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 the medals were discovered to be 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…

It may have been during the move that the medal vanished. We just don’t know. My gran thought she knew where it was at that time. I never asked her. 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…


WHAT is it about? Well that’s just the question I asked myself so many thousands of  hours ago. The why of where and who the hell did they think they were? For godsakes! I didn’t want this life and if I’d had a choice I’d have told them to stick it up their arses. Not very Christian of me, but that’s how I felt. Still feel. Life is a sexually transmitted disease. I’m human. Of all loving beings, I’m human. The shame of it. I’d rather not have been born but, hey Ho.  I’m alive. I get on with living. That’s what it’s about: relationships. The greatest wealth on earth is being able to value your relationships above all else. Shame it doesn’t pay the bills, but I’m alive. Let’s hope that it will influence you positively and enrich your mind with creative bull. I do swear. This is English after all. It’s not pseudo – french. We swear. Let’s not beat about the damn bush. I will try be polite but if I’m not… I don’t give a fat rat’s arse anyway. My mother might not like me being too candid. Tactless would be the word shed use, but honest is mine. If this gets published and that’s a big frikking if at that, then what? I dint know. I need to tell it. The story is like a good little girl who deserves her reward and I’m being a bad parent and refusing to allow her to have her merit awards for being so good. Bad parent. Very bad. I must tell all…


Only Adam.

Before it began…


It was well over a thousand years ago when it all began. I cannot remember it all because it was all so long ago. There is no comprehensive proof that there ever wasn’t a beginning to this beginning of the beginning… It was England in 1427. The village of Kempsey. Walter was his name. We never knew where he came from but he stepped out of nowhere into the record books. It’s all in fine clear digital print. Irrefutable. Irreversible. Undeniable. His bloodline exists. Walter Gorle had no idea what an event he was to start and what it would cause so many hundreds of years later…

Kempsey’s Famous Sons
The grave of granduncle Robert Robert Vaughan Gorle, V.C. of Napleton, Kempsey, enlisted in the Royal Artillery and won the Victoria Cross as an acting Sub-Lieutenant in Belgium in 1918. He later immigrated to South Africa and is buried there at Stellawood cemetary in Durban. His father, Major Harry Vaughan Gorle of Kempsey was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for service in South Africa. and also gained the A.S.C. too to his. The Gorle family has long been associated with Kempsey. The first record available is a Walter Gorle around te time of 1427. Thank you Reverend Gorle. Joan was very happy about that little bit of info and the pieces that lead back to Sir Thomas Mo(o)re. There is the matter of the gold fob watch from King Charles that is still missing and the troublesome issue of the stolen Victoria Cross that is now in the Middle East in the possession of a war memorabilia collectors private collection. I do wonder how he managed to acquire it without paying out our family in any way. The Victoria cross that was taken for evaluation and accreditation and never returned to the family heirlooms ever again.

Descendants’ Ascendance

I remember my grandmother tracing years of details on a huge sheet of paper when I was only a little tyke. My mum’s mum. She was the most awesome person I ever met in my life, by the way. This is in effect the legacy she has left to me. It’s a legacy left to you. It’s a good legacy. What a time she lived through too! Old folk were so… risqué in those days but how they kept it so hushed and silenced then could never be achieved now. No, the Internet provides an incredibly invasive and pervasive sheen of Big Brother tech that little stays hidden for long.

The earliest records date to the mid 1800s. Leonard. Such an obscure name, Shattock. Originated from the farmland of South east England. An ancient and proud name. A lion’s gambit. Unusual. Leonard. Mysterious. Famous. By marriage. Always just out the limelight but still in the Borders of fame. Not quite the outer darkness. Still the darkness. Always the darkness. How could he have known. It wasn’t his plan nor his fault. He just fell in live with the daughter of a great man. How could he possibly know that the fate of his life would be tied into the history of millions of people? It was unthinkable. Completely. Poor Nancy wasn’t to realise what she hoped for and lived so much longer than expected. Exceptionally longer. Her dad was brilliant. His ideas were patent and published. James. The James Greathead. James Henry Greathead. Engineer. Chief engineer. Of London. Celebrated and revered. He helped Mr Barlow out of a very nasty predicament of reputation. The same Mr Barlow who finished the immense task of the Clifton suspension bridge after the demise of Brunel. Yes, it was The Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Barlow made a complete horse’s of the under – Thames railway attempt. It cost over £600,000. A very expensive mistake and loss of many lives too. James helped him save face in that he designed a rather special bit of engineering equipment that the patent office verifies. He made it alone. As Barlow’s understudy, he designed it and presented a working version that was patented and then presented on the next attempt to dig a tunnel under the Thames River. It succeeded. Visit London today and you can still see that success. Jim Greathead made it work and Mr Barlow’s reputation was saved. The past disastrous attempts of Mr Barlow were nearly forgotten except the men who died had families. They loved their men, but no record remains of them or their descendants which is shamefully shameful. No known compensation was paid out as far as can be found. They died for nothing. Jim made sure that wouldn’t necessarily happen again by better design.

Come to think of it…

I don’t know where it’s going to take us as a family but I can tell you that it is very interesting… if you like history. Real history. Not the pretend “my dad dug trenches for electricity cables” history but men who fought wars and protected millions from bombings and tunnels that were dug for the first ever underground trains and mysteries of King’s ransoms kind of histories. Real history. Titanic lifeboats kind of history. Our history. The history that got medals and royal gold and meetings with kings and Queens of England kind of history. The kind where members of parliament debated the truth of a patent kind of history. Life changing stuff. The stuff you wish you had in your family… you have got in your family. Wait! WHAT?

Yes, for my children and others I write this so you know what really went down. The dirty secrets and the horrible deaths and the tragic accidents and the unbeatable sadness of unborn children and more than you could ever make up in a trio of fiction novels. No. This is solid. All I’m going to do is show how I found out each story as it is known to the world and put some family touches to it that you know who did it, when they did it and God knows why, but they did it.

With so much to be done and so many places to research, the time available and, I still haven’t quite plucked up the courage to write this book that I promised to write so many years ago. Oh dear, Lawrence will be so miffed if I don’t complete the thing. There’s so much to tell. I’ve had it in my head all these years and done nothing about it. Over a decade I’ve known these things. I’m ashamed of my infinite procrastination. Deadly ashamed.