April 9, 2007

Daring wartime airman’s medals up for sale

Medals and military insignia, including four Distinguished Service Orders, belonging to one of the Second World War’s finest airmen are expected to fetch up to £180,000 when they are auctioned this month.

They are testament to a career that included numerous bold raids and two months spent evading the Germans in occupied France. Sir Basil Embry’s dedication to the cause was so great that, when grounded by RAF chiefs because he was overworked, he took on the pseudonym “Wing Commander Smith” to ensure that he flew in some of the war’s most daring raids.

Sir Basil, one of the RAF’s best pilots of the Blenheim, right, and Mosquito, was also famed for evading capture after being shot down over France while protecting the British Army during the Dunkirk retreat. In an earlier series of attacks on German fleets, he carried out ten raids in eight days. Sir Basil, who became Air Chief Marshal, was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The archive also includes his Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross, awards from France, Iraq, Denmark and the Netherlands, his ceremonial sword and a vast collection of mementoes.

Sir Basil, who died in 1977, emigrated to New Zealand in 1956 and published an autobiography. He later moved to Australia and took up farming.

Wing Commander Jim Routledge, 72, an RAF historian, described him as one of the most inspiring leaders ever to serve in the RAF.

The 18 items will be offered for sale at Spink’s in London on April 19.