of the York
and Lancaster Regimental Museum. To her surprise she saw that
they claimed to be the custodians of Lance-Corporal Sinnott's
Medal. Surprised because she thought that she had had the original
hanging in pride of place, in her lounge for years.
She wanted to know, quite naturally, how the museum could have
a medal that clearly belonged to the family of the achiever.
As it turned out, the original medal was stolen from the family
home, in Wandsworth, London, during World War One. It was retrieved,
by Heather's father, at an auction in Battersea, for what she
believed to be around £2,000. A princely sum at that time.
The medal has been in her lounge, in a frame, for as long as
she can remember, which is around 50 years or more. She has never
removed it from its frame, because she believes that the ribbon
is rather fragile. She now wanted to know if she was the owner
of a worthless piece of metal.
Heather also wanted to know if there was any way she could get
the real medal, should hers not be genuine, back to the Sinnott
I replied to her the same day, telling her that I would look into
it to the best of my ability. I then informed her that the real
medal would have his name, and the date of the deed, for which
the medal was awarded, on the reverse.
I then contacted the York and Lancaster Regiment Museum at Rotherham
and spoke to the archivist, Mr Carl Noble, who told me that he
believed that they held the authentic Medal. I was asked to ring
him back the following week, when he would confirm this and also
tell me how the museum got hold of the medal. Mr Noble asked me
if it was possible that the medal had been donated by another
member of the family.
I informed Heather of the situation to date and asked, at that
time, if the medal, in her possession, had been authenticated,
she confirmed that her father had done this at the time of the
auction. I asked if it was possible that another member of the
family had donated it to the museum. She replied that, as far
as she knew, there was no member of family who could have done
this. She also confirmed that his name and date of deed was on
the reverse of the Victoria Cross in her possession.
There was even more confusion, when I rang Carl Noble the following
week, and he also confirmed that the medal was inscribed on the
reverse with the name and date of deed. It had been bought by
the Museum in 1960, after authentication by an expert.
This gives rise to several questions. Was it possible that a
replacement Victoria Cross was made after the theft? If so, who
was the medal given to, if not the family? Who owned it, after
the theft, and which medal was auctioned?
I wrote to the Army Medals Office, at Droitwich, Worcestershire,
asking them if it was possible that two Victoria Crosses had been
issued in the name of Lance-Corporal Sinnott?
My letter was then forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.
A letter arrived from Mrs. O. E. Brownjohn, MBE., of the MOD,
who explained that she couldn't help me as all the records had
been transferred to the Public Record Office at Kew.
As it was impossible for me, at the time, to visit the Public
Records Office, it being at Richmond in Surrey, I wrote to the
manufacturers of the Victoria Cross, "Hancocks," of
Burlington Arcade, London.
A gentleman of Hancocks, very kindly telephoned and informed
me that a replica Victoria Cross had been made for Sinnott. This
was all the information he could give me. So it is possible that
one of these two Victoria Crosses is the replica. Which one?
I could only inform Heather to have her medal again authenticated
by an expert. Should the Medal, held by the museum be genuine,
perhaps she could have it returned by going to law.
I do know that other Medals have been stolen, for instance, Gunner
James Collis, whose Cross was stolen from the War Office, after
it was forfieted for his commiting bigamy. Collis' Cross later
turned up at auction. It is still, I believe, in private ownership.