Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (22 July 2015)

Image 1

  • Image 2

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 22nd July 2015

Sold for £4,600

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

‘The most self-effacing of men, he found unexpected fame at 82 when he wrote to commiserate with the Queen on what he called her “annus horribilis”: the year 1992, which saw the collapse of the marriages of three of her four children and culminated in the partial destruction by fire of Windsor Castle. A few days later, at a Guildhall luncheon to mark the 40th anniversary of her reign, she quoted Ford’s Latinity to poignant effect and the phrase passed into the history books ... A little above medium height, with sharply cut features and a forbidding pair of eyebrows, Edward Ford carried the sombre uniform of his office with elegance and dignity: black coat, striped trousers, starched linen, jewelled tie pin, bowler hat and umbrella. Yet it was only in the physical sense that he could be described as a stuffed shirt.’


Sir Edward Ford’s obituary in
The Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2006, refers.
‘The most self-effacing of men, he found unexpected fame at 82 when he wrote to commiserate with the Queen on what he called her “annus horribilis”: the year 1992, which saw the collapse of the marriages of three of her four children and culminated in the partial destruction by fire of Windsor Castle. A few days later, at a Guildhall luncheon to mark the 40th anniversary of her reign, she quoted Ford’s Latinity to poignant effect and the phrase passed into the history books ... A little above medium height, with sharply cut features and a forbidding pair of eyebrows, Edward Ford carried the sombre uniform of his office with elegance and dignity: black coat, striped trousers, starched linen, jewelled tie pin, bowler hat and umbrella. Yet it was only in the physical sense that he could be described as a stuffed shirt.’


Sir Edward Ford’s obituary in
The Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2006, refers.

The important Royal Household G.C.V.O., K.C.B. group of fourteen awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edward Ford, late Grenadier Guards, Assistant Private Secretary to George VI (1946-52) and the Queen (1952-67)


Having lent gallant service to the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards at the desperate defence of Warneton and at Dunkirk - for which he was mentioned in despatches - Ford won a second “mention” for his services as a Brigade Major in North Africa and Italy, latterly on attachment to the 24th Guards Brigade

His subsequent career in the royal household encompassed some momentous chapters in British history, from the death of George VI to the Suez crisis: it fell to Ford in February 1952 to break the news of King George VI’s death in person, first to Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street, then to Queen Mary at Marlborough House - ‘the telephone, it seems, was considered too insecure an instrument to convey so momentous a message’

The Royal Victorian Order, G.C.V.O., Knight Grand Cross set of insignia, comprising sash badge, silver-gilt and enamel, and breast star, silver, silver-gilt and enamel centre, the reverses officially numbered ‘1113’, in its Collingwood case of issue; The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, K.C.B. (Civil) Knight Commander’s set of insignia, comprising neck badge, silver-gilt, hallmarks for London 1949, breast star, silver, gold, silver-gilt and enamel centre, in its Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company case of issue; The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Officer’s breast badge, silvered metal and enamel; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 1st Army; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, M.I.D. oak palm; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine 1945-48 (Lt. Col. E. W. S. Ford, Gren. Gds.); Coronation 1953; Jubilee 1977; Army Emergency Reserve Decoration, E.II.R., undated, mounted court-style as worn, generally good very fine or better (14) £4000-5000

Footnote

G.C.V.O. London Gazette 15 June 1998.

K.C.B. London Gazette 1 January 1967.

Edward William Spencer Ford was born at Repton in July 1910, the son of the Very Reverend Lionel Ford, successively headmaster of Repton and of Harrow, and Dean of York (1926-32). His mother was the daughter of the Bishop of Winchester.

A King’s Scholar at Eton, Ford won an open scholarship in Classics to New College, Oxford and then studied Law as a member of the Middle Temple, where he was a Harmsworth scholar. Having then taught briefly at Eton and acted as tutor to the son of Sir Alan Lascelles, George VI’s private secretary, he was appointed a private tutor to the 15-year-old Prince Farouk, heir to the throne of Egypt. For a year’s supervision he was awarded a salary of £2,000 - and a gold cigarette case - yet as stated in his Daily Telegraph obituary, ‘it was a hard-earned stipend’ owing to the Prince’s temper tantrums.

The war years

Ford had been commissioned 2nd Lieutenant into the Supplementary Reserve of Officers in 1936 and was promoted to Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards on the eve of hostilities. Posted to France with the 3rd Battalion, as part of the B.E.F., he was selected as the unit’s patrol officer with command of a handpicked team of men - at times they came sufficiently close to enemy lines that they heard German sentries talking.

Later actively engaged in the battles of the Escaut Canal - where one of his men, Lance-Corporal Harry Nicolls, was awarded the V.C. - Ford was also present at the desperate defence of Warneton. More or less bereft of arms and ammunition by the time of the retreat to Dunkirk, Ford later recalled one of his final defensive positions, where he emptied out his pockets and laid his remaining few grenades and bullets in a thin row on the lip of a ditch, together with a bayonet. He was lucky to get back to England after two or three close calls, a story saved for posterity by an interview he gave to a regimental archivist in later years; a transcript is included.

Ford, who won a mention in despatches for his services with the B.E.F., afterwards served as a Brigade Major in North Africa and Italy in 10th Infantry and 24th Guards Brigades, won another “mention” and was an instructor at the Staff College, Haifa at the time of the Palestine operations in 1945-46 (Medal & clasp).

Royal household

On returning home in 1946, Ford was invited by Sir Alan Lascelles to join the royal household as an Assistant Private Secretary, thus setting in motion 21 years at the Palace, latterly under Sir Michael Adeane. His career, noted for its industry, discretion and good humour, witnessed his appointments to M.V.O. in 1949; C.B. in 1952; K.C.V.O. in 1957 and K.C.B. in 1967.

It was Ford who broke the news of George VI's death to both Queen Mary and Winston Churchill. Half a century on, he recalled in an interview:

“The king’s body had been discovered that morning by his valet, in his bedroom at Sandringham. We had a code word for this eventuality, which was ‘Hyde Park Gardens’. The king’s private secretary telephoned me and said simply ‘Hyde Park Gardens, tell Queen Mary and the prime minister.’ The code word meant that the king was dead, but I knew no more.

It was 9.15 in the morning and I found Churchill in bed, with Foreign Office papers strewn all round. I said, ‘Prime minister, I've got bad news for you. The king died last night.’ ‘Bad news, the worst,’ Churchill replied. He slumped as a man in shock, clearly deeply affected. He then thrust his papers aside, saying, ‘How unimportant these matters seem.’ I then had to tell Queen Mary. ‘What a shock,’ she said to me. ‘What a shock’.”

After the king’s death, the Queen asked Ford to stay on in the royal household. ‘During the Suez crisis of 1956’, according to Ford’s obituary in The Guardian, ‘he told her of his disapproval at the British and French attacks on Egypt. He did not then know of Britain's collusion with Israel and nor, he suspected, did the Queen. He did not believe that Prime Minister Anthony Eden was totally frank with her.’

Having retired in 1967, Ford resumed part time royal duties in 1975 when he was appointed Secretary and Registrar of the Order of Merit, in which capacity he was responsible for several reforms, including the return of insignia on the recipient’s death. In 1977 he arranged a special luncheon at the Palace to mark the Order’s 75th anniversary, while at Windsor he assembled the likenesses of every holder of the O.M. since 1902, commissioning leading artists of the day to depict all living members.

Ford continued as Secretary of the Order until 2003, having been appointed G.C.V.O. in 1998, when he was 87.

Throughout his busy retirement, he devoted himself to charitable causes and liked to appear on television, ‘defending the monarchy against tabloid attack with a salty command of expression.’ He died in November 2006, aged 96; sold with an original Christmas card from Queen Elizabeth, The Queen’s Mother.