War hero’s medals go under the hammer

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The medals of a Wiltshire pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain, airlifted evacuees from an African revolution, and died as he lived – in the cockpit of his aeroplane – will go under the hammer at an antiques auction in the Cotswold next week.

Wing commander Paul Bingham Elwell, from Highworth, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for taking on five Focke-Wulf 109 fighter planes in a dogfight near Cherbourg on June 26, 1944.

Swindon’s Evening Advertiser reported at the time: “Investigating flares and heavy flak east of the Cherbourg Penninsula, a 34-year-old Mosquito pilot, Squadron Leader P B Elwell, Highworth, noticed five FW109s climbing steeply.

“He raced in and fought the planes until his ammunition was exhausted. He destroyed one FW for certain, and probably another, before returning home safely.”

The newspaper report – a cutting of which is included as part of the lot – noted: “ Squadron Leader Elwell is the son of Mr E C Elwell, solicitor, of Highworth, a member of Wilts County Council and Highworth Rural Council.”

Born in 1910, and apprenticed as an engineer at the Great Western Railway Works in Swindon, Elwell started flying in 1932 and joined the RAFVR in 1939. After the war he continued to fly for commercial carriers in Africa.

Between 1955 and 1960 he worked in Kenya, where he was the second mayor of Eldoret. He then moved to Uganda where – while working for Caspair Air Charters – he trained the first African pilot and was involved in the evacuation of European refugees from Belgian Congo during the bloody revolution – an act of bravery that won him the MBE.

On October 8, 1962 Elwell was coming in to land at Entebbe Airport in Uganda when he suffered a heart attack. His DH Rapide crashed and he was killed.

Now his medals and war mementoes – which range from his DFC, MBE, war medals and a medallion awarded by the Belgian government, to epaulettes and cloth wings, flight logs, newspaper cuttings and his personal diary – are going under the hammer at Moore Allen & Innocent’s selected antiques sale in Cirencester on Friday, September 27.

Auctioneers are anticipating bids of between £3,000 and £5,000 for the collection.

The medals of a veteran of another war – the Cold War – will also be going under the hammer at the sale. And this veteran wasn’t on our side…

The collection of Russian naval militaria all relates to Captain Arkadi Popov. His white trousers and jacket are included in the lot, along with 13 commemorative medals, ranging from the jubilee medal celebrating 50 years of the Armed Forces of the USSR to another celebrating 300 years of the Russian Navy.

Documents date from between 1956 and 1970, and the lot also includes epaulettes, medal ribbons, and a dirk. The lot carries an estimate of £500 to £800.

More Russian silverware – this time of the cutlery variety – can be found in the form of a circa 1864 24-place canteen.

Sugar tongs, ladles and fish slices complement the knives, forks and spoons, by Nichols & Pink of St Petersburg, which weigh in at a total of 346.53 ounces of silver. Bidders will need to fork out between £5,000 and £7,000 to secure the lot.

Also for the table is a novelty honey pot in the form of a bee, by Mappin & Webb of London. Dating from the early part of the 20th century, the electro-plated insect has a ruby glass body in which the honey is stored, and an electro-plated spoon. The sting in the tail? The winning bidder will need to find £300 to £500.

From bees to Beatles, the Fab Four appear in a collection of autographs amassed during the 1960s and 70s by a constable at London Airport, which also contains the signatures of Jack Warner, Ray Davies, Brian Jones, Peter Snow, Billy Cotton, Bobby Moore, Terry Wogan, Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Savile. The lot carries an estimate of £1,000 to £1,500.

And words are the subject of one final featured lot: a 19th century collection of bone alphabetical letters in a mahogany box. With an estimate of £200 to £300, it’s surely the Cotswolds’ most extravagant way teach a child to spell.

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