The Mystery of the Gorle VC

This is an incomplete transcript of a series of emails about this mystery. It is slightly modified and identifying personalities have been removed.

(Data Protection Act 1998)
(Privacy and Electronic Communications ( EC Directive ) Regulations 2003)

There is no possible way that the curator for the Ascroft Collection could have known the medal(s) had been purloined for a few reasons, which I shall explain.

-When I discovered medals were missing they had already been aquired for the Ashcroft collection. No allegations of impropriety have been levelled against the right honourable Lord or his affiliates. It is unlikely that any will ever be laid either.

The culprit has likely escaped scotfree and needs to be charged with a crime from the Zimbabwean authorities and that is virtually impossible to get them to do. The British police have already informed me that they cannot do anything without having first been asked for assistance of the Zimbabwean authorities. Interpol would be my next port of call except they only work with national authorities.

-I have personally requested that the BBC Oxford research team help me investigate the history of the medal since it disappeared from our possession in the early nineties.

-Their heir of the collection was Joan Gorle, daughter of Major Harry V Gorle. She inherited the medals of her father’s estate. She married Capt Geoffrey Vincent. When she was widowed the second time, she married Duncan Howson. After she was widowed a third and final time she eventually moved into the family home of her son, David Vincent in Harare, Zimbabwe from Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa in the period between 1990 and 1993. I’m uncertain of the exact year although I was there the day she left Pietermaritzburg in her little red Ford Meteor which nearly killed us a few years later…

I was living with my gran most of my life as she put me through school in South Africa and looked after me when I finished high school and was studying at college in Pietermaritzburg.

I don’t know when or where the medals were valued and writing out this response to you has highlighted a plausible time frame that we can narrow together and track down to a specific country… which will lead to a suspect eventually, I hope.

It was during this period that the medal was to go missing without suspect or knowledge for several years and I am doing my best to clarify the situation which is where I am having a spot of difficulty. David Vincent was my mother’s brother. Both he and my grandmother, Joan are now deceased and they knew all the details about the circumstances of it going missing. It falls to David’s widow, Mrs Vincent, to fill in the blanks and there is the problem. She lives in Cape Province, South Africa. As yet I have not been able to contact her for further information as yet.

I am acting upon information passed by word of mouth to me by my grandmother, Joan Howson, that she told me prior to her death. I cannot remember all the details but I believe her word to have been true as she was of sound mind until a few days prior to her passing away (as I was reliably informed).

Please understand that I have no intention of removing the medal from display but I am not necessarily the heir apparent either which means that that may change according to their wishes in the future. I would advocate strongly in favour of it remaining in the Ashcroft collection even if as a loaned selection. There is also the issue of the campaign medals that were taken with it too. I’m not sure of their origin either and there may well be the possibility that Robert Vaughan Gorle’s father’s DSO may have been taken but this all needs clarification by Sue Vincent because she and her husband both knew what was in the chest prior to the valuation “expert” removing the items.

Our family lost a great deal and it really upset my gran. Mrs Vincent may well remember the name of the VC valuation expert too and that is critical to my investigation. He appeared to be a well known and reputable dealer who travelled widely and had famous contacts, according to my gran. She was impressed enough with his reputation to allow the items to be valued. Foolishly, some other items required professional valuation by world experts and had to be taken away. That’s the last I heard of the matter until after the items were lost.

There are no ulterior motives or hidden agendas from my end. I would rather build a friendships than create enmity. This should be resolved amicably and to best advantage of the historical value of the family history that we hold in high regard.

I should very much like to be able to tell Lord Ashcroft the story my gran told me about how her brother won the medal because it isn’t exactly what was printed in The Times. As I heard it, it was from Robert’s version that is really inspired or foolish and understandably why the army published the formal version.

——– Original message ——–
From: Authority.
Sent: 25 March 2015 11:46
To: ’’
Subject: Gorle VC

Dear Mr Shattock,

In view of the content of your recent e-mail to Lord Ashcroft, it has been passed to me for reply.

As you already know – since I have also been contacted by “X” who runs a VC website – that the Gorle VC group is in the Ashcroft Collection and has been so since it was bought in 1993, I would ask you to leave this with me whilst I investigate the background to the acquisition. I would like to give you my absolute assurance however that the medals were purchased through the agency of a bona fide specialist…


My initial thoughts were started by this very blog about the middle of March, 2015. Whilst I was deciding what to write about from a creative context that I remembered my English teacher from high school saying that the best novels are written based upon personal experience…

Well thank you, Lawrence Bransby. Your advice has really triggered some interesting times in my life and this is another one of “those events”…


Yet again I am writing at stupid o’clock in the morning and really wondering why I feel so compelled to write about something that has been missing from our family for well over 20 years and that I personally have never seen. I have always been curious about my family heritage because it is so rich with stories and deep history with medals, wars, buildings and ships and even the Titanic itself. An ancestor built the lifeboats for the Titanic, another invented a way to dig tunnels underground. Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron but it really isn’t. Let me explain: some tunnels were dug as huge trenches that were open to the air and then the structure was completes with the earthworks returned to cover the trench and the remainder carted away to create new Land in the water of the Thames. And for you Americans out there (and other nationalities, Thames is pronounced as “Tems” not like James with a TH! Some news agencies worldwide need better research teams…
Even my grandfather’s maternal grandfather has a statue in London. Somewhere the history of Prince Charles’ exile to France needs to be told as a relative received a pure gold fob watch from the Scottish prince himself for her assistance in getting him put of England by some little boat. Apparently it was a rowing boat of some description and under the cover of darkness too. Some soldiers came looking for the prince at her house so she hid him up an oak Tree or some nonsense like that. I don’t know. My gran wrote out a little green book of her memoirs and had it typed and bound professionally. I wish I knew where it had gone. So much history is in that little book. All the way back to Kempsey in 1427 and there’s also Sir Thomas Moore who was something to do with King Henry the VIII. Ok, now I’m really wondering where that darn book is because it was so interesting!

The dear old girl! My gran knew so much and I tried to pay as much attention to our family history as o could because I knew she wouldn’t last forever but the stories she told must. I really wanted to tell her stories so my children would know where they came from and what an important part of history everyone is. From landed gentry to paupers in London. The stories of the Boer War and the Great War. The Mystery of My grand in ke who was lost at sea as a pilot for the Rhodesia Regiment RAF “gardening bombers”. I will never know. He has no death certificate and is commemorated at Runnymede in London with an inscription. So much colour, the weft and
Weave of history woven into our bloodlines forever.

How do you tell a story like it and where does one begin except from before the beginning of the beginning beginning? So much to tell. Who would ever believe it either except for the fact it is all true. Every word. I’ve got do much research to do to piece it all together and figure out how my beloved grandmother found out about so much of it and that it wasn’t from history books because there details in it that the history books do not tell singly. Many details in the stories are only revealed over many versions printed and separate from each other yet much of the specific details are missing from the whole story as to be consistent enough to be accurate as equal to an eye – witness account handed down through family history stories. She did not embellish her stories. No, she didn’t. Very peculiar I thought at the time. I half wished that the stories were more flared and grandiose, but now I see them as they are: truth.

Yes, it can only be told from the very beginning of the beginning before the beginning. My beginning. I am only a piece in the entire massive puzzle and patchwork and have a small part to play if I so choose (can I have a “hell yeah!” On that?) to do…

Update: 10 May 2018

I now have many details surrounding the theft of the Robert Gorle VC group and his father’s DSO group. Joan Howson asked David Vincent, her son, to arrange valuation of her stamp and medal collection ordinarily kept in a strong box made by her father. The insurance company he approached was Aon Minet (Zimbabwe) who recommended a socialist be sought since the company had no prior experience with war medals. They suggested the national museum mint be able to help. Mr R K Stevens was the curator at the time and had no knowledge of meal values but knew of a travelling collector who had connections in London that could value them. My grandmother, ever trusting, aged to show the collector to travel to London with the medals to have them valued… in 198x. The medals never returned to Africa ever again.

A police report was filed and passed on to Interpol which remained unknown until last month.

I now know the name of the suspect, their home address, their citizenship, telephone numbers and email addresses asking with associates and history of their travels dating back to before the theft occurred.

Lord Ashcroft has been instrumental in vetoing me side this case with the little evidence he possessed. I can construct a legal argument that places the suspect in Harare at the time of the medals’ disappearance along with written evidence of the deceased owner. There are written statements that place attempted sales of the Gorle VC group in a certain area of the world with the suspect’s travels coinciding with the same dates.

The suspect was interviewed by a book author that named him as the first owner of the Gorle VC group with a letter of provenance from the family.

The suspect in turn sold the Gorle VC group in a private sale through an agent to the Lord Ashcroft collection in 199x. The Gorle DSO group was likely sold at the same time to another collector who then auctioned them off in 201x through a famous auction house. The collection appeared as shown.

The family still have a few medals left of the original collection but they are commercially valueless.


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