Orders, Decorations and Medals (22 June 1999)

Date of Auction: 22nd June 1999

Sold for £3,400

Estimate: £2,500 - £3,000

An outstanding ‘Bloody April’ aerial combat M.M. group of four awarded to Sergeant R. E. Tollerfield, No. 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, when as Observer and Aerial Gunner he was engaged in a combat with 14 machines of Jasta 11, led by Baron Manfred von Richthofen

Military Medal, G.V.R. (1197 Cpl. R. E. Tollerfield, 11/Sqn. R.F.C.); 1914 Star, with clasp (1197 2/A.M., R.F.C.); British War and Victory Medals (Sgt., R.F.C.) together with scarce contemporary Observer’s cloth wing and early pattern R.A.F. Pilot’s bullion wings, good very fine (6) £2500-3000


M.M. London Gazette 11 July 1917. The following recommendation was submitted on 7th May, 1917, by Major C. T. Maclean, Commanding No. 11 Squadron, R.F.C.: ‘May I bring to your notice the very gallant work performed on many occasions by Corporal Tollerfield R.E. No. 1197 of No. 11 Squadron, R.F.C. especially on 22/4/17 when on Photographic Reconnaissance with Capt. Manning he took photographs as ordered although attacked by 14 hostile machines and wounded in the hand. All the other machines of the formation were shot down and Capt Manning and Corpl Tollerfield successfully engaged the hostile machines until the rest of the formation had recrossed the lines; they then returned to our lines with engine damaged and controls shot through.

Corpl Tollerfield although wounded kept a rapid and accurate fire on the hostile aircraft and enabled his pilot to return to the lines safely. The photographs taken by this NCO under the above difficult circumstances were all successful and covered the correct area. Corpl Tollerfield did not go to Hospital but had his hand dressed at a C.C.S. daily and continued his work as an Observer. This NCO has done very gallant and useful work as an Observer with this Squadron for about 7 months and has had many successful combats with hostile aircraft.

On 12/4/17 he was promoted Corporal from 2/A.M. in recognition of his gallantry and good service in the air on many occasions. On 13/4/17 when flying with Lieut Savery he shot down a Hostile machine. Corp Tollerfield has always behaved with great coolness and gallantry on Reconnaissance and in combats with Hostile aircraft.’

At around 2.30 pm six FE2b aircraft of No. 11 Squadron R.F.C. took off from Le Hameau on a Photographic Reconnaissance Patrol, one of the aircraft, ‘A810’, being flown by Captain E. R. Manning, with Corporal R. E. Tollerfield as his Observer and Aerial Gunner. What might have been expected to have been a routine operation soon turned into disaster when the formation was spotted by the exuberant Jasta 11, led by Manfred von Richthofen, already with 45 victories to his credit. Richthofen led his staffel down onto the pushers and made short work of the lumbering FE2b’s, shooting down four aircraft, while the remaining two returned with wounded gunners. It is not possible to say with any certainty which of these aircraft was added to Richthofen’s tally as his 46th kill. The most likely candidates are the aircraft of Paine/Rothwell and Fletcher/Franklin, whilst those of Parker/Hesketh and Manning/Tollerfield are also possibilities. (Ref ‘Bloody April... Black September’ and ‘Above the Trenches’ by Franks, Guest & Bailey).

Reginald Edmund Tollerfield was born in Parkstone, in the Parish of St Clements, Dorset, on 6 February 1896. He was a Motor Mechanic and Chauffeur when he enlisted for the Royal Flying Corps on 20 April 1914. As 2/A.M. he went to France with No. 12 Squadron on 9 September 1914, and transferred to No. 11 Squadron in September 1916. He was promoted in the field to Corporal in April 1917, and was wounded in action on the 22nd April. He was promoted to Sergeant on 16 May 1917, and two days later left France for England where he was posted to the Home Establishment for instruction in flying. Tollerfield eventually transferred to the Royal Air Force as Sergeant Mechanic (Pilot) in April 1918, and was discharged on 19 April 1922.