Important Second War S.O.E. D.C.M. group of eight fetches £95,000 at Dix Noonan Webb

Art Daily
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It had been estimated at £60,000-80,000 and was bought by a Private Collector.
It had been estimated at £60,000-80,000 and was bought by a Private Collector.

LONDON.- The exceptional and important Second War S.O.E. ‘Force 133’ Balkan Operations D.C.M. group of eight awarded to Sergeant K. A. J. B. Scott, Royal Signals and Special Operations Executive, late King’s Royal Rifle Corps, who was ‘dropped’ into Eastern Serbia in April 1944, linking up with Major Frank Thompson’s ill-fated Operation Claridges in support of Bulgarian Communist Partisans, sold for a hammer price of £95,000 at Dix Noonan Webb in their auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria today (Wednesday, January 13, 2021). It had been estimated at £60,000-80,000 and was bought by a Private Collector. It was being sold together with an important associated archive of material, elements of which include the recipient’s unpublished autobiography of his war years [lot 205].

Following the sale, Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison (Associate Director) of Dix, Noonan, Webb, commented: “We are very pleased with the price that Scott’s medals sold for, and I know that his two daughters will be delighted that their father’s story is being told and that his bravery is being so fully recognised.”

As anti-partisan reprisal operations closed in, Thompson took the fateful decision to lead his private army ‘T. E. Lawrence Style’ into Bulgaria, where, with Scott continuing to serve as wireless operator, they were repeatedly ambushed and fought running battles with the Bulgarian Army and Gendarmerie before being ultimately broken up.

Starving and exhausted, Scott and Thompson were encircled and captured before being subjected to brutal beatings and threats under Gestapo interrogation. Learning of Thompson’s execution, Scott was then compelled to extract intelligence from S.O.E. Cairo via his wireless set but, cleverly ensuring that Cairo were not deceived, at great danger to himself he disclosed nothing, surviving fourteen nerve-wracking weeks under Gestapo orders until finally, with the Red Army closing on Sofia, he was released, finding his way to London via Istanbul and Cairo as the only British survivor of the mission.

Also in the sale was the Women’s Social and Political Union Medal awarded to Miss Nellie Godfrey, who was arrested and imprisoned for throwing a missile at Winston Churchill’s car as he attended an election rally in Bolton in December 1909, which fetched £10,000, with the proceeds being donated to the Fawcett Society. Christopher Mellor-Hill finished by saying: “It has been gratifying to see how well Nellie Godfrey’s medal has done in selling for £10,000 to benefit The Fawcett Society and how widely her story has been portrayed and read following the publicity of the sale of her medal. We are very pleased that is has found a home in the North West of England.”

Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society Chief Executive commented: “We are truly delighted to hear that Nellie’s medal sold for £10,000 at auction and would like to thank the donor again for their generous donation to the Fawcett Society. This incredible piece of history has brought us all closer to Nellie Godfrey’s heroic story, and reminds us that we can all play a part in making equality a reality. We may be living more than a hundred years later, but the fight to achieve equality is far from over. The Fawcett Society is still on the frontlines, working to achieve equality for women at work, the equal representation of women in power and influence, helping women to know and realise their rights, and by smashing the stereotypes that are still holding us back.”

A group of twelve which sold for a hammer price of £30,000. The group had belonged to Group Captain J. R. H. Merifield, who was an outstanding individual in WW2 – he was widely recognised as one of the finest Mosquito and Photo Reconnaissance Unit pilots of the War, he flew in over 160 operational sorties and took the first photograph of a V1 flying bomb on a launch ramp at the Luftwaffe Test Installation at Peenemunde on the Baltic Island of West Usedom. It carried an estimate £20,000-30,000 and was bought by a Private Collector [lot 184].

Mr Mellor-Hill noted: “The hammer price of £30,000 for Merifield’s awards and medals is a reflection of his recognition as one of the best reconnaissance pilots of WW2 and the man who first photographed the notorious V1 bomber and brought its existence to light. He was attached to the US Air force in the Korean War and was further decorated for gallantry by the Americans making him one of the most decorated pilots in the RAF before sadly being killed in a test flying accident in 1961.”

Elsewhere, from Part 1 of the Collection of David Lloyd, was an outstanding Post-War ‘Borneo operations’ M.M. group of three awarded to Captain (Q.G.O.) Ramprasad Pun, 2/2nd Gurkha Rifles, who opened the firefight on Operation Hell Fire in September 1965, which sold for £13,000. With his forward section of 10 Gurkhas facing a force of 100 terrorists, he stood his ground, firing his Bren gun from the hip and causing the enemy countless casualties. It had been estimated at £4,000-5,000 and following the sale, Mr Mellor-Hill explained: “There was very good competition on the phones and internet for this lot with it being bought by a private collector of Ghurka related awards.”

£14,000 was achieved for a well-documented post-War ‘Air Observation Post’ D.S.O group of six awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. H. Hailes, Royal Artillery, who specialised in the hazardous task of flying light, slow, cramped and unarmed Auster spotter planes over hostile territory in Palestine, Malaya, and Korea in the face of determined opposition and dangerous circumstances but nonetheless always attempted to engage enemy targets, efforts that also saw him twice Mentioned in Despatches; in Korea he identified and fixed Chinese artillery positions for counter-bombardments by 1 Commonwealth Division or by US heavy guns. Again bought by a private collector, it had been expected to fetch £6,000-8,000 [lot 185]. Mr Mellor-Hill explained: “This was a rare award of a DSO for ‘military’ rather than ‘air force’ flying and dangerous reconnaissance work in spotter planes that required cool headed bravery in the Korean War which was a hard fought campaign that ebbed and flowed with much loss of life and suffering on both sides.”

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