Medals from the Collection of R.W. Gould, MBE

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Date of Auction: 20th September 2002

Sold for £1,500

Estimate: £600 - £700

An interesting K.P.M. group of four awarded to Superintendent Frank Froest, Metropolitan Police, later executive head of the C.I.D. at Scotland Yard, who made a remarkable trip to South America to apprehend a British financier accused of corruption

Jubilee 1887, clasp, 1897, Metropolitan Police (P.S., A Divn.); Coronation 1902, Metropolitan Police (Insp., C.O. Div.); Coronation 1911, Metropolitan Police (Supt.); King’s Police Medal, G.V.R., 1st issue (Frank Castle Froest, Supt., Met. Police) together with companion set of four miniatures, both sets mounted in correct order of precedence for that period, very fine (8) £600-700

Footnote

In 1892 Jabez Spencer Balfour, a British financier, fled to Argentina after the crash of his Liberator Building Society in which investors lost nearly six million pounds. A warrant alleging embezzlement was sworn against him in London and a detective despatched to Buenos Aires to effect his arrest. Unfortunately there was no extradition treaty with Argentinia, where Balfour, aided by his millions, was now being protected by certain corrupt officials. After two years and a number of spurious law suits it appeared that the fugitive might spend the rest of his life in South America defying British justice.

At this stage the first officer was recalled and Frank Castle Froest was given the case. Froest was born in Bristol in 1858 and joined the Metropolitan Police 21 years later. Moving rapidly through the ranks he had risen to Inspector 2nd Class at Scotland Yard by 1894. His briefing from Sir Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner C.I.D., was short and to the point. “You will go out to the Argentine,” said Sir Robert, “arrest Balfour and don’t come back without him. I don’t suppose we shall see you at the Yard for five years!” The new man duly arrived in Buenos Aires only to find that his quarry had bolted a thousand miles up country to the primitive settlement of Salta. Following intense diplomatic activity it was agreed that the authorities in Salta would arrest Balfour and hand him over to Froest and a Vice Consul. However, the British Consul in the capital was convinced that Balfour would be rescued by his Argentinian friends, lawfully or unlawfully, before the British party could reach the coast.

Froest and the Vice Consul made the two day journey to Salta where the Governor promised that Balfour would be handed over at noon in two days time. As the next departing train would not leave until a further 24 hours had passed, Froest took the precaution of hiring a special train. Accordingly, on the appointed day and time, Froest and his companion, each armed with a revolver, received their prisoner at the railway station from a group of smiling officials. The smiles vanished as Balfour was promptly handcuffed to the Vice Consul and hustled onto the special which was waiting with steam up. While the Vice Consul guarded Balfour in the only coach, Froest rode on the engine’s footplate alongside the driver. A few miles down the line a sheriff’s officer rode out to intercept the train, galloping alongside, waving an official paper and shouting at the top of his voice. The train driver would have stopped but Froest, though short in stature was a powerful man and prevailed upon the driver to keep going. Unhappily, the sheriff’s officer was killed when he fell from his horse in attempting to board the moving train.

After 800 miles the aged train broke down, fortunately in a station. Froest ordered another engine and coach to be made available but before the journey could be resumed a party of local police and officials arrived. They had received orders to arrest Froest and the Vice Consul for the murder of the sheriff’s officer. In the midst of a heated discussion on the platform as to whether they would be charged with murder or manslaughter, Froest received a signal from his companion that he and Balfour, still handcuffed together, were aboard the newly arrived train. The detective quietly left the group, ostensibly to answer a call of nature, gave his escort the slip and boarded the special from the track side. The train steamed out of the station, followed by agitated cries and shots, but there were no further attempts to stop them from reaching the coast. On reaching their destination, Froest hurried his prisoner onto an English cattle boat leaving for Liverpool that night. An attempt to take Balfour from the boat was beaten off with the aid of some seamen and friendly British cattlemen, and the ship sailed on the evening tide. Some months later, after a lengthy trial at the Old Bailey, Balfour was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years penal servitude.

Detective Inspector Froest was subsequently involved in another small piece of history when, on 18 February 1896, at Madeira, he boarded the S.S. Harlech Castle, and formally arrested 26 officers and 399 rank and file who were prisoners after having taken part in the Jameson Raid. It was the largest mass arrest in the history of British law enforcement.

Froest eventually retired in 1912 as a Superintendent and executive head of the C.I.D. at Scotland Yard. In that same year he was awarded the King’s Police Medal for meritorious service. He afterwards moved to Weston-super-Mare where he became a Justice of the Peace, and died there on 7 January 1930.