Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (28 February & 1 March 2018)

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Date of Auction: 28th February & 1st March 2018

Sold for £4,200

Estimate: £2,800 - £3,200

A scarce Great War seaplane pilot’s D.F.C. group of three awarded to Captain C. V. Bessette, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force, an American born French-Canadian who took part in the pioneering trials of the Curtis Flying Boat America at Hammondsport, New York, in 1914. Had war not broken out, the America, would have attempted the first non-stop aerial crossing of the Atlantic. As a result of the conflict the aircraft type was purchased and used by the British Government, and Bessette saw service as a pilot operating from Felixstowe, H.M.S. Campania, and the U.S. Naval Base at Killingholme on the Humber Estuary

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.V.R., reverse engraved ‘Capt. C. V. Bessett. North Sea. 19.2.18. 27.2.18 10.3.1918’, with original horizontal striped riband; British War and Victory Medals (Capt. C. V. Bessett. R.A.F.) mounted as worn, sterling silver card case, engraved ‘C.V.B.’, the latter somewhat dented, the medals nearly extremely fine (3) £2800-3200

Footnote

D.F.C. London Gazette 3 June 1918.

Claver Victor Bessette (also listed as ‘Bessett’) was born to French-Canadian parents in New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in August 1887. His occupation prior to military service is given in his service papers as ‘Manager of a millionaire’s private estate in California, U.S.A., March 1912 - June 1913.’

Bessette was involved in the testing of Glenn H. Curtiss and John Porte’s flying boat the America at Hammondsport, New York, 1913-14. The aircraft was built to attempt the first non-stop aerial crossing of the Atlantic, and was to be piloted by an American and an Englishman. Bessette was allowed to carry out some test flying in a student capacity. He qualified as a seaplane pilot, 22 June 1914. The project was interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War.

Bessette was taken on the strength of the R.N.A.S. at Ottawa in February 1916, and gained his Royal Aero Club Certificate as a Flight Sub Lieutenant in a N.A.C. Seaplane at the Northern Aircraft Company, Windermere, in June 1916. He carried out further training at R.N.A.S. Calshot, Crystal Palace and Grain. Bessette was posted to R.N.A.S. Felixstowe, and flew operationally on submarine patrols from December 1916. He served with H.M.S. Campania (aircraft carrier), from May 1917, before being posted to R.N.A.S. Killingholme in September of the same year.

Whilst still flying operationally, Bessette also served as an instructor on Short seaplanes for pilots and observers carrying out training at Killingholme. He advanced to Flight Lieutenant in December 1917, and Honorary Captain whilst continuing to serve at Killingholme after the command of the base had been transferred to U.S. Navy in March 1918. The American naval airmen flew British Short seaplanes and Curtis H-16’s on anti-submarine patrols and convoy protection in the North Sea. Bessette transferred to the Royal Air Force in April 1918, and was subsequently employed as an Instructor in Signals and Ship Recognition. He was discharged in September 1919.

Sold with copied research, and copied postcard images of the trials of the America, with copies of the reverses showing annotations including naming Bessette as a student pilot.