Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 & 20 September 2013)
Date of Auction: 19th & 20th September 2013
Sold for £13,000
Estimate: £8,000 - £12,000
‘Bottomley is a supporter of Douhet’s theory. He believes that the war against Germany can largely be decided by the employment of the Air Force, to which end all means are justifiable. In his high-spirited manner he impresses these ideas on the A.O.C. Bomber Command and his assistants ... He is very well regarded by Churchill, who shares his views, a circumstance which may be of importance in assessing the future conduct of the air war.’
A captured German intelligence report refers, as collated by the Operations Staff (I.) on ‘Foreign Air Forces, West’.
The important Second World War K.C.B., inter-war North-West Frontier operations C.I.E., D.S.O., Great War A.F.C. group of sixteen awarded to Air Chief Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley, Royal Air Force, a gallant pilot of Great War vintage who was decorated and twice mentioned in despatches for his services on the North-West Frontier in the 1930s: but it was for his services as Deputy Chief of Air Staff in 1941-45 that he earned a place in the annals of R.A.F. history, a period in which he came into conflict with “Bomber” Harris after transferring his early support for Area Bombing - indeed he was the architect of such operations - to Precision Bombing: as accurately stated by German intelligence sources, he was well regarded by Churchill - and succeeded Harris as C.-in-C. Bomber Command at the War’s end
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, K.C.B. (Military) Knight Commander’s set of insignia, comprising neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, and breast star, silver, with gold and enamel centre, in its Garrard & Co. case of issue; The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, C.I.E., Companion’s 3rd type neck badge, gold and enamel, in its Garrard & Co. case of issue; Distinguished Service Order, G.VI.R., silver-gilt and enamel, the reverse of the suspension bar officially dated ‘1937’; Air Force Cross, G.V.R.; British War & Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Capt. N. H. Bottomley, R.F.C.); India General Service 1908-35, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1935, M.I.D. oak leaf (G./C. N. H. Bottomley, R.A.F.); India General Service 1936-39, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1936-37, M.I.D. oak leaf (G./C. N. H. Bottomley, R.A.F.); Defence and War Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf; Jubilee 1935; Coronation 1937; United States of America, Legion of Merit, Commander’s neck badge, gilt and enamel, the suspension loop officially numbered ‘652’, together with related Polish Pilot’s Badge, by J. R. Gaunt & Co. Ltd., and Ville de Bordeaux presentation medallion, bronze, cased, mounted court-style as worn where applicable, generally good very fine (16) £8000-12000
FootnoteK.C.B. London Gazette 8 June 1944.
C.I.E. London Gazette 11 May 1937.
D.S.O. London Gazette 21 December 1937:
‘For gallant and distinguished services rendered in connection with the operations in Waziristan during the period 17 January to 15 September 1937.’
The original recommendation states:
‘Group Captain N. H. Bottomley, C.I.E., A.F.C., has commanded No. 1 (Indian) Group, Peshawar, during these operations from 16 June to 13 July 1937. He has been responsible for the direction of the operations and of the Air Forces engaged in Waziristan during that period.
He has handled the Air Forces under his command with conspicuous ability and success. He has at all times displayed a high sense of devotion to duty. In order to keep himself in close touch with the progress of the operations, he has undertaken a great deal of flying duty including a number of reconnaissances at low altitude over the area of operations. He has in this way shown an excellent example to all those under his command. The success of the operations is in no small measure due to his personal conduct.’
A.F.C. London Gazette 2 November 1918.
U.S.A. Legion of Merit London Gazette 9 October 1945. The original recommendation states:
‘Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley, K.C.B., C.I.E., D.S.O., A.F.C., as Deputy Chief of Air Staff, United States Strategic Air Force from August 1942 to May 1945, demonstrated a high order of professional knowledge and administrative ability, which played a conspicuous and valuable part in the successful employment of the British and American Air Forces in Europe. His initiative and sound judgment, in both planning and execution of the combined bomber offensive, greatly contributed to the complete domination over the enemy established by the Air Forces.’
Norman Howard Bottomley was born in September 1891, the son of Thomas Bottomley of Ripponden, Yorkshire. Educated at Halifax Secondary School, the Borough College, London, and Rennes University, he was commissioned in the 3rd Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, in August 1914.
Early career - A.F.C.
Having remained employed in that capacity in the U.K., he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as a student pilot in December 1915 and, on taking his Aviator’s Certificate (No. 2328), was appointed a Flying Officer in the newly formed No. 47 Squadron at Beverley, Yorkshire, in April 1916. Equipped with Armstrong Whitworth F.K. 3s and F.K. 8s, the Squadron was employed on home defence duties, protecting Hull and the east coast of Yorkshire from Zeppelin attacks.
Then in early 1917, Bottomley was appointed an instructor in No. 50 (Reserve) Squadron, following which he went out to France to take up a similar appointment at the British Flying School at Vendome - here, then, the probable background to the award of his A.F.C. in the following year, for he appears to have been similarly employed in the rank of Captain at the War’s end.
A spell out in the Middle East as a Squadron Leader having followed in the early 1920s, Bottomley attended the R.A.F. Staff College 1924-25 and was appointed to the Staff of the Directorate of Operations and Intelligence in the latter year. Advanced to Wing Commander in July 1929, he attended the Imperial Defence College in the following year, prior to being embarked for India.
Senior Command on the North-West Frontier - C.I.E. and D.S.O.
Assuming command of No. 1 (Indian) Group at Peshawar as a Group Captain in October 1934, Bottomley remained similarly employed until early 1938, a period of ongoing hostilities on the North-West Frontier and one in which he led his Group with great distinction, gaining the D.S.O. and “mentions” in July and November 1937. The latter accolade, namely General Sir Robert Cassels’ despatch for operations in Waziristan in the period January-September 1937, cited Bottomley’s ‘high example and ready co-operation’, and added that under his direction the R.A.F. ‘played a prominent part in bringing the operations to a successful conclusion’.
His D.S.O., of course, reflected his leadership by example, for ‘in order to keep himself in close touch with the progress of the operations’, he undertook ‘a great deal of flying duty including a number of reconnaissances at low altitude over the area of operations.’
He was also awarded the C.I.E. in the Coronation Honours List.
S.A.S.O. Bomber Command - C.B.
An Air Commodore and Senior Air Staff Officer (S.A.S.O.) at H.Q. Bomber Command, Uxbridge, on the renewal of hostilities in September 1939, Bottomley was quickly involved in operational planning, and took the urgent and courageous decision to send out a force of bombers to support the B.E.F. - without the permission of higher authority.
And if his early promotion of R.A.F. doctrine to promote bomber formation flying as a means of defence against enemy fighters was quickly found to be over optimistic - ‘The failure of the enemy must be ascribed to good formation flying … In our Service it is the equivalent of the old “Thin Red Line” or the “Shoulder to Shoulder” of Cromwell's Ironsides’ - other decisions made in these difficult, early stages of the War were more effective, so much so that he was advanced to Air Vice-Marshal in July 1940 and mentioned in despatches in the following month.
It was about this time he was formulating a strategy for Area Bombing, writing in one report that Bomber Command’s aim must be ‘primarily to destroy the enemy’s will to win the war, leaving the destruction of his means to win the war as an incidental or indirect task’.
He was awarded the C.B., the recommendation stating:
‘Air Vice-Marshal Bottomley is a first class Staff Officer, who had maintained the highest standard of ability and devotion to duty throughout six months of intensive operations. His tact, forethought and operational knowledge are outstanding and much of the success of this Command should be attributed to his personal efficiency, and to the example of patience and thoroughness which he has always set to his subordinates.’
Next appointed Air Officer Commanding (A.O.C.) of No. 5 Group in November 1940, he succeeded “Bomber” Harris as Deputy Chief of Air Staff at the Air Ministry in May 1941 - in which capacity he would remain employed until the War’s end, though under the re-titled appointment of Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) in the period May 1942 to July 1943.
Deputy Chief of Air Staff - K.C.B.
Here, then, the juncture at which his policies began to truly re-shape Bomber Command’s execution of operations, not least with his early support of Area Bombing - indeed it was Bottomley’s directive to Sir Richard Peirse, dated 9 July 1941, that set in motion “Bomber” Harris’ notorious preference for saturation bombing:
‘A comprehensive review of the enemy’s present political, economic and military situation discloses that the weakest points in his armour lie in the morale of the civil population and in his inland transportation system. The wide extension of his military activities is placing an ever-increasing strain on the German transportation system, and there are many signs that our recent attacks on industrial towns are having great effect on the morale of the civil population ... ’
And the conclusion, though discreetly expressed, left no doubt as to the future direction of bomber operations:
‘I am to request that you will direct the main effort of the bomber force, until further instructions, towards dislocating the German transportation system and destroying the morale of the civil population as a whole and of the industrial workers in particular’.
It was credible alternative to Bomber Command’s hitherto inaccurate efforts to hit more specific targets, of which Bottomley became acutely aware during his appointment at No. 5 Group, a situation which in time would be improved by the introduction of the Path Finder Force.
Added to which, on the appointment of “Bomber” Harris as C.-in-C., Bottomley followed up his landmark directive in more assertive detail on St. Valentine’s Day 1942, with a report in which appeared a blueprint to set about the wholesale destruction of assorted German cities - ‘You are accordingly authorised to employ your forces without restriction’.
Sir Charles Portal, the Chief of Air Staff and another supporter of Area Bombing, wrote to Bottomley for confirmation that the intention was indeed to use built-up areas as aiming points, rather than factories and dockyards and, if so, that relevant parties be informed in no uncertain terms. Bomber Command’s future course of action was assured.
Later on, however, in the build up to the Normandy landings, Bottomley fell into conflict with Harris over his changing his stance in favour of Precision Bombing - and was, in fact, highly critical of the C.-in-C’s failure to respond to the changing needs of the Allies as they advanced on Germany. Nonetheless, a lot of pressure was being exerted on Harris by Churchill, keen to be seen supporting the Russian advance as well - thus contentious plans such as Operation “Thunderclap”, which indirectly led to a protracted offensive against Berlin and, more famously, the Dresden raid.
Thus a chapter in Bomber Command’s history that started to attract press interest, and heated debates in the Houses of Parliament, unwelcome attention that pressed Bottomley’s diplomatic skills to the brink. Indeed he was up against waves of negative press coverage as early as 1942, and was compelled to intervene in an unhappy exchange of correspondence in November 1943, when Lord Salisbury protested that we should ‘not take the devil as our example’, even though ‘the Germans began it’. Bottomley argued that ‘the undermining of the morale of the German people’ would follow the success of attacking city targets, but only as a by-product of a wider offensive campaign and not as a specific aim. He was, after all, as Sir Archibald Sinclair later noted, not just an excellent diplomat, but in addition a ‘cool, alert, wise, indefatigable, indispensable [colleague] … whose eye was always as true to the ball as the compass needle is to the Pole’.
And it was just such strengths that made Bottomley the perfect candidate to chair a number of significant planning committees, not least those covering the progress of Barnes Wallis’ designs, so critical to the Dambuster Raid and subsequent attacks on the Tirpitz and U-Boat pens.
Furthermore, by establishing firm personal friendships, he greatly enhanced Anglo-American co-operation during the wartime air offensive against Germany, not least in his capacity of Deputy Chief of Air Staff, United States Strategic Air Force, from August 1942 to May 1945, for which latter services he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
It was Bottomley, at the Americans request, who wrote to Harris in no uncertain terms in early 1944, directing him to attack ‘those industrial centres associated with German fighter air-frame and ball-bearing production’, such were the losses being experienced by the U.S. in daylight raids. Moreover, the proposition was timely in view of the forthcoming Normandy landings. And he followed this up in September 1944 with one of the most emphatic directives of the War, stating in plain language that Bomber Command was to concentrate on oil targets, over and above communications, while attention to Area Bombing was to receive but perfunctory attention.
He had, meanwhile, been appointed K.C.B. in June 1944, and advanced to Air Marshal, and in September 1945, he succeeded “Bomber” Harris as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command - in the context of the current project, it is worth noting that his wife, Anne, was a keen committee member of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund at this time.
Having then added an award from the city of Bordeaux to his accolades, Bottomley left Bomber Command in January 1947 to become Inspector-General of the R.A.F., and was advanced to Air Chief Marshal in March 1947, shortly before his retirement.
Post-war - The B.B.C. years
For the next eight years he was Director of Administration at the B.B.C., during which period many momentous decisions had to be made, the corporation being under the scrutiny of the government-sponsored Beveridge Committee after being granted only a temporary renewal of its charter in 1946, not to mention ongoing negotiations with no less than six Trade Unions - or for that matter the controversy of Suez Crisis, when he was Acting Director-General. But having established a highly effective Internal Working Party, these, and other potential problems, were largely overcome. While in 1953, the year he attended the Coronation, he correctly forecast that commercial television would in time be beholden to advertising.
Above all, however, Bottomley was an immensely popular figurehead, a colleague, John Arkell, stating in the former’s obituary notice:
‘He was a great believer in ‘getting around’, seeing things for himself, and this, together with his interest and skill in the property side of his duties, resulted in his becoming a familiar and welcome figure in many parts of the B.B.C. - Regions, Transmitters, and of course the Television Centre in the building of which he played a major part. He applied this thoroughness to everything he undertook in whatever field of his wide-ranging responsibilities, and was consequently in a good position to make quick decisions when the right time came.
Different B.B.C. people will remember him for different things. But almost all I think will recall his friendly and gentle nature, his sense of fair play, the firmness which he could exercise when he considered it necessary, his wit as a raconteur, and his calmness in a crisis. He was in fact acting as Director-General at the time of Suez when the B.B.C. made some very difficult and, in my opinion, right decisions.’
Sir Norman, ‘a most humane and friendly man who never talked about, and rarely showed, the great responsibilities he had had’ (his Times obituary refers), died in Northampton in August 1970, aged 79 years.
sold with a quantity of original documentation, comprising:
(i) Warrants for the recipient’s C.B., dated 17 March 1941, and K.C.B., dated 8 June 1944, together with a copy of the Statutes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
(ii) Warrant for the recipient’s C.I.E., dated 11 May 1937, together with a copy of the Statutes of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire.
(iii) Warrant for the recipient’s D.S.O., dated 21 December 1937, together with a copy of the Statutes of the Distinguished Service Order.
(iv) The recipient’s mention in despatches certificates, dated 26 July 1937, 16 November 1937 (both for the North West Frontier), and 31 August 1940.
(v) Certificate of award for the recipient’s Legion of Merit, dated 9 August 1945, with related citation on White House note paper, signed by President Truman.
(vi) Official forwarding letter for the recipient’s Polish Pilot’s Badge, signed by the A.O.C.-in-C. of the Polish Air Force, 1946.
(vii) An old typed copy of the recipient’s entry on German Intelligence files, as collated by the Operations Staff (I.), Foreign Air Forces - West.
(viii) Air Ministry letters of retirement, dated in December 1947 (2).
(ix) Official invitation to attend the Queen’s Coronation in June 1953.
(x) Assorted portrait photographs (10), including fine studio quality images from the Great War.
(xi) A short but charming and informative memoir written by the recipient’s daughter, which, among other stories, recalls the occasion “Bomber” Harris cooked dinner for the family, and how, much to Bottomley’s embarrassment, an American newspaper ran a feature “British Air Chief Tells the President How to Win the War”, following his meeting with Roosevelt during a goodwill tour; so, too, of her father’s time at the War Cabinet Rooms at Whitehall with Churchill.