The Collections of Lord Ashcroft
The Collections of Lord Ashcroft
The politician, Crimestoppers' founder and medal collector
Michael Ashcroft is an immensely successful businessman of the United Kingdom and Belize, listed as Britain's 37th richest person according to the country's Sunday Times newspaper. He is a long time donor to the Conservative party, and became its deputy chairman in 2005.
Ashcroft was born in 1946, and was educated at Royal Grammar School and Mid-Essex Technical College. He is now Chancellor of the college, which became Anglia Ruskin University.
He became wealthy by turning around struggling businesses starting with Uni-Kleen which he bought for the notional sum of 1 (as it was losing money) and sold it for 1.3m three years later.
Baron Ashcroft, as he became in 2000, is known for championing crimefighting and heroism. The former is shown most keenly in his founding of Crimestoppers in the UK and Australia, which is a charity to which the public can provide anonymous information about crimes and receive rewards if the information proves useful to the police.
Ashcroft's fascination with heroism is most clearly shown by his collection of Victoria Crosses, the highest honour for gallantry available to British and Commonwealth forces, awarded for actions in the face of the enemy.
He has assembled a collection of 152 VCs to date, including the VC and bar (that is, a double award of the VC) of Captain Noel Chavasse which he purchased for 1.5m. Chavasse was one of only three men to be awarded the VC twice, and the only one to receive it during WW1.
152 VCs represents 11% of all of those ever awarded, and it is by some distance the greatest private collection of them in existence. As a single one recently sold for 348,000, a great deal of dedication is required to assemble a large collection.
Ashcroft's interest in Victoria Crosses and those who win them is not restricted to simply owning them however.
In 2007, a set of medals was stolen in New Zealand including the VC and bar of Charles Upham. Ashcroft offered NZ$200,000 reward for the medals' safe return. They eventually were, and the thief was finally jailed a few weeks ago.
He also wrote Victoria Cross Heroes (2006) about the 150 individuals whose award he possessed at the time. He followed it up with a book named Special Forces Heroes.
Ashcroft has naturally also had the opportunity to mingle with VC winners. Earlier this year he wrote a heartfelt tribute in Medal News to Eric Wilson VC, who died aged 96, 68 years after he was awarded the Victoria Cross 'posthumously'.
Baron Ashcroft has previously loaned parts of his collection to museums, but now intends to present all 152 medals in a special gallery in the Imperial War Museum, where they will appear alongside the museum's own collection of 50 Victoria Crosses. He is also donating 5m to help the gallery take shape.
As with many medal collectors, Ashcroft is fascinated by the stories which the small, plain pieces of metal represent, and wants nothing more than to share them with the world.
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