One of the most important anniversaries has recently passed: 80 years since the beginning of the Battle of Britain. Lasting from July 10 to October 31, 1940, it was arguably the first major turning point of the Second World war. Certainly, Hitler’s failure to beat The Few effectively ended any ambitions he might had had to invade across the Channel.
As with other major conflicts, it is the engagements that changed the course of history or were so heroic (and sometimes foolish) that they have captured the public’s imagination like no other, that give rise to the most sought after militaria and campaign medals at auction.
The romantic ideal of the Spitfire pilot soaring through the clouds above our heads comes second to none in filling the role of the dashing hero, so anything associated with them, especially now that we are down to the very last one still alive, will create considerable excitement.
I was reminded of all this by the news of the sale of a nine carat gold Caterpillar Club Irvin pin put up for sale in the past week, with final bids in by October 4.
Awarded to Supermarine Spitfire pilot Kapitan Stanislaw Zygmunt Krol in 1942, the pin honoured the successful escape by parachute of airmen bailing out of a disabled plane wearing a parachute made by the Irvin Air Chute Company. The Caterpillar is a nod to the silkworm, whose efforts created the material for the parachute.
Krol’s own history is remarkable. Repeatedly escaping as a prisoner of war, he ended up in Stalag Luft III, setting for the film The Great Escape.