Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (10 & 11 May 2017)

Date of Auction: 10th & 11th May 2017

Sold for £6,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A Second War Bomber Command 1943 D.F.C., 1941 D.F.M., and United States of America D.F.C. group of seven awarded to Wing Commander R. C. Smylie, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, who completed 51 operational sorties ‘against the most strongly defended targets in Germany and the occupied countries’, firstly as a Whiteley navigator with No. 51 Squadron, and latterly as a Halifax Air Bomber with No. 158 Squadron

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R. 2nd issue, reverse officially dated 1943 and additionally privately engraved ‘Wing Commander R. C. Smylie.’, with Royal Mint case of issue; Distinguished Flying Medal, G.VI.R. (749511. Sgt. R. C. Smylie. R.A.F.); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star, 1 clasp, France and Germany; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with unofficial M.I.D. oak leaf; United States of America, Distinguished Flying Cross, reverse engraved ‘Wing Commander R. C. Smylie D.F.C., D.F.M. U.S.A.A.F., D.F.C. 1944’, with case of issue, mounted as worn, suspension repaired on D.F.M., contact marks and light pitting, generally very fine (7) £5000-6000


D.F.C. London Gazette 13 August 1943.
The recommendation, dated 4 June 1943, states: ‘Squadron Leader Smylie has now carried out 43 operational sorties against the most strongly defended targets in Germany and the occupied countries. His keenness and initiative as a bomb aimer have been a course of inspiration to his crew and to the Squadron as a whole; he has obtained many excellent photographs. Since January 1943 he has been commanding a flight and has shown exceptional qualities of leadership, resourcefulness, and organising ability. His flight has always been well trained, well disciplined, and displayed a very high standard of morale. This is in no small measure due to Squadron leader Smylie’s outstanding ability and very strong sense of duty. It is considered that this Officer’s work and example fully merits the immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’

Remarks by Station Commander: ‘Squadron Leader Smylie has set a very high standard not only to the flight that he commands but also to the entire squadron. This squadron on four nights between the 23-29 May put out 84 aircraft, 79 of which attacked the primary target, not counting the 4 aircraft which went missing during this period. I consider this a record unparalleled in the entire command. This officer, who has served with me in the past, is a magnificent leader and organiser, and I consider that he contributes in a very large way to the success of this squadron, and consider that he strongly deserves the award of the immediate Distinguished Flying Cross.’

Remarks by Air Officer Commanding: ‘Throughout his operational tours Squadron Leader Smylie has been outstanding for courage and leadership. I very strongly recommend the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’

D.F.M. London Gazette 22 August 1941.
The recommendation, dated 19 June 1941, states: ‘Sergeant Smylie joined the squadron on 10 September 1940, and completed 21 of his 28 trips during the winter months. On 20 occasions he attacked the primary target and once returned through engine trouble. On the other 7 occasions, secondary targets were attacked. Sergeant Smylie has throughout shown great efficiency, courage, and devotion to duty as well as skill in navigation and has been an outstanding example to Observers in this squadron.’

Remarks by Station Commander: ‘This N.C.O., during all his operational sorties, has shown exceptional skill and determination. It is largely due to his navigational ability and courage under adverse weather conditions that the objective has been successfully attacked. Specially recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 1 January 1946.

United States of America, D.F.C. London Gazette 15 May 1945.

Robert Cecil Smylie was born in Belfast on 28 June 1911, and was educated at Main Street School, Bangor. A keen sportsman, he represented Northern Ireland in athletics between 1932-34, and played rugby for Bangor. Enlisting in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an observer on 11 May 1939, he was promoted Sergeant on 29 June 1940 and posted as a navigator to No. 51 Squadron (Whiteleys), based at R.A.F. Dishforth. He completed his first tour with the unit over the period 4 September 1940 to 27 May 1941: targets included Berlin (4), Antwertp, Zeebrugge, Boulougne (2), Duisburg, Bremen (5), Leipzig, Hanover (2), Turin, Cologne (2), Kiel (4), Brest, and Mannheim (2). Whilst most of the bombing raids were uneventful, when attacking Turin on 8 November 1940, the bomb aimer’s window was broken by shrapnel, and the aircraft was forced to land at an advanced landing base. For his courage and devotion to duty, as well as skill in navigation, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, being presented with his D.F.M. by H.M. King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 7 November 1941.

Commissioned Pilot Officer on 12 June 1941, Smylie joined No. 19 Operational Training Unit, and was promoted Flying Officer on 1 December 1941, before taking up a posting at Headquarters, No. 4 Group, as an Air Observer, on 2 January 1942. Promoted Flight Lieutenant on 1 December 1942, the following month he received an operational posting with No. 158 Squadron (Halifaxes), based at R.A.F. Rufforth, and was promoted acting Squadron Leader. He began his second operational tour as an air bomber with a raid on Lorient on 14 January 1943; future targets included Hamburg, Cologne, Wilhelmshaven, Duisberg, Dortmund, and Gelsenkirchen. Having been recommended for an ‘Immediate’ Distinguished Flying Cross, his tour was cut short upon being posted to the War Staff College on 30 August 1943.

Returning to Headquarters, No. 4 Group, on 29 November 1943, Smylie served in various rolls on the staff for the remainder of the War, was advanced to acting Wing Commander on 15 May 1944, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the United States of America, being presented with his decoration by General Doolittle. He relinquished his commission on 28 June 1956, having flown a total of 51 war-time operational sorties during his career (the recipient’s obituary refers), and retained the rank of Wing Commander. In later life he was elected to Bangor Borough Council and took an active part in Freemasonry, including the Masonic Schools in Dublin. A keen golfer, he also served as captain of Bangor Golf Club. He died in Bangor on 3 April 1980.

Smylie’s group is believed to be one of only two D.F.C., D.F.M., U.S.A. D.F.C. groups awarded during the Second World War.

Sold together with the recipient’s related miniature awards, the Air Crew Europe Star lacking the France and Germany clasp; riband bar; enamelled lapel riband bar for the U.S.A. D.F.C.; various copied research, including the relevant Squadron Operational Record Book entries for all his operational sorties; and a photographic image of the recipient.