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Auction: 1005 - Orders, Decorations, Campaign Medals & Militaria
Lot: 2

x The Scarce Second War 1942 Posthumous V.C. Group of Five to Blenheim Pilot Wing Commander H.G. Malcolm, 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force; For Grim Determination and Outstanding Courage In November 1942; After Leading His Squadron Without Fighter Escort, In Two Separate Very Low Level Formation Attacks on Bizerta Airfield Against Fierce Enemy Opposition; Wing Commander Malcolm Was Detailed to Attack the German Airfield at Chougui; Knowing To Attack This Target Without Fighter Cover ´Would Be To Court Almost Certain Disaster´; However ´His Duty Was Clear´; He Successfully Attacked the Target With 8 of His 10 Aircraft, But Within Five Minutes His Command, All of Whom Were Valiant, Was Overwhelmed By A Swarm of At Least 50 Messerschmitt Bf 109s, And One By One the Blenheims Were Shot Down Until Only His Aircraft Remained, Which in the End Was Also Shot Down in Flames a) Victoria Cross, reverse of suspension bar engraved ´Act. W. Cdr. H.G. Malcolm, R.A.F. No.18 Squadron´, reverse of Cross engraved ´19th. April, 1943.´, in Hancocks, London, box of issue b) 1939-1945 Star c) Air Crew Europe Star d) Africa Star, with North Africa 1942-43 Bar e) War Medal, extremely fine, the Campaign Medals loose as issued, with the following related documentation &c.: - The recipient´s Royal Air Force Pilot´s Flying Log Book, covering the period 19.1.1938 - 3.12.1942, and officially stamped ´Killed in Action´ - A copy of ´The Malcolm Club´ monthly bulletin, No.2, November 1943 - Copies of two newspaper cuttings, recording the award of the V.C. - A large photographic portrait image of the recipient, and various additional photographs (5) Estimate £ 180,000-220,000 V.C. London Gazette 27.4.1943 Acting Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm (33322) (deceased), No. 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force. ´This officer commanded a squadron of light bombers in North Africa. Throughout his service in that theatre his leadership, skill and daring were of the highest order. On 17th November, 1942, he was detailed to carry out a low-level formation attack on Bizerta airfield, taking advantage of cloud cover. Twenty miles from the target the sky became clear, but Wing Commander Malcolm carried on, knowing well the danger of proceeding without a fighter escort. Despite fierce opposition, all bombs were dropped within the airfield perimeter. A Junkers 52 and a Messerschmitt 109 were shot down; many dispersed enemy aircraft were raked by machine gun fire. Weather conditions became extremely unfavourable and as a result, two of his aircraft were lost by collision; another was forced down by enemy fighters. It was due to this officer´s skilful and resolute leadership that the remaining aircraft returned safely to base. On 28th November, 1942, he again led his squadron against Bizerta airfield which was bombed from a low altitude. The airfield on this occasion was heavily defended and intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire was met. Nevertheless, after his squadron had released their bombs, Wing Commander Malcolm led them back again and again to attack the airfield with machine gun fire. These were typical of every sortie undertaken by this gallant officer; each attack was pressed to an effective conclusion however difficult the task and however formidable the opposition. Finally, on 4th December, 1942, Wing Commander Malcolm, having been detailed to give close support to the First Army, received an urgent request to attack an enemy fighter airfield near Chougui. Wing Commander Malcolm knew that to attack such an objective without a fighter escort- which could not be arranged in the time available- would be to court almost certain disaster; but believing the attack to be necessary for the success of the Army´s operations, his duty was clear. He decided to attack. He took off with his squadron and reached the target unmolested, but when he had successfully attacked it, his squadron was intercepted by an overwhelming force of enemy fighters. Wing Commander Malcolm fought back, controlling his hard-pressed squadron and attempting to maintain formation. One by one his aircraft were shot down until only his own aircraft remained. In the end he, too, was shot down in flames. Wing Commander Malcolm´s last exploit was the finest example of the valour and unswerving devotion to duty which he constantly displayed.´ Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm, V.C. (1917-1942), born Broughton Ferry, Dundee, Scotland; educated at Craigflower Preparatory School, Dunfermline and Trinity College, Glenalmond, Perthsire; entered R.A.F. College Cranwell as a Cadet, 9.1.1936 and graduated as a commissioned Pilot in December of the following year (he went on to become the College´s only graduate to date to have been awarded the Victoria Cross); posted to 26 Squadron (Lysanders), Catterick, January 1938 and flew in a variety of air exercises and general training, including a brief detachment to the School of Army Co-operation, Old Sarum, Wiltshire; whilst piloting Lysander 4784 in a practice flight for a forthcoming Empire Air Day display at Manchester, Malcolm and his Observer A.C. Dixon were involved in a bad crash which wrote off the aircraft; Malcolm suffered severe injuries including a fractured skull - he rather understates the severity of the accident by including a picture of his destroyed Lysander with the annotation, ´It Just Fell Out´er Me Hands! in his Log Book; as a result of this crash he was told that he would never be able to fly again, however, after four months in the Princess Mary Hospital, Halton (where he met his future wife amongst the nurses there), Malcolm returned to his squadron, 26.9.1939; posted to 4 Squadron (Lysanders), Linton-on-Ouse, July 1940; with promotion to Flight Lieutenant, 21.9.1940, came two postings in quick succession - initially with 241 Squadron before joining 225 Squadron as ´B´ Flight Commander (Lysanders), Tilshead and subsequent move to Thruxton, 3.3.1941; Squadron Leader, December 1941; after a brief posting to 17 OTU, he returned to active service as a Flight Commander 18 Squadron (Blenheims), Wattisham; he flew mainly night intruder sorties, his first with the squadron being , 6.5.1942, to Schiphol; many of these sorties were in support of main bombing force raids with the intention of attacking German night-fighter airfields alongside the bomber route; the ultimate example of this being put into practice was 30/31.5.1942 when Bomber Command carried out the first 1,000 Bomber raid to Cologne; that night 18 Squadron flew intruder sorties against three Luftwaffe air bases, with Malcolm leading seven of their number against St. Trond airfield, ´Intruder St. Trond. 1000+a/c first 100% effort by Bomber Command. Cologne ruined.´ (Log Book refers); Malcolm followed up Cologne with a return trip to St. Trond, 1.6.1942, in support of the raid on Essen, ´Night Intruder St. Trond. Second Effort of 1000+a/c Main target Essen´; in the same vein he was involved when the ´Thousand Force´ was reassembled for the raid on Bremen, 25/26.6.1942, ´Intruder Venlo. Little Flak. 1000 aircraft on Bremen. 2x250, 12x40s container incendiaries´; on the 1st July Malcolm and the crew of A for Apples had their conduct commended by Air Vice Marshal A. Lee (Officer Commanding No. 2 Group) for their part in a rescue carried out just off the Dutch Coast, ´The aircraft took off at 08.30 hours and at approximately 10.45 hours, after carrying out a square search in the area allocated to them, Squadron Leader Malcolm and his crew discovered the dinghy.....approximately fifty miles from the Dutch Coast. They reported back by W/T to base, and were instructed to remain in contact with the dinghy until relieved by another aircraft. They remained in the vicinity of the dinghy, in very clear weather for four hours, during which time Flight Sergeant Grant obtained seven fixes over the dinghy. To enable these fixes to be obtained Squadron Leader Malcolm had to climb to 6,000 feet in full view of the Dutch Coast. On one such occasion touch was lost with the dinghy, but due to Pilot Officer Robb´s excellent navigation the dinghy was re-found but only after the aircraft had had to approach dangerously near the Dutch Coast. The high standard of team work displayed by Squadron Leader Malcolm and his crew and their dogged devotion to duty in remaining over the dinghy for four hours, resulted in the crew of the dinghy being successfully rescued´; further intruder sorties with the squadron included Twente (2); Juvincourt and the Rheine; at the end of August 1942 the squadron was stood down from operations and re-equipped with Blenheim V´s in preparation for overseas service; Malcolm was promoted to Wing Commander and appointed to the command of the squadron, 1.9.1942; 18 Squadron combined with 13, 114 and 614 Squadrons, all flying Bleinheim V´s, to form 326 Wing; the latter moved to North Africa, initially Blida, Algeria, in November; the reliability and indeed capability of the new Blenheim V´s very quickly came into question - this was illustrated when Malcolm led his squadron in their second low level attack on Bizerta airfield, 17.11.1942, ´Box of 12 on Bizerta 4x250 Low Level. Lost Four. 5 Me. 109s - a bit of flak´; the attack had been carried out in daylight without fighter escort, ´Malcolm´s formation ran into bad weather conditions and Luftwaffe fighters on the return flight, losing two bombers in an air collision and two others to the German fighters´ (For Valour The Air V.C.s, C. Bowyer refers); the remainder of November saw Malcolm leading a night intruder sortie on Bizerta and a night bombing raid on Tunis aerodrome, with the Blenheim V consistently letting him down, 30.11.1942 ´crashed taking off´; but despite of the inadequacies of the aircraft supplied to his squadron Malcolm tenaciously pressed on, 2.12.1942, ´ Box of Four Attack on Hun Tanks + Lorried Infantry. No Escort. Hit Twice. Light Flak´; 3.12.1942, ´Box of Four on Tanks Near Chiougui [sic]. Met Dog Fight Near Target. Little Flak´; the following day Malcolm and his well established crew were to fly in their final operational sortie, For Valour The Air V.C.s gives the following account: ´On 4 December eleven Blenheim V´s of 326 Wing were flown to a forward landing ground at Souk-el-Arba for close support tactical bombing in aid of the army formations in the battle area. At 9.15am that day six Blenheims, led by Malcolm, took off to search for German troop concentrations or other suitable targets in Chougui area, and finally located a Luftwaffe landing strip some ten miles north of Chougui. Bombing and strafing this objective, Malcolm led his formation back and landed at Canrobert at noon to refuel before eventually returning to Souk-el-Arba. Within an hour of landing, Malcolm received a message from the forward Army battle zone, requesting an air operation against the same area he had just attacked. It would mean a daylight attack over a fiercely contested battle zone, without the benefit of specific fighter cover - the latter could not be organised in the limited time available to Malcolm. Knowing these hazards well, he decided to fly the sortie. The 1st Army had requested the raid, and Malcolm´s over-riding priority was his duty to support the hard-pressed infantry. All eleven Blenheims were detailed for the sortie - a mixed bag from each of the three squadrons of 326 Wing. At 3.15pm Malcolm led off in Blenheim V, BA875, ´W´ of 18 Squadron, with his crew of two [his original crew from A for Apples], Pilot Officers J. Robb (navigator) and J. Grant D.F.C. (wireless operator/air gunner). Behind Malcolm a Blenheim burst its tail wheel and slewed off the dusty strip, out of commission; but the remaining nine became airborne and began to close into tight formation - their only defence if they met any Luftwaffe fighters. Two fighter sweeps of Spitfires from Souk-el-Arba and a third from Bone were airborne ten minutes before the bombers, ostensibly to patrol the Chougui area but the bomber crews were, for all practical purposes, on their own. Only 20 minutes after leaving a Blenheim of 614 Squadron (BA825, ´J´) skippered by Pilot Officer G.W. Sims, developed serious engine trouble and went down to a crash-landing 15 miles east of Souk-el-Arba, though its three-man crew survived the landing without serious injury. Malcolm now had just eight Blenheims behind him - four from 614 Squadron, and four from 13 Squadron. As the bombers reached the forward fighting zone, German observers signalled their approach to the nearest Luftwaffe airfield, where Gruppen I and II of Jagdeschwader 2 were alerted and despatched to deal with the bombers. Reaching the target the Blenheims circled to identify their objective, then started to bomb - only to be set upon by a horde of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters from JG2. The ensuing five minutes of frantic combat became a massacre of the Blenheims. Oberleutnant Julius Meimburg, who claimed three Blenheims in flames, later described the action thus: ´In the afternoon we hear that 12 Bostons [Meimberg was unfamiliar with Blenheim aircraft, hence the mistaken identity reference here] are on their way to Mateur. We sighted these and chased them; the bombers were flying at very low level. All the Bf 109´s attacked immediately and one Boston was on the ground in flames already before I had a chance of opening fire. I attack one and it starts to burn at once, losing height and crashing. I then attacked one on the left and, as I am flying in a curve, I can see five already shot down. Several Bf 109´s at this time are in quite a crowd behind the Yankees [sic]. I then shoot down a third which goes down burning and crashes. I can only fire a little at the fourth I attack as all my ammunition is then gone. The battle only lasted about five minutes.´ The massive German fighter opposition - at least 50 fighters - afterwards claimed a total of 12 Allied bombers destroyed but three Blenheims survived the first onslaught and eventually crash-landed within the Allied lines; two of these still with bombs aboard due to the lightning attack above the objective preventing them completing their bomb runs. Of these three crews, four crew members were injured and all three aircraft wrecked, but each crew was salvaged by Allied troops. One of the last to be shot down (from the scanty evidence available) was Hugh Malcolm´s Blenheim, which was seen to crash and erupt in flames some 15 miles west of the target. An infantry officer and two other men arrived at the scene of the crash only minutes later and, despite the intense heat and detonating ammunition, were successful in retrieving the body of James Robb. By then the burning aircraft made it impossible for the gallant soldiers to even attempt to extract Malcolm or Grant. Hugh Malcolm´s cool determination to complete this ill-fated sortie, against all the odds but in his constant endeavour to fulfil his duties, was the culmination of a flying career in which his qualities of courage and leadership had been manifest. Fittingly, he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross on 27 April 1943.´ A survivor of the fateful raid later paid tribute to Malcolm, stating that every crew knew in advance of setting off that there was only a small chance of success and an even smaller chance of getting back, ´But we would have gladly followed Malcolm anywhere. He was superb, Malcolm radiated a joy of living and fighting which was irresistible.´ Several months after the death of Malcolm, when Lady Tedder (the wife of the Middle East Air Commander-in-Chief) came to open the first of a chain of Service rest and leisure recreation centres in North Africa, she named it the Malcolm Club. This title passed on to the remainder of the clubs throughout the Middle East. An article in The Malcolm Club Monthly Bulletin, November 1943, perhaps best sums up the tribute, ´The writer met Wing Commander Malcolm once in his life. It was at Blida a few days after our landing in North Africa. Malcolm had just returned from Tunis in a Bisley - a round journey of some 800 miles over mountainous country in shocking weather. But there was no "Malcolm Club" to welcome him. Although worn out he was rendering first aid to a crew of his squadron who had force-landed after the same operation. That is only a small incident, but it is typical of the man in whose honour the clubs are named and of the spirit we hope to promote in the Clubs and the Service.´

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