The Story of... Their 'finest hour' - The Battle of Britain at the auction block



2015-06-26 12:19:08

The Story of... Their 'finest hour' - The Battle of Britain at the auction block

Collectors rate the militaria from the 1940 air fights highly, as they were crucial to the outcome of WWII

Documentary charting The Battle of Britain

"the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin." intoned Winston Churchill in June 1940. It was, without doubt, one of the more frightening moments for Britain in WWII.

The might of the Nazi forces had been demonstrated, and it was clear that the move across the English Channel was imminent. The German intention was that the Luftwaffe would wrest air superiority from the RAF, and if that experience was insufficient to force a highly compromising armistice, an invasion would follow by air and sea.

In the event, Britain's RAF was up to the task, and the Battle of Britain is regarded as a proud British victory.

Naturally therefore, militaria associated with the campaign are coveted. For example, recently a set of medals and a log book belonging to Jan Budzinski has come up for auction (a Polish pilot - there were a few non-British pilots who played their part in the RAF).

Whilst that is being offered for the (overly) modest price of 4,000-5,000 ($8,100), other sets have brought more fitting bids - especially when headed by significant British gallantry medals.

For example, the impressive DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and triple-barred DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) set of Captain P H 'Dutch' Hugo sold for 150,000 ($245,000) in spring 2010 at Spink - no mean feat getting the audience's attention in a sale which also saw two Victoria Crosses go under the hammer.

Cited for setting "a magnificent example for coolness and gallantry", Hugo was credited with 13 aircraft destroyed (five during the Battle of Britain), including successfully felling a German Messerschmitt, after his Spitfire's engine had stopped and both aircraft were in a freefall at 3,000 ft.

He later had the privilege of meeting Winston Churchill.

Also sold at Spink later that year were the medals of Battle of Britain flying ace Bob Doe, which again combined a Distinguished Service Order with a Distinguished Flying Cross.

DSO and DFC group awarded to the Battle of Britain's Bob Doe DSO and DFC group awarded to the Battle of Britain's Bob Doe

Bob Doe is regarded as being the third most successful pilot overall at the Battle of Britain, credited with 14 victories, two shared victories, and having damaged other enemy aircraft. Later in the war he led No. 10 Squadron, Royal Indian Air force from January 1944, and operated from both India and Burma.

In the Battle of Britain, he was one of the few to achieve recognition flying both Spitfires and Hurricanes, in which his eagerness to fight the enemy at close quarters was exceptional.

The medal set was listed at 130,000-160,000 (up to $256,000), but in the event soared even higher to 185,000 ($288,300).

So naturally, key medal sets associated with the events are hugely valuable. But collectors could also go one better: A fully restored 1940 Hawker Hurricane MkIIA World War II fighter from the Battle of Britain went under the hammer at the Bonhams & Goodman Military and Aviation Collectables auction on 27 September 2009 in Melbourne with an estimate of AU$2m-4m (US$2.01m-4.03m).

Its final price was not released, but it is reassuring to know that whilst Britain cuts back it air force and there are demands for its use abroad, somewhere there is a collector in possession of a plane from Britain's 'finest hour' - just in case.

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