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

Date of Auction: 23rd September 2011

Sold for £4,300

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A fine Second World War D.F.C., D.F.M. group of six awarded to Flight Lieutenant R. W. Kleeman, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, a long-served Navigator who completed around 50 sorties in Lancasters of No. 83 Squadron, many of them as a Pathfinder, winning his immediate D.F.M. for gallantry in a protracted attack by enemy fighters during a low-level daylight strike against Essen

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1943’; Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R. (963947 F./Sgt. R. W. Kleeman, R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star, clasp, France and Germany; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, mounted as worn, together with the recipient’s Path Finder Force membership badge, good very fine and better (7)


D.F.C. London Gazette 14 May 1943. The original recommendation states:

‘This officer has now completed 47 operational sorties involving a total of 270 hours as a Navigator. He has done two daylight operations on Danzig and Essen and in the first instance his brilliant navigation in the most appalling weather conditions enabled the target to be attacked. He has now completed 25 operational sorties with the Path Finder Force and on all occasions his work has been most skilful.

In December the aircraft in which he was Navigator had to stop one engine on its way to Frankfurt, but although the speed was reduced by the loss of power, by brilliant navigation he enabled his pilot to attack at the proper time.

This officer has throughout his operational tour been an excellent example to his crew and colleagues and his keenness and determination to press home his attack, often in the face of heavy opposition and at low-level, has been outstanding.’

D.F.M. London Gazette 14 August 1942. The original recommendation for an immediate award states:

‘This N.C.O. has now completed 20 successful operational sorties as Observer, including many on the most heavily defended targets in Germany. Throughout his tour his standard of navigation has been of a most exceptionally high order and his determination to find and bomb his target has always been outstanding.

Flight Sergeant Kleeman has several successful photographs to his credit. Recently he was detailed to take part in a low-level daylight attack on Essen. Despite the dangers and hazards occasioned by no cloud cover on this attack he navigated with the utmost skill to the target where he carried out a successful bombing attack, the whole time being subjected to the most severe and accurate A.A. fire during which the aircraft was damaged and two engines put out of action.

On the return journey the aircraft was severely attacked by fighters and the Wireless Operator, who was performing the duties of fire controller, was wounded. Flight Sergeant Kleeman took over those duties with such effect that his Captain was able to evade two separate attacks, the first by two Me. 110s and the second, lasting some 30 minutes, by two Fw. 190s. His fire controlling was so effective that two of the fighters were most certainly damaged, one most probably being destroyed. The fighters having been successfully shaken off, Flight Sergeant Kleeman returned to his navigation duties and despite the most adverse weather conditions, consisting of heavy rain and low cloud at times at ground level, he brought the aircraft back to base.

Previous to this attack on Essen, he took part in a low-level daylight attack on the submarine works at Danzig. Here again, despite very bad weather conditions, he successfully, and without any errors, brought his aircraft to the primary target where a low-level attack was carried out. His subsequent navigation back to base was compatible with the high standard he has always obtained.

This N.C.O’s morale is remarkably high, he sets an exceptionally fine example to his colleagues and is considered to be most highly deserving of an award.’

Reginald Waldemar Kleeman commenced his operational career as a Navigator in No. 83 Squadron in February 1942, a Manchester unit operating out of Scampton, Lincolnshire - thus a brace of operations in the same month, including a strike on Kiel, most probably with Pilot Officer J. E. “Jack” Partridge at the helm (afterwards a Squadron Leader with a D.S.O. and D.F.C. and Bar to his credit), for it was largely as member of the latter’s crew that he went on to complete around 50 operational sorties over the next 12 months.

The period March-May witnessed Kleeman being assigned to an assortment of French and German targets, while on the first day of June he participated in the “Thousand Bomber” raid on Essen. Shortly afterwards No. 83 converted to Lancasters, though not before completing two further strikes against Essen in the same month. Osnabruck having been attacked in the interim, Kleeman took part in his second “Thousand Bomber” raid, against Bremen, on the night of 24-25 June, and once more re-visited the same target on two occasions over the next few days, in addition to carrying out daring low-level daylight attacks on Danzig and Essen in July - the former occasion resulting in a large hole in the port plane caused by accurate flak, and the latter, as cited above, with the loss of two engines due to flak and a hair-raising 30 minute multi-night fighter encounter which resulted in Kleeman’s immediate D.F.M. July also saw him carry out sorties to Wilhelmshaven, Duisberg (twice) and, on the night of 26-27th, a raid on Hamburg, when Partridge piloted Q-Queenie - later to gain fame as one of Squadron’s longest served Lancasters - through heavy enemy flak: though badly holed in the port wing, pilot and Navigator nursed their damaged Lancaster home.

Moving to Wyton in Huntingdonshire in August, as part of the newly established Path Finder Force, No. 83 Squadron maintained its busy operational agenda against Germany, the remainder of 1942 seeing Kleeman participate in strikes against such targets as Bremen (his fourth visit), Duisberg (twice), Dusseldorf, Frankfurt (thrice), Munich, Nurnburg and Stuttgart - the latter attack witnessing the ‘extreme determination’ of the Bomb Aimer, who ordered five runs over the target to ensure accuracy. The New Year having then commenced with two sorties against Berlin, Kleeman ended his operational tour in February, after six further sorties, including Cologne, and as a newly commissioned Pilot Officer. He was awarded the D.F.C. and posted to R.A.F. Uxbridge.

Sold with the recipient’s original Buckingham Palace D.F.C. investiture letter, dated 30 April 1945, together with “Bomber” Harris congratulatory postagram for the award of his D.F.M., a letter from the Adjutant of No. 83 Squadron confirming Kleeman’s advancement to Warrant Officer, dated 1 October 1942, and a quantity of research.