Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (18 & 19 July 2018)

Date of Auction: 18th & 19th July 2018

Sold for £12,000

Estimate: £10,000 - £15,000

The well-documented Second World War M.B.E., Great War M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. group of nine awarded to Wing Commander J. H. Norton, Royal Canadian Air Force, late Essex Yeomanry, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, who was decorated for his gallantry in France and later in the Palestine campaign 1917-18, where he was detached for special duties with the Arab forces and placed under the direct command of Colonel T. E. Lawrence at Akabah

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, M.B.E. (Military) Member’s 2nd type breast badge; Military Cross, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar, the reverse privately engraved, ‘Capt. John Hamilton Norton, France 1917, Bar Palestine 1918’; Distinguished Flying Cross, G.V.R., the reverse privately engraved, ‘Flight Lieut. John Hamilton Norton, Palestine 1918’; British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oakleaf (Capt. J. H. Norton, R.A.F.); Territorial Force War Medal 1914-19 (1105 Pte. J. H. Norton, Essex Yeo.); Defence Medal 1939-45, Canadian issue in silver; Canadian Voluntary Service Medal 1939-45, with overseas clasp; War Medal 1939-45, Canadian issue in silver, with M.I.D. oak leaf, generally good very fine (9) £10000-15000


M.B.E. London Gazette 1 January 1946.

M.C. London Gazette 26 May 1917 (France):
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He reconnoitred the enemy’s wire at the height of 300 feet, and brought back most valuable information. He has at all times displayed great courage and skill.’

Bar to M.C. London Gazette 22 April 1918 (Palestine):
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While he was carrying out observation for an important artillery shoot, two hostile aeroplanes endeavoured to interfere. These he at once attacked and drove off, afterwards continuing his observation for the shoot, during which two hostile emplacements were destroyed. His dash and determination contributed greatly to the success of the operation.’

D.F.C. London Gazette 8 February 1919 (Palestine):
‘On all occasions this officer displays gallantry and devotion to duty, notably on 29 July, when, in co-operation with our artillery, he carried out a shoot against two anti-aircraft pits. On approaching this target Captain Norton was wounded in the left foot; notwithstanding this, he continued the shoot, and succeeded in destroying both pits, thereby putting out of action two hostile guns.’

John Hamilton “Jocko” Norton was born in Southend, Essex in October 1896 and, after leaving school, was employed as an insurance broker at Lloyds of London. Enlisting in the Essex Yeomanry as a Trooper in August 1914, he was commissioned in the Reserve Regiment of Cavalry, via the Special List, that November, but remained employed in the U.K. until transferring to the Royal Flying Corps and gaining his Royal Aero Club Certificate in February 1916.


Posted to No. 12 Squadron out in France in July of the same year, he completed around 80 operational sorties before being transferred to No. 13 Squadron in March 1917, Army co-operation work that comprised bombing raids and spotting for the artillery, in addition to photography, and other hazardous work too, as evidenced by the following extracts taken from his Flying Log Book:

28 July 1916 - an attack on a bridge in the Somme region: ‘Bombs fell near railway track. A.A. very good. Lt. Watkins caught fire from direct hit. Own fuselage badly shot.’

29 August 1916: ‘Bombed Bois de Loupart. Attacked by hostile machine - two rounds through cockpit, one through coat. Forced landing. Ran into telephone pole. Crashed machine’s wings dismantled.’

15 September 1916: ‘Bombed Bapaume. Squadron came down to 500 feet. Tyson hit. Archie and Onions very bad. 20 hostile machines. Recrossed at 1000.’

17 September 1916: ‘Bombed Marcoing station. Blew up large ammunition dump on railway line. Formation attacked south of Cambrai by about 40 hostile machines. Honey and Patterson lost. Four F.Es lost from escort.’

In March 1917, Norton transferred to No. 13 Squadron as a Flight Commander, which appointment quickly led to the award of his first M.C. for gallant work during the battle of Arras in the following month, as per his citation, of which his Flying Log Book states:

7 April 1917: ‘Wire reconnaissance. Examined wire from 200-400 feet four miles behind line. Engine and machine badly hit by M.G. fire - awarded Military Cross.’

Just a couple of days later, on the 9th, his BE2e was hit by shellfire and he was compelled to make a crash-landing, though he and his Observer, Captain T. L. Tibbs, emerged unscathed from the wreckage. While, on the 28th, during a contact patrol, his aircraft was attacked by five enemy machines, the resultant damage causing another rapid descent. But Pilot and Observer once more emerged unscathed, Norton in fact going on to complete around 60 operational sorties before being ordered back to the U.K. to take up appointment as an instructor at the Central Flying School at Upavon in June.


A brief home appointment in No. 62 Squadron having followed in August-September 1917, Norton was next posted to the Middle East, where he joined No. 113 Squadron in Palestine, a component, in common with No. 14 Squadron, of 5th Corps Wing. Moreover, his name appeared on a list of pilots attached to the following Routine Order:

'The following officers are detached for special duty and will proceed immediately to headquarters of the Arab forces near Akabah. All officers upon arrival will report to Colonel T. E. Lawrence, or his representatives in Akabah, attached to the headquarters of Shereef Feisal, and will remain under their orders during forthcoming operations.'

Thus ensued a memorable chapter in his active service career, a chapter described at length in a series of articles that were subsequently published in The Liberty magazine in America in 1934 - ‘I Flew Lawrence in War-Crazed Arabia, by Captain John H. Norton, as told by J. B. L. Lawrence’. As a result of the lack of dates it would be difficult to corroborate these articles against his Flying Log Book, but it seems quite probable that he met Lawrence on several occasions.

Norton's Flying Log Book for this period reveals around 80 operational sorties, the Bar to his M.C. being awarded for the above cited deeds near Jaffa on 10 January 1918, although his award of the D.F.C. may have been won for later services as C.O. of ‘C’ advanced Flight, No. 142 Squadron, in which capacity he remained employed until returning to the Home Establishment in September 1918. In August 1919, however, he returned to the Middle East, this time as Staff Captain (S.O. 3, Air) at the Palestine Brigade’s H.Q. in Ismalia and his final appointment, prior to resigning his commission in September 1920, was as a Flight Lieutenant in No. 111 Squadron.

Settling in California in the 1920s, where he worked for Canada Life insurance - and was a member of the Hollywood Cricket Team - Norton moved to Vancouver in the mid-1930s and, on the renewal of hostilities, joined the R.C.A.F., rising to the rank of Wing Commander in Training Command, in addition to serving as a Liaison Officer in Washington D.C. He was awarded the M.B.E. The Wing Commander eventually retired to Spain, where he died at Gerona in January 1975.

Sold with the following extensive archive of original documentation and photographs:

(i) Three educational certificates, all in the recipient’s name, two of them issued by Cambridge University in 1911 and 1912.

(ii) The recipient’s Federation Areonautique Internationale / British Empire Aviator’s Certificate (No. 2456), with portrait photograph, dated 10 February 1916, and his Royal Flying Corps (Officers) Graduation Certificate (No. 1516), issued at the Central Flying School, Upavon on 23 June 1916.

(iii) The recipient’s Mention in Despatches Certificate (Douglas Haig’s Despatch dated 9 April 1917).

(iv) Letters to the recipient from his mother and sister, congratulating him on the award of his M.C. in April 1917.

(v) The recipient’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book, the front cover inscribed, ‘J. N. Norton, 2 Lt., 7th Res. Cav. Regt.’, with entries covering the period January 1916 to December 1919, though the period from July 1918, when he was appointed to the command of ‘C’ advanced Flight, No. 142 Squadron, in Jerusalem, more by way of a summary of appointments than individual flight entries.

(vi) A particularly fine array of Great War photographs, approximately 200 images, a few covering the recipient’s time in France, including target photographs, but the vast majority his period of active service in Palestine 1917-18, including aircraft, fellow pilots, air-to-air and air-to-ground images, and much besides: in all an important photographic archive of air operations in this theatre of war.

(vii) The recipient’s Commission Warrants for the ranks of Captain in the R.A.F., w.e.f. 1 April 1918, and dated 1 December 1918, and Flying Officer, dated 2 August 1919.

(viii) An Air Ministry letter dated 23 January 1925, addressed to the recipient in Santa Monica, California, forwarding a copy of his service record, the latter stating ‘At the close of hostilities this officer was officially credited with eight victories in aerial combat’, though no mention of Norton in standard “Air Ace” references has been found.

(ix) Relevant front covers and pages from The Liberty magazine - ‘I Flew Lawrence in War-Crazed Arabia, by Captain John H. Norton, as told by J. B. L. Lawrence’, 20 and 27 January, and 3 and 10 February 1934 editions.

(x) The recipient’s Commission Warrant for the rank of Pilot Officer in the R.C.A.F. (Special Reserve), w.e.f. 8 November 1939, and dated 20 March 1944.

(xi) A letter to the recipient from his aunt, dated 29 September 1940, addressed to him at No. 3 Training Command, Montreal, in which she relates family news and the air battles going on over Sussex.

(xii) A scrap album, 25pp., containing numerous press cuttings and photographs relevant to the recipient’s service in the R.C.A.F. in the 1939-45 War, together with other memorabilia, including a Laisser Passer for a return trip to Ottawa from the Canadian Legation in Washington D.C. in March 1942 (’He will be carrying with him certain very confidential documents which on no account should be disturbed ... ’); together with another scrap album covering the inter-war years, with a mass of newspaper cuttings, invitations and letters, etc.

(xiii) The recipient’s M.B.E. warrant, in the name of ‘Wing Commander John Hamilton Norton, M.C., D.F.C., R.C.A.F.’ and dated 1 January 1946, together with related Central Chancery forwarding letter.

(xiv) R.C.A.F. Active Service Certificate, dated 6 February 1946, confirming the recipient’s entitlement to the overseas clasp on his Canadian Voluntary Service Medal, and honourable discharge in the rank of Wing Commander.

Together with a portrait of the recipient, head and shoulders, wearing R.C.A.F. tunic with medal ribands, by Michael Alexander Werboff (Russian, 1896-1996), oil on canvas, signed and dated ‘M. A. Werboff, March 6, 1943, New York’, 35cm. by 45cm., in gilt glazed frame.