Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £6,200

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A rare Second World War C.G.M. group of five awarded to Flight Sergeant R. Hartley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, a gallant Air Gunner in No. 9 Squadron who completed five sorties to the “Big City”, in addition to many other heavily defended German targets, and who twice engaged enemy night fighters - the whole time in constant pain from a duodenal perforation of which he made no mention until his operational tour had ended, thereby prompting his C.O’s recommendation for an immediate award

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying)
, G.VI.R. (1571712 F./Sgt. R. Hartley, R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence and War Medals, extremely fine (5) £5000-6000


C.G.M. London Gazette 24 October 1944. The original recommendation states:

‘Flight Sergeant Hartley completed a tour of 29 sorties, principally on the most distant and heavily defended German targets, including Berlin (5 times), Stuttgart (3 times), Schweinfurt (2 times), Augsburg, Nurnberg and Munich. On two occasions his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter. On the second occasion, when on a sortie to Stuttgart on 20 February, the enemy fighter made a diving attack on the port quarter. By Flight Sergeant Hartley’s good co-ordination with the pilot’s manoeuvres and accurate fire, the enemy aircraft was forced to break away.

After completing his first five operational sorties, this Air Gunner had to be withdrawn from flying with a perforation of the right ear drum. Although grounded for two months, he was undaunted and eagerly resumed his tour to complete a further 24 sorties in three months.

It did not come to light until he had completed his tour that he must have carried out all his operational sorties suffering constant pain, the result of a duodenal perforation sutured after an operation for the removal of his appendix prior to entering the Service. This has been confirmed after his tour by his entry to hospital where he has now been for two months. On no occasion did Flight Sergeant Hartley refer to his physical handicap, not even when admitted to hospital on the interruption of his tour - his one thought was to return to operations.

The degree of dogged courage required to withstand some of the longest sorties which Bomber Command has been called upon to execute - he completed six operations of over eight hours duration - in such conditions of pain may well be unsurpassed.

For fighting determination to strike the enemy, despite his physical handicap, continued cheerfulness, courage, selflessness and devotion to duty of the highest order, his tour of operations represents a sustained heroism for which I strongly recommend him for the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.’

Robert Hartley, who was born in Edinburgh in 1923, enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1942 and, having qualified as an Air Gunner, was posted to No. 9 Squadron, a Lancaster unit operating out of Bardney in Lincolnshire, in October 1943. First going operational on the night of 3-4 November - in an attack against Dusseldorf - he completed four further sorties in the same month, three of them to Berlin, but was then grounded as a result of a perforated ear drum. Returning to the operational scene in February 1944 with another trip to the “Big City” on the 15th, he went on to complete another 24 sorties, many, as outlined above, of the heavily defended kind - in an attack against Leipzig in which he participated in the same month, Bomber Command lost 76 aircraft; and, of course, it was also in February 1944 that his excellent gunnery and co-ordination drove off an enemy night fighter over Stuttgart. Hartley completed his tour with an attack on Brunswick on the night 22-23 May 1944, following which he was admitted to hospital as a result of the duodenal perforation that had caused him so much pain throughout.