Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (9 & 10 May 2018)

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Date of Auction: 9th & 10th May 2018

Sold for £5,500

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A Great War 1916 ‘Squadron Commander’s’ M.C., A.F.C. group of eight awarded to Major, later Wing Commander, T. O’B. Hubbard, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, a published author on aviation prior to the Great War, he went on to command 11 Squadron in France, December 1915 - August 1916, during which time he claimed at least 1 ‘Victory’ and had Albert Ball under his command. After a brief stint as 44 (Home Defence) Squadron’s first CO, Hubbard returned to the front to command 73 Squadron, January - July 1918.

Hubbard was awarded the A.F.C. for his experimental work on the Sopwith Snipe, and having flown FB5’s, B.E.2c’s, Bristol Scouts and Sopwith Camels operationally, ‘by 1922, at the age of 40 and having flown nearly 100 hours he decided to end his personal flying’

Military Cross, G.V.R.; Air Force Cross, G.V.R. ; 1914-15 Star (Capt. T. O’B. Hubbard R.F.C.); British War and Victory Medals (Major T. O’B. Hubbard. R.A.F.); Africa Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, mounted as originally worn, light contact marks overall, generally very fine, ribbons somewhat mildewed (8) £4000-5000


M.C. London Gazette 3 June 1916.

The recommendation states:

‘T O’B Hubbard. For exceptionally good work while commanding 11 Squadron from 10th December 1915 to the present date. He set an example to all his Officers by his energy and by flying different types of machines in bad weather conditions. Has previously done excellent work during the campaign.’

A.F.C. London Gazette 1 January 1919.

Thomas O’Brien Hubbard was born in London, in August 1882. He was educated at Tonbridge School, and was elected a Member of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain in 1908, serving as its Secretary and Editor between 1910-1912. Hubbard wrote a number of books on aviation prior to the Great War, including The Art of Flying; How to Build an Aeroplane and The Boys Book of Aeroplanes.

During ‘the early years of the century, he worked his way around the world, turning his hand to anything that presented itself including boundary-riding on a huge sheep station at East Taglai, South Queensland, Australia. As a young man he built his own machine and flew it successfully. Returning to the UK, he gained his Royal Aero Club Certificate (Number 222), satisfying the examiners on a Howard-Wright machine of the Grahame-Wright School at Hendon, on 4 June 1912. When the war came in August 1914, Hubbard, who held the rank of T/Captain in the Special Reserve, was immediately mobilised and appointed a Flight Commander and an Instructor in Flying at CFS.’ (The Military Cross to Flying Personnel of Great Britain and the Empire 1914-1919, by H. Giblin and N. Franks refers)

Hubbard was appointed Commanding Officer of 11 Squadron in November 1915. The Squadron was equipped with FB5’s and B.E.2c’s, and moved to France for operational flying in December of the same year. Hubbard’s squadron was mainly tasked with reconnaissance, Artillery spotting and photography duties. However, as two of Hubbard’s combat reports for 2 April 1916 show, this work was not without aerial dog fights:

‘11.05am - Whilst on Patrol over Wailly a hostile machine was observed flying at a height of about 9,000ft. in a northerly direction over Blaireville north of the Bois d’Adinfer. When the the Vickers approached this machine, it was seen to be a double-fuselage biplane with one observer sitting in front of the main planes. Fire was opened at a range of 400 yards one drum being emptied. Ten rounds from the rifle fire at ranges of 400 and 600 yards. The hostile machine turned east and went down to an altitude of about 6,500 ft. being last seen making towards Douai.

11.20am - While on patrol over Berles au Bois. A hostile machine was observed very low down flying south over the German trenches north of the Bois d’Adinfer. The Vickers which was at a height of 9,000 feet switched off and diving steeply engaged the hositle machine at 5,000 feet over the trenches at a range of about 60 yards. The hostile machine dived away towards the Bois d’Adinfer with the Vickers about 30 yards behind. Fire was maintained all the time by the Vickers. The Albatross’s machine gun had evidently jammed as the gunner was observed on seeing the Vickers, to turn round and reach for a rifle. Three rounds were fired by him with this. When at a height of 2,000 feet over the Bois d’Adinfer as the hostile machine was still diving steeply the fight was broken off and the lines were recrossed at this height. The German machine was last seen diving to earth.’

Major Hubbard, with Second Lieutenant A. J. Insall as his observer, claimed the latter combat as a victory. Hubbard ‘would continue to command ‘11’ through the opening weeks of of the Battle of the Somme, with Albert Ball as one of his Pilots, before relinquishing the reins in August 1916.’ (The Military Cross to Flying Personnel of Great Britain and the Empire 1914-1919, by H. Giblin and N. Franks refers)

11 Squadron re-equipped with single-seater Bristol Scouts and Nieuport Scouts in May 1916, and Ball claimed 17 aircraft destroyed, forced down out of control or forced to land, whilst under Hubbard’s command. Having left France, Hubbard was subsequently posted as the first Commanding Officer of the newly formed 44 (Home Defence) Squadron, Hainault Farm, in July 1917. It ‘was actually five years to the day, prior to the formation of 44 Sqn at Hainault, Hubbard officiated as an observer at the nearby Fairlop playing fields on behalf of the Royal Aeronautical Society, of which he had been a founder member. Edward Petre, test pilot for Handly Page Ltd, (then at Barking, Essex) qualified for his RAeC certificate at Farilop on 24 July 1912 and three days later in a Handly Page monoplane, made the first heavier than air flight across London, from Fairlop to Brooklands, via the Thames.’ (An account of 44 Squadron at Hainault Farm aerodrome during the Great War, by J. Barfoot, as featured in Cross & Cockade refers)

Hubbard’s next command was 73 Squadron, ‘in November [1917], Major T O’B Hubbard took command and the squadron began its final ‘working-up’ period. Finally on January 9, 1918, 73 Squadron was ready and left for France, flying its machines [Sopwith Camels] to St. Omer then flying on to Liettres.’ (73 Squadron by N. Franks & R. Manning, as featured in Cross & Cockade refers)

The Squadron were primarily engaged in fighter patrols and bomber escort missions. With the advent of the German ‘Spring Offensive’, 73 Squadron undertook large numbers of ground attack sorties which ultimately developed into low-level co-operation with armoured forces during the latter stages of the war. Hubbard relinquished command of the Squadron in July 1918, with ‘Major R H Freeman MC, taking over... Thomas O’Brien Hubbard left a lasting impression on 73 as well as a squadron insignia which has lasted to the present day. Contrary to popular belief, the crest, a dog looking into a cupboard with a large letter ‘C’ around it did not represent Hubbard’s own dog, nor did the ‘C’ stand for Canadians serving with the unit. Hubbard did not have a dog, the allusion was simply to the nursery rhyme while the ‘C’, quite naturally referred to the squadron’s equipment - the Camel. The crest was designed at the outset by one of the original pilots, Eric Wardum, before any Canadians were with 73. The design was preserved for all time in the later official squadron badge which shows (in the language of the Royal College of Heralds) a ‘Mastiff Rampant’ - an heraldic Talbot in blue. Hubbard himself began flying in 1912... by 1922, at the age of 40 and having flown nearly 100 hours he decided to end his personal flying.’ (Ibid)

Hubbard left 73 Squadron, ‘prior to turning his attention to experimental work, a field in which he was credited with exceptional brilliance. It was Hubbard who, in 1918, was largely responsible for ironing out and overcoming the early problems experienced with the Sopwith Snipe, by recommending the fitting of balanced aerilons. For his outstanding work in test and experimental flying, he was awarded the Air Force Cross.’ (The Military Cross to Flying Personnel of Great Britain and the Empire 1914-1919, by H. Giblin and N. Franks refers)

Subsequent service for Hubbard included in Egypt, Palestine and Iraq. He advanced to Wing Commander, and was employed as Station Commander at Hinaidi, 1930-31. Hubbard retired to Cyprus, and during his time on the island he assembled an extensive collection of artefacts and coins. He moved back to the UK due to poor health in the late 1950s, and died in January 1962. Upon his death the bulk of Hubbard’s collection was presented to the Cyprus Museum, whilst some was donated to the British Museum.