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Hero's medals may yet return

PUBLISHED: 16:43 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 July 2010

AN unassuming-looking medal like this (below) turned out to be an extraordinarily rare piece of Nelson memorabilia worth tens of thousands of pounds - and a museum would dearly love to bring it home to Great Yarmouth.

AN unassuming-looking medal like this (below) turned out to be an extraordinarily rare piece of Nelson memorabilia worth tens of thousands of pounds - and a museum would dearly love to bring it home to Great Yarmouth.

The Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) earned by Yarmouth hero James Sharman, the man credited with carrying the fatally-wounded Lord Nelson below decks during the battle of Trafalgar, has surfaced - one of only three earned by the survivor.

Only the fate of one other of his medals is known, and that is in the United States. So, when the NGSM came up on eBay the Nelson Museum hoped against hope that it could clinch the auction. Sadly, the museum could only stump up a fraction of the £23,000 the medal legitimately attracted. But a fake bidder, stealing a valid ID to offer slightly more than the highest legitimate bid, forced the internet auction site to call off the sale.

The loss of the seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, could turn out to be the gain of the museum, which now has a second chance to raise enough money to offer the owner should he decide to try to sell again.

And the museum is appealing to potential benefactors to help it secure any similarly rare items that come up in the future.

Sharman is a particularly important figure to the museum as he is one of only a few men whose heroics on HMS Victory were recorded specifically. Not only did he apparently tend to the dying Nelson but he was so well regarded that he was chosen as the first “keeper of the pillar” by the Vice-Admiral's best friend, Capt Masterman Hardy, when the Nelson memorial was built in Yarmouth.

He was also the inspiration for the Charles Dickens character Ham Peggotty in David Copperfield, forever immortalising a Trafalgar survivor in English literature.

Details of how the medal ended up in the hands of the present owner remain unknown, other than that his father had kept it in the attic, unaware of its value.

Faith Carpenter, curator of the Nelson Museum, said: “The museum has no funds to buy items and we rely entirely on donations and the goodwill and support of the general public. We would have been delighted if we had been able to bring Sharman's medal back to his home town to put it on display.”

For more about the Nelson Museum visit www.nelson-museum.co.uk or call 01493 850698.

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