First World War medal nets $7,400 on eBay
Published Saturday, February 24, 2007 11:33PM EST
A medal awarded to a soldier from Canada's first and only black battalion in the First World War has found its rightful home after being bought for $7,400 on eBay Friday night.
With nine seconds to spare before bidding was closed, an Ontario man bidding on behalf of the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth, N.S. bought the Victory Medal awarded to soldier Percy Fenton.
Fenton was a member of the No. 2 Construction Battalion.
The cultural centre was working with Dave Thomson of St. George, Ont., who has helped buy and return more than 30 medals listed on eBay -- including an Order of Canada medal that was put up for auction last month.
Henry Bishop, the cultural centre's curator, called it a Godsend. He said he has been touched by offers from across the province, including from a call centre in Yarmouth that has said it raised more than $2,000.
"We believe in the power of human nature. It's a coming together of community,'' he said on Friday.
The Victory Medals were given to every Allied soldier who served in the war. Canadians received 350,000 of the nearly six million that were handed out.
Other Victory Medals on eBay have been won for as low as $10. But Bishop said media coverage and the significance of the battalion drove up the price.
Fenton's Nova Scotia-based battalion did logging, forestry and general construction work overseas. While all of 600-plus regular soldiers were black, all but one of its commanding officers were white.
Fenton's enlistment papers indicate that he was 17 years old when he enlisted in the battalion in 1916.
After serving as a sapper, a type of military engineer, Fenton returned home after the war and was discharged. He later died after falling ill.
Fenton's relatives have objected to the sale, saying the medal belongs in a museum.
"I don't think it's right," Leslie Fenton, one of Percy Fenton's nephews who is now in his 70s, told CP from Yarmouth this week.
"I didn't even know that you could sell medals. I didn't even know you were entitled to sell them."
The case has also renewed calls from New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer, who introduced a private member's bill last year that would forbid the sale of medals.
He raised the issue in the House of Commons on Friday, urging the anonymous seller, who he called a "profiteer," to cancel the auction and give the medal to the Black Cultural Centre.
"It is despicable that in this great country, somebody would try to financially profit from the valour of other people," said Stoffer.
With files from The Canadian Press