Orders, Decorations and Medals (8 December 1994)

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Date of Auction: 8th December 1994

Sold for £2,300

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,500

A remarkable C.B.E., D.S.O., A.F.C. group of ten awarded to Air Vice Marshal A.C.H. Sharp, Royal Air Force, who as Deputy Chief of Staff to the U.S. 8th Air Force, won the Silver Star for gallantry as a volunteer on a B-17 bombing raid

ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE, C.B.E. (Military) 2nd type neck badge, top susp ension loop re-fixed; DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER, G.VI.R., reverse suspension officially dated '1944'; AIR FORCE CROSS, G.VI.R., officially dated '1947'; INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1908-35, 1 clasp, Mohmand 1933 (F/L, R.A.F.); 1939-45 STAR; AIR CREW EUROPE STAR; DEFENCE AND WAR MEDALS; U.S.A., LEGION OF MERIT, Commander's neck badge; U.S.A. SILVER STAR, generally very fine or better and a rare group (10)

Footnote

D.S.O., London Gazette, 10 November, 1944; the following information was taken from an official source: 'Air Commodore Sharp embodies in high measure the offensive spirit. That he has only completed 23 sorties during the War has been solely due to his employment on important administrative and liaison duties. Throughout the winter of 1940/41, he was operating at night on Blenheims, attacking amongst other objectives Duisberg, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Bremen and other targets in the Ruhr. At that time the Blenheim was not generally regarded as suitable for night operations in winter, and with the navigational aids available, the longer trips, such as those to Hamburg, embodied a considerable hazard. While acting as Liaison Officer with the U.S.A.A.F., he was able to undertake a further 3 sorties, including one to Hanover. In February 1944, he returned to operational duties as an Air Commodore in command of No. 54 Base. He immediately started to gain experience by flying with as many pilots in his squadrons as possible, and completed 7 sorties before orders were received prohibiting him from flying operations. During the 7 sorties which he undertook, he gained valuable experience of controlling Bomber operations, experience which he proved of great benefit in evolving the methods now employed in No. 54 Base. He is imbued with a genuine desire to operate against the enemy and this spirit is well known throughout his Base, and has served to inspire those under him to a high standard of duty. Air Commodore Sharp's highly efficient operational and administrative control of his base have been directly responsible for its outstanding Pathfinder achievements. Special and varied operational missions have been imposed upon the Squadrons under his Command and have been carried out with maximum efficiency and success on all occasions. I very strongly recommend the award of the Distinguished Service Order.'

A.F.C., London Gazette, 1 January, 1947. 'This officer has been Director of Accident Prevention since the inception of the branch. It is essential that the entire directorate should be completely 'au fait' with the handling and characteristics of all types of Service aircraft and that all members should be capable of lecturing aircrews on their particular type. This desirable state of affairs has been fully realised in the directorate, largely due to the initiative and example of Air Commodore Sharp. He is a fully qualified pilot on all types of aircraft now in service and makes a practice of demonstrating them wherever possible to Home and Overseas Commands. He has recently completed a tour of the U.S.A.A.F. Stations, where he flew several American aircraft including the latest jets. It is considered that his outstanding contribution to the prevention of accidents, mainly achieved by his personal flying example, well merits recognition.'

United States Legion of Merit, 1946. 'For performance of meritorious services from 1 December 1942 to 31 June 1943. As Deputy Chief of Staff of the Eighth Air Force, Commodore Sharp served on the immediate staff of the Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, and acted as the personal advisor to the Commanding General on all matters connected with the use of the United Kingdom as a base for United States Force operations. Through his extraordinary ability to combine frankness with friendship, and because he considered himself to all intents and purposes as being a member of the United States Air Forces, responsible to them for the ease and efficiency of their growth and operations in a locale with which he was peculiarly familiar, he assisted the United States Air Forces to avoid the fractions of procedural differences, and materially accelerated the application of the United States Air Power upon the common enemy, thereby reflecting great credit upon his nation and upon the Royal Air Force.'

United States Silver Star 1943. 'For gallantry in action against an armed enemy of the United States. Air Commodore Sharp, as Chairman of the Operational Planning Committee charged with co-ordinating the bombing efforts of the Eighth Air Force with those of the Royal Air Force Bomber, Fighter and Coastal Commands, realised the necessity for personally observing the operations of high altitude bombing missions and voluntarily served as a crew member on a raid against an important enemy installation, where intense enemy opposition might be expected. On 14 July 1943, while Air Commodore Sharp was flying as an observer and waist gunner on a B-17 airplane on a mission over enemy occupied territory, the aircraft was attacked viciously and persistently by numerous enemy fighter planes. Displaying great courage and gallantry, Air Commodore Sharp manned his guns and assisted in driving off repeated attacks of hostile planes. On this mission, Air Commodore Sharp made many valuable observations and obtained combat information and data vital to successful operational planning. This display of gallantry and personal courage under the intense enemy fire, was a source of inspiration to all members of his combat crew. The courage, coolness and complete disregard of personal danger displayed on this occasion by Air Commodore Sharp reflected the highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of His Majesty's Government.'

Air Vice-Marshal Alfred Charles Henry Sharp, C.B.E., D.S.O., A.F.C., was born in November 1904 and educated at King's College School, Wimbledon and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He joined the R.A F. as a trainee Pilot Officer in 1924, gaining his Wings at No. 2 Flying Training School the following year. As a newly promoted Flying Officer he next joined 26 Army Co-op Squadron but in 1928 he was seconded for a course at the Armament and Gunnery School at Eastchurch, Kent, prior to his first operational posting to No. 1 Squadron, then based at Kohat in India. Later moved to Peshawar, Sharp didn't return to the U.K. until 1934, when he joined the Staff H.Q. at Biggin Hill and shortly afterwards No. 23 Fighter Squadron. Obviously noted for his leadership qualities, he attended the Staff College at Andover in 1937, receiving promotion to Squadron Leader, and in 1940, as a member of Air Staff, Bomber Command, to Wing commander.

In October 1940 Sharp was appointed C.O. of No. 18 Squadron, then operating with Blenheim aircraft. He subsequently led 13 operations against targets in Germany and occupied Belgium and France, quickly establishing himself as a fearless pilot and commander. On 4 February, he circled the aerodrome in a snowstorm to observe seven new crews take-off. After seeing one struggle into the air, he rapidly decided to cancel the operation. He, however, continued alone in Blenheim A 9247L, attacking the target at Dunkirk. Grounded in early 1941, he joined the Air Ministry as a Deputy Director of Organisation, receiving promotion to Group Captain in March 1942, in addition to being appointed an A.D.C. to the King. Judging by previous and future form, he wanted to get back into the air, and in July 1943 a semi-official opportunity became available, when he was appointed a Liaison Officer to the 8th U.S.A.A.F. That same month, on the 14th, he managed to catch a lift on a B-17, acting as a waist-gunner, a temporary occupation at which he clearly excelled, or certainly if his subsequent Silver Star citation is anything to go by. What is certain is the fact there cannot have been many R.A.F. Group Captains, aged nearly forty, who underwent a similar experience!

Sharp managed to 'get aboard' on at least two other B-17 operations, one to Villacoublay, near Paris, and the other to Hanover. His Silver Star was presented to him by Lieutenant-General Eaker, C.O. of the U.S.A.A.F. in the U.K., on 19 November 1943 and the Legion of Merit, after unbelievable hesitancy and bureaucracy on the part of the British authorities, in October 1946. He was invested by the legendary General Spaatz in a special ceremony at the Pentagon while visiting the United States as Director of the Accidents Air Ministry. In February 1944, with the temporary rank of Air Commodore, he became C.O. of No. 54 Air Base at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, yet another opportunity, it seems, to get aboard departing operational aircraft. Among the units under his command was none other than 617 Squadron, then led by the legendary Leonard Cheshire, a likeminded C.O. who was always pleased to take 'passengers' under his wing. Thus, on the night of 12 February 1944, when 617 were allocated the notorious Antheor Viaduct, near St. Raphael, the redoubtable Air Commodore managed to hitch a lift with Dambuster hero, Dave Shannon, flying as his second pilot in Lancaster DV403. On another trip, to Schweinfurt on the 24th, as second pilot to Flight-Lieutenant Fitch of No. 61 Squadron, he witnessed their Lancaster being holed by flak over Stuttgart. Unperturbed, Air Commodore Sharp joined 617 for further outings on the 20 March and 18 April, merely as a 'passenger' in Flying Officer Dufy's Lancaster ME 555 on the latter occasion.

By May 1944 he had completed at least 7 operations and there can be no doubt that his extraordinary example was creating considerable concern back at Bomber Command H.Q. Inevitably the order finally came through, prohibiting him to take part in any further operations. So did a richly deserved D.S.O. when he left Coningsby at the end of the year. Now an Acting Air-Vice Marshal, Sharp was posted to Base Air Forces, South East Asia, in an administrative capacity, clearly an unpopular choice for such an active senior officer. In late 1945 he became Director of Accident Prevention and quickly siezed the opportunity to return to flying duties, a fact made clear by his A.F.C. citation for 1947, which is, incidentally, a most unusual example of the award, being to such a senior ranking officer. Sharp graduated from the Imperial Defence College in 1948 and became C.O. of No. 38 Group. His final appointment was that of Director General of Organisation at the Air Ministry, following which, in 1953, he retired at his own request, and received the C.B.E. Air Vice-Marshall Sharp subsequently became Executive Vice-President of an Industrial company in Boston but, tragically, died there on 7 February 1956, aged just 52.