Somalilandsun -: A slice of British Second World War aviation history is set to go under the hammer at a leading Shropshire fine art auction house next month.
A fascinating group of items that originally belonged to Pilot Officer W. Arnott, who flew planes for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, has been consigned to Halls’ militaria auction at the company’s Battlefield salerooms in Shrewsbury on August 12.
The group contains not only his group of five medals, which included the Air Force Cross – one of only just over 2,000 awarded during this period – but also his set of miniature dress medals, four flying log books and his original brown leather flying helmet with goggles.
Caroline Dennard, Halls’ militaria specialist, described the discovery, made at the company’s regular Monday morning free valuation clinic in Shrewsbury, as “almost the Holy Grail for both collectors and me”. She has valued the group at between £1,500 and £2,500.
“Every so often, as an auction specialist, we find an object which stops us in our tracks,” she said. “I experienced such a moment at that Monday morning valuation clinic.”
After delving into the log books, which cover the periods from 1936 right through to 1948, she discovered that Pilot Officer Arnott had almost 4,800 documented flying hours and experience in flying a total of 19 different aircraft. From 1940-’42, he was stationed at Woodley, Berkshire and was later twice stationed at Shawbury in a career which went on until his retirement in 1971.
“Having this documentation, alongside the physical awards he received for his actions during the war, is invaluable to collectors and offers a treasure trove of information,” she added. “It truly is a testament to him and his achievements that we can offer these medals for sale. By keeping the objects together it becomes an archive of both his life and service.
“I am particularly interested in the human element and to hear any family stories about the war and would welcome any manner of objects relating to any conflict throughout history.”
Another interesting item discovered by Caroline is an essay by Captain Horace Hood, commander of H.MS Hyacinth on April 21, 1904, dated Sunday, May 3, ’04, detailing the destruction of Fort Illig and the battle against the Illig Dervishes of Somaliland.
Written on four sides, the pages include two small sketches of relevant positions during the battle and carry a modest estimate of £80 to £120.
Rear Admiral Sir Horace Lambert Alexander Hood was a British Royal Navy admiral of the First World War, whose lengthy and distinguished service saw him engaged in operations around the world, frequently participating in land campaigns as part of a shore brigade.
His death, at the age of 45, at the Battle of Jutland in the destruction of his flagship HMS Invincible on May 31, 1916 was met with mourning and accolades from across Britain.
In July 1903, he was promoted to full captain and placed in command of HMS Hyacinth, flagship of Admiral G. L. Atkinson-Willes on the East Indies Station. In April, 1904, Hood was given his first independent command as he led a force of 754 sailors, marines and soldiers of the Hampshire Regiment against the Ilig Dervishes of Somaliland.
Landing his men on an opposed beach in the dark, Hood led from the front, personally engaging in hand-to-hand combat and driving the dervishes into the hinterland, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and it is in this essay that he gives his own personal account of the action.