16 Bolton St, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8BQ
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Lot 338, 22 Oct 97
DescriptionThe important group awarded to Air Marshal Sir Humphrey Edwardes Jones, Royal Air Force, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., the first R.A.F. officer to fly the Spitfire and Commanding Officer of No. 213 Fighter Squadron during the Battle of France in 1940
The Most Honourable Order of The Bath, K.C.B. (Military) neck badge in silver-gilt and enamels, and breast star in silver with appliqué centre in gilt and enamels, the set contained in its Collingwood (Jewellers) Ltd case of issue, the reverse of the star privately fitted with two small additional hooks for wearing; The Order of the British Empire, C.B.E. (Military) 2nd type neck badge in silver-gilt and enamels, in its Garrard & Co case of issue, the suspension ring re-fixed; Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1940’; Air Force Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1942’; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Africa Star, clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals, M.I.D.; Coronation 1953; French Croix de Guerre 1939; Legion of Honour, Commander’s neck badge in silver-gilt and enamels, enamel chipped, especially on the reverse, mounted as worn where applicable, unless otherwise described very fine or better (14)
FootnoteK.C.B. London Gazette 13 June 1957. C.B. London Gazette 1 January 1954.
C.B.E. London Gazette 17 September 1943, ‘In recognition of distinguished services rendered in the Mediterranean Air Command during the period 1 February to 12 May 1943.’
D.F.C. London Gazette 30 July 1940. The following recommendation was extracted from official records: ‘This officer has commanded No. 213 Squadron from 3 May 1937 until 9 June 1940. He is, himself, an outstanding pilot, and the high efficiency of his Squadron has been due to his example and leadership. Earlier on he took part in many of the sea patrols over convoys, and has consistently led his Squadron in night operations. During the period of his command the Squadron has brought down 23 confirmed and 14 unconfirmed enemy aircraft, and I attribute the excellent results produced as being due to the manner in which he trained the Squadron in peace, and led it in war. I might add that he continued to lead the Squadron after being promoted to Wing Commander, and when his relief actually arrived.’ [This recommendation was signed by Leigh-Mallory and approved by Dowding].
A.F.C. London Gazette 1 January 1942. The following recommendation was extracted from official records: ‘Since December 1940, Wing Commander Edwardes-Jones has performed invaluable service at Nos. 56 and 60 OTUs in the capacity of wing commander in charge of flying. He has always set a very high standard in flying training and has insisted on others following his example. Wing Commander Edwardes-Jones is an exceptionally capable pilot both by day and night.’
Man who made momentous decision on Spitfire
(John) Humphrey Edwardes Jones, or ‘EJ’ in the R.A.F., was born on 15 August 1905, and was educated at K.C.S., Wimbledon, Brighton College, and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Commissioned into the R.A.F. in 1926, he flew with No. 1 Squadron at Tangmere prior to an appointment as a Flying Instructor in Egypt. From 1932 to 1935 he commanded No. 208 Army Co-operation Squadron at Heliopolis, and in the following year returned to the U.K to command ‘A’ Flight of the Performance Testing Squadron at Martlesham Heath. It was ‘A’ Flight’s brief to exhaustively test all new single seater aircraft types, and it was customary for new machines to be stripped down for instrument calibration and minute examination before any actual flight testing took place. On 26 May 1936, however, ‘EJ’s commanding officer informed him that Supermarine’s Spitfire prototype, K5054, first flown only two months earlier, was being delivered that afternoon and that he was to perform an immediate and rigorous flight test. The R.A.F. at the time was desperate for a first class front-line interceptor. The Hawker Hurricane, first flown in 1935 and yet to enter squadron service, was undeniably reliable and effective but it looked like being no match for the Messerschmitt Bf 109 already in service with the Luftwaffe and soon to be combat tested in Spain. So under unique circumstances it was arranged for Supermarine’s Spitfire to be flown by an R.A.F. officer - Edwardes Jones - in order to gain an impression of the aircraft on which a very great deal would depend.
K5054 was brought into land at 4:30 p.m., and after refuelling and a thorough briefing from Supermarine’s Chief Test Pilot, ‘Mutt’ Summers, ‘EJ’ took off in front of an expectant crowd of station personnel. He found the Spitfire a delight to handle with no problems in normal flight. But on the way into land, being unable to hear the warning klaxon above the roar of the engine, he came within a whisker of destroying the machine by forgetting to lower the undercarriage. He realised his error just in time and with what appeared to be considerable panache put down the wheels at the last moment, resolving at the same time to keep his mistake to himself for several years at least. On dismounting he was, to his astonishment, told to go to the station telephone and make a call to Air Marshal Sir Wilfred Freeman, the Air Council member responsible for the Spitfire project. There were fears in high places that the Spitfire might prove too sophisticated to adapt to general squadron use, and so Sir Wilfred’s first question was to ask Edwardes Jones whether he considered that flying the Spitfire would be within the capacity of a squadron pilot of average capabilities without an inordinately long period of training.
The full importance of his unequivocal response was stressed in his Times obituary of 1987: ‘Edwardes Jones unhestitatingly replied in the affirmative, a decision of momentous importance. On getting this answer, Freeman reported back to the Air Council, and within a week an order for the first 310 Spitfires was placed. Seldom can a matter which would normally have taken months of exhaustive testing and analysis have been resolved so quickly, on the word of one man.’
The Air Ministry order was the largest ever made in peacetime and it ensured that the Spitfire was in Squadron service by the outbreak of war. Meanwhile it fell to Edwardes Jones as Flight Commander to carry out further testing to confirm the manufacturers claims of speed and rate of climb. Under the watchful eyes of the plane’s designer, R. J. Mitchell, Edwardes Jones achieved a top speed of 349 m.p.h., just 1 m.p.h. less than Mitchell’s original prediction. In July 1936 he made a climb test and took thirty-seven minutes to reach 34,700 feet, the highest altitude yet attained. He remained at Martlesham Heath until April 1937 when he was given command of 213 Squadron, a Hurricane unit which he led to France in 1940. In May the squadron escorted Blenheims on operations against advancing German ground forces and was heavily engaged covering the withdrawal from Dunkirk. Although never credited with any enemy aircraft destroyed, he was frequently in the thick of the action whilst his pilots made their kills. On 29 May, 1940, for example, he led a section of eight Hurricanes to patrol the Dunkirk beaches where they encountered enemy aircraft. Edwards Jones, attacking first, damaged three He-111’s which were finished off by those following him and claimed as probably destroyed by the respective pilots. Without loss the patrol claimed the destruction of six enemy aircraft.
Gazetted Wing Commander on his return to the U.K., ‘EJ’ was awarded the D.F.C., (the recommendation signed by Leigh-Mallory, and approved by Dowding), the following month. He successively commanded various O.T.U’s and the Exeter Fighter Sector, until his appointment in 1942 to the command of 323 Fighter Wing at Maison Blanche, Algiers. Here he proved a rumbustious C.O. and exercised a Wing Leader’s unwritten and dangerous privilege of marking his Spitfire with personal insignia. Under ‘EJ’s command 323 Wing provided air cover for the Allied invasion of North Africa, during which his flying log books were lost aboard the U.S.S. Leedstown, sunk by enemy action off Cap Matifou, Algiers, on 10 November 1942. He subsequently became A.O.C. 210 Group in the Mediterranean theatre, and from May 1943 served on the staff. At H.Q. Mediterranean Allied Coastal Air Forces in Malta, he played a leading part in organising the air cover for the invasion of Sicily, and after the landings had taken place, he was instrumental in organising the effective night fighter cover over the beaches. In 1944 he reformed 210 Group, responsible for covering the Western Mediterranean, and later provided the air defence for Marseilles and Provence.
Soon after the war he made his last flight in a Spitfire, a Mark 24 with a massive Griffon twelve cylinder engine and a reputed top speed of 440 m.p.h. As a flying experience it was by his own account far removed from that which he had enjoyed in the unadulterated machine of May 1936. Post-war appointments included Director of Plans at the Air Ministry from 1949 to 1952, and Commandant of the School of Land/Air Warfare, before becoming, in 1957, Commander-in-Chief of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force in Germany. ‘EJ’ retired in 1961 and died on 19 January 1987.
The lot is sold with a quantity of original documentation and artifacts including Warrants for the K.C.B. (June 1957), C.B. (January 1954) and C.B.E. (September 1943), all with forwarding letters; Warrant for the French Legion of Honour (May 1949); Earl Marshal’s Office, Invitation to the Funeral of King George VI, 15 February 1951; Fifth Allied Tactical Air Force, Membership Certificate, dated 19 May 1958; History of 208 Squadron, with 50th Anniversary Menu for Squadron Reunion Dinner, 1966, signed by several veterans; Four photographs including a contemporary group shot of No. 1 Squadron, circa 1928; a later Pilot’s Flying Log Book containing a summary of his units, approximate flying times and aircraft flown; No. 213 Squadron blazer badge and various tunic ribbons and other uniform insignia.