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Militaria auction section: 5th March 2019, Collectors’ Auction

Expert Valuer Ken Payne and Auctioneer David Hunter have been busy lotting ahead of March’s two-day Collectors’ Auction and they’re sharing preview details of a really fascinating lot, being sold by the family of Harold Green Riley of Grange over Sands. Harold was a paratrooper with the 1st Paras Brigade, Signals Section. At the age of 23, he took part in the Battle of Arnhem.

The lot comprises photos, drawings of Arnhem (where Harold sheltered), medals, cloth and metal badges, his 1944 red beret and WWII metal cap badge, service book, discharge paper, non-disclosure agreement, German High Command Order, bank notes tracking his service in Italy, Algeria, the Netherlands and Germany, and later photos of Arnhem reunions, which he attended. And, most significantly, a 170-page journal from the battle and during the six months when he was working his way back over the Rhine to British lines.

The journal is on loose pages – first typed, then written in ink, then written in pencil. It’s a unique personal survivor’s story from the Battle of Arnhem, a searing comment on the flawed military strategy that saw troops sent into battle in spite of intel that German panzer divisions were in the area, and, an account of resistance activity on the ground, particularly Dutch resistance.

Militaria auction rarity

Ken’s comments: “This is a rarity and the first I’ve seen in my many years as a private collector and professional valuer of military items. Not only does it provide detail of the battle, but it also reveals the story of an escape from behind enemy lines and the many civilians and members of the resistance who risked their own lives to make it possible.”

The story opens with Harold en route to Arnhem in an aircraft taking flak from the Germans, and includes tense accounts such as the one that finds him hiding out on top of a boiler in Arnhem with German soldiers sat right beneath. The lot also includes a second story by W Dukes of Lancashire who hid on the same boiler and travelled with Harold until they were separated as they tried to crossed the Rhine.

Another item of particular interest is a copy of the German High Command Order from October 1942, bearing Hitler’s signature, which states that all enemy commandos in Europe or Africa caught behind the line – in uniform or not, armed or not, in fight or flight – are to be slaughtered to the last man.

Ken: “The Order shows the extent of the risk to Harold personally and to all of the people who helped to hide him and aided his escape. The death toll in Arnhem was significant and army clothing would have been easy to come by for German operatives trying to infiltrate the resistance. Harold’s journal details the care that was taken to establish that he was no threat to his rescuers. It really is a fascinating story and one that I very much hope is published by the buyer.”

Estimate: £200-£300.

Viewing: By appointment (015395 66201) or during official viewings on Friday 1st March (1-4pm), Saturday 2nd March (10am – 2.30pm), and on the mornings of the auction (from 8.30am, 4th & 5th March).