Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (23 September 2011)

Date of Auction: 23rd September 2011

Unsold

Estimate: £6,000 - £7,000

A particularly fine Second World War D.F.C., D.F.M. group of nine awarded to Flight Lieutenant Leonard Fish, Royal Air Force, who won his D.F.C. with No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron, flying missions in support of the Special Operations Executive in Europe - among the famous agents parachuted from his aircraft would appear to be S.O.E’s “Swallow” saboteurs, later to enact the famous raid on the heavy water plant in Telemark with their comrades from “Gunnerside”

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1944’; Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R. (940472 Sgt. L. Fish, R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Africa Star, clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Defence & War Medals 1939-45; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Malaya, E.II.R. (Flt. Lt. L. Fish, R.A.F.); General Service 1962, 1 clasp, Arabian Peninsula (Flt. Lt. L. Fish, R.A.F.), mounted as worn, contact marks, otherwise very fine and better (9) £6000-7000

Footnote

D.F.C. London Gazette 11 February 1944. The original recommendation states:

‘Flight Lieutenant Fish has now completed a very large number of operational sorties as a Wireless Operator. Since he was awarded the D.F.M., Flight Lieutenant Fish has completed a further 29 operations and throughout he has displayed courage and devotion to duty of a high order.

In his capacity as Signals Leader, Flight Lieutenant Fish sets a magnificent example to the other Wireless Operators of the Squadron, and his unbounded enthusiasm for operating against the enemy at every opportunity has an extremely good effect on the morale of all who work with him.’

D.F.M. London Gazette 21 November 1941. The original recommendation states:

‘This N.C.O., who has completed his thirty trips, was consistently good, and never had a W./T. failure. His exceptionally cheerful disposition and his keenness and reliability was a very good influence on the crews of which he was a member, and upon the Squadron as a whole.

I strongly recommend that the high example of efficiency that he maintained throughout the whole of his operational trips, often in very difficult weather conditions, be recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.’






Leonard Fish commenced training at Yatesbury in December 1939 and was posted to No. 77 Squadron as Rear-Gunner in October 1940, later becoming a Wireless Operator. Operating with Whitleys, the Squadron carried out raids on such targets as Bremen, Hanover, Kiel, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Berlin. During a raid on the latter city on 9 April 1941, his Whitley encountered ‘intense searchlight and flak’, and he was wounded in the leg. Only a few days earlier he had participated in an attack on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest, although on this occasion his aircraft was compelled to land at Tangmere with its bomb load. After completing 32 operations he was posted to No. 10 O.T.U. and awarded the D.F.M.

In January 1942, Fish commenced his second tour of duty with No. 138 (Special Duties) Squadron. Formed in August 1941, the squadron’s main duties were to support S.O.E. agents in Europe, and for more than three and a half years the Squadron ranged Europe from Norway in the north to Yugoslavia in the south and at times far into Poland. First with Whitleys then with Halifaxes, it flew out with agents, arms, explosives, radio sets and all the other equipment of the saboteur, parachuting them down at rendezvous points where reception parties of local underground movements awaited them.

Fish’s first such sortie was to southern Belgium, with Pilot Officer J. B. “Bunny” Austin at the helm, and thereafter his log book contains only the briefest of detail. However, it can be ascertained that he flew on six trips to Belgium, 12 to France, three to Norway, and one to Holland. There were also some excursions to Gibraltar and Malta, the former in aid of delivering agents who were to be landed in the South of France by felucca - on one of these trips three engines failed and two crew members baled out, the remainder surviving a forced landing in Algeria.

In summary, Fish flew in Pilot Officer P. Kingsford-Smith’s crew - nephew of the pioneer aviator - on five occasions in March-April 1942, to Belgium, France and Holland, following which he transferred to Pilot Officer J. C. K. Miller’s crew, completing another dozen or so operations in the period May to December 1942, including three trips to Norway, in addition to further visits to Belgium and France. One of his trips to Norway was flown 18 October 1943, on which date the men of S.O.E’s “Swallow” were parachuted into the neighbourhood of the heavy water plant at Vemork in Telemark, and, having been reinforced by “Gunnerside” in February 1943, carried out the now famous sabotage raid on the heavy water plant.

His aircraft having subsequently been forced-landed and destroyed by fire in North Africa, while on an S.O.E. Gibraltar shuttle run, Fish was brought back to the U.K. in a U.S.A.F. aircraft and “rested” with an appointment as 138 Squadron’s Signals Officer.

By the summer of 1943, however, he commenced a third tour of operations with the Squadron, joining Wing Commander Spears’ crew and completing a further eight S.O.E. operations to France by the year’s end, one of them, flown on the night of 22-23 August 1943, probably being the occasion S.O.E. agent Yvonne Cormeau was dropped by parachute to join the “Wheelwright” circuit. Once again “grounded” in January 1944, Fish had amassed a total of 63 sorties and some 440 hours of operational flying time. He was awarded the D.F.C. and posted to an appointment at the Air Ministry, where he remained employed until the War’s end.

Post-war, he held appointments in 57 and 83 Squadrons, and was a Wing Signals Officer at R.A.F. Hemswell, but in the early 1950s he transferred to air traffic control duties. Fish was placed on the Retired List as a Squadron Leader in 1970.

Sold with the recipient’s original R.A.F. Observer’s and Air Gunner’s Flying Log Book (Form 1767), covering the period July 1940 to June 1954, and including the signatures of famous wartime S.O.E. pilots such as Wing Commander “Ron” Hockey; a wartime crew photograph from his time with No. 77 Squadron, and assorted correspondence with his wife during the 1990s.

N.B.
A set of replacement awards is known to have been claimed by the recipient, but those offered here are his original awards.