Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2019)

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Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2019

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A scarce Great War 1918 ‘Salonika Front’ Ace’s D.F.C. group of four awarded to Flying Officer F. D. ‘On Line’ Travers, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, who is accredited with 12 victories flying with 47 and 150 Squadrons, December 1917 - September 1918. An extremely aggressive pilot, Travers was known to fly straight for enemy aircraft head-on, firing as he went. On one occasion his aircraft was ‘so badly shot about that it partially collapsed on landing.’ Travers most successful period came in the first week of September 1918, amongst his successes being 2 enemy aircraft shot down in the space of 5 minutes.

Between the wars Travers became a pioneer of Civil Aviation, and in 1943 he piloted the Golden Hind during the first crossing of the Indian Ocean from West to East. His exploits were recognised when he received a King’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air. Employed by BOAC, Travers also captained the Argentina on the first BOAC commercial service to South America. At the point of his retirement in 1951, Travers had flown approximately 19,500 hours, 3 million miles and carried 140,000 passengers

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.V.R., unnamed as issued; British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. Oak Leaves (Lieut. F. D. Travers. R.A.F.) minor official correction to surname on BWM; France, Third Republic, Croix de Guerre, bronze, reverse dated 1914-1918, with bronze palm on riband; with King’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air, silver badge, mounted for display, generally good very fine (lot) £5,000-£6,000


D.F.C. London Gazette 3 December 1918 (Salonika):
‘A gallant and able officer who has displayed on many occasions boldness in attack, never hesitating to engage the enemy as opportunity occurs. On June 1st he, in company with two other pilots, attacked a hostile formation of twelve machines, four of which were shot down and the remainder driven off.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 7 June 1918 (Salonika).

France, Croix de Guerre with Palmes London Gazette 8 February 1919:
‘For valuable services rendered in connection with the war.’

K.C.V.S.A. London Gazette 8 June 1944 (British Overseas Airways Corporation).

Frederick Dudley Travers was born in Yorkshire in 1897, and was educated at the John Lyon School, Harrow. He enlisted as No. 4031 Private in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry in June 1915. Travers was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Hertfordshire Yeomanry in January 1916, and sailed with the Regiment for Mesopotamia in April of the same year. He arrived in Basra, 27 May 1916, and serving as part of the Indian Expeditionary Force “D” took part in the relief of Kut-al-Amara.

Travers was attached to the Royal Flying Corps in April 1917, and commissioned Lieutenant in July of the same year. He carried out training at No. 3 School of Military Aeronautices, Egypt, and was posted as a pilot for operational flying with 47 Squadron (B.E. 12’s) in Salonika, 16 October 1917. The Squadron were engaged with a variety of tasks including reconnaissance, bombing and air fighting. Travers recorded his first victory with the Squadron whilst escorting three aircraft on photo-reconnaissance, west of Lake Doiran, 19 December 1917:

‘One single seater scout DIII with one top gun on upper plane and believed one synchronised gun. Hostile Scout attacked from the sun my starboard planes with a burst from his upper plane gun and the shots missed my machine altogether. The Hun was then underneath me and I manoeuvred so that my three top Lewis guns were on to him when I gave him a burst of about 15 rounds. Unfortunately two of my guns stopped but I got underneath him to fire my vertical gun and this also stopped... The Hun then manoeuvred while I was rectifying the stoppages and had another burst at me missing again. By now my top guns were all right and he being underneath I dived on him and let him have my three guns which worked all right. I observed the tracer ammunition all round and into the machine and then the Hun went down in a spin several thousand feet when I lost sight of him.’ (Combat Report refers)

Travers, whilst piloting an S.E. 5b, took on another Albatros Scout over Stojakovo, Macedonia, 3 January 1918:

‘I observed an E.A. coming out of the sun towards me and so turned my machine’s nose towards the E.A. As the E.A. was about 1,000ft above my machine I again turned and followed it climbing in the endeavour to a good target and reach the E.A.’s height which I did and opened with a burst from the overhead Lewis gun. The E.A.’s observer then fired at my machine so I then again opened fire with both Lewis and Vickers guns. The shots judging by the tracers appeared to be hitting the E.A. until all the double drum was finished and the Vickers gun stopped as a result of a cross-feed. As I was changing my drums and rectifying the stoppage I observed the E.A. to go down in a nose dive towards his lines.’ (Ibid)

He was at it again, 27 February 1918:

‘Whilst escorting a bomb raid on Platenwald with Capt. Bell also on an S.E. 5a I observed Capt. Bell diving on a two-seater which appeared to be driven down. A D3 scout then dived on me firing but did no harm. I then joined up with Capt. Bell to attack the E.A.’s Four D3’s had then climbed above our machines and two of them attacked each of us with no affect. The E.A.’s broke off the combat for a few minutes and so Capt. Bell and I circled round to get an opportunity of engaging the E.A. favourably. I then observed two of the E.A. scouts above us and one D3 below me, so dived on the single D3 following him down as he dived firing my two guns into his tail until he spun and went down out of my sight. One of the E.A.’s that was above then dived on my tail with Capt. Bell firing on his tail and another of the D3’s diving on Capt. Bell’s tail. We then broke off the combat as all the E.A.’s returned towards their aerodrome and we had to escort our bombers over our lines.’ (Ibid)

Travers did not always have it his own way, but his ability and aggressive flying style often got him out of dangerous situations. This was illustrated, 13 March 1918:

‘Whilst escorting a formation on the Cestovo Bomb Raid observed 5 D3’s above in the sun. When the formation turned round for home the E.A.’s attacked our S.E.’s from above with dives at our machines. Owing to engine trouble was compelled to spin out of the E.A.’s fire. One E.A. then singled out my machine and stuck on my tail firing. Then did a series of sharp turns and spins to get away from E.A. until Capt. Bell came to my assistance and drove E.A. off a little. Then turned and faced E.A. firing my Vickers until E.A. turned home and broke off combat.’ (Ibid)

150 Squadron - Carry on with the good work

With the advent of the formation of the Royal Air Force, Travers was posted to the nearly formed 150 (Fighter) Squadron, Salonika, in April 1918. He continued to fly similar escort operations in the same areas, and in May Travers encountered four enemy scouts with painted red cowlings:

‘I observed 4 E.A. getting height over Hudova Aerodrome. As the reconnaissance returned to our lines the E.A. followed at a distance and did not engage. When the recco. machine was across our lines I turned about to meet the E.A.... When I got within range they appeared to be D5 scouts. I fired a burst at 150 yards at an E.A. which was slightly below my level whereupon 2 of the E.A. above dived at me and I had to break away turning S. E.A. then patrolled together up and down just N. of the lines gradually getting over Lake Doiran when I turned into a D5 just below firing several bursts and as another D5 above me dived firing at my machine I was forced to break off the combat. One E.A. left the formation for its aerodrome. The E.A. and myself fired periodical bursts, at each other at about 200 yards range just S. of Lake Doiran. At 0745 E.A. turned N. and returned to aerodrome. As my ammunition was getting short I returned to the aerodrome.’ (Ibid)

On 15 May 1918, ‘on returning from Cestovo Reconnaissance I observed three E.A. getting height over Piravo and when the reconnaissance machines were over our lines Capt. Bell and I turned N. to meet E.A. over Cestovo. We dived down on two of the E.A. following them down to about 6,000ft just S. of Hudova Aerodrome at close range with both guns. I fired about 150 rounds. I then zoomed up to my left and met a DV coming head on for my machine at 7,000ft from about 200 yards range. E.A. continued to come straight for my machine as I did for his nose on. I fired about 100 rounds from both guns up to point blank range when E.A. and my machine just managed to avoid collision. I then turned sharply round and observed the DV going down in a steep nose dive, with smoke pouring from the centre section on to Hudova Aerodrome. E.A. was lost to sight as I had then to face another which was about to dive on my machine. Capt. Bell and I then climbed up to about 12,000ft over Cestovo and patrolled but no E.A. were then to be seen. S.E. 5a B688 [piloted by Travers] was so badly shot about that it partially collapsed on landing.’ (Ibid)

Travers shared a Halberstadt D.F.W. shot down in flames, east of Vardarhoe, 28 May 1918, and shot down an Albatross Scout, 1 June 1918.

September ‘purple patch’ - 2 shot down in 5 minutes

The first week of September 1918 proved the most successful of Travers’ service career - on the 2nd he shared a two-seater shot down in flames, south-east of Seres; on the 3rd he shot down 2 Albatross Scouts in the space of five minutes and on the 4th he shared another two-seater:

‘Whilst returning home from Recco. observed an E.A. two-seater flying N. of Rupel Pass. I dived down and met E.A. first at 9,000ft, firing a burst into its starboard side. E.A. dived away followed by Lieut. Hamilton on another S.E. 5a. E.A. continued to make large spirals down and I followed it firing bursts at intervals with both guns with Lieut. Hamilton. We followed E.A. down to a few hundred feet off the ground. I managed to get on its’ tail and fired a long burst at point blank range when the E.A. slipstream turned me off from firing. E.A. then dived down to about 50ft and I next saw it strike some horses in a field turning completely over and crashing just N. of Karasu Bridge. The pilot of E.A. crawled out and ran across the fields.’ (Ibid)

Travers’ last victory of the war occurred, 16 September 1918, when he forced down a Fokker Biplane out of control:

‘Whilst returning with our formation of D.H.9’s after a Bomb Raid at 1200 hours on Hudova I observed 5 enemy Fokkers coming in pursuit below. E.A. continued to follow the formation until they returned over our lines. I dived down on the E.A. over Lake Doiran several times when opportunity permitted finally getting on the tail of one of the Fokker Scouts which was behind the rest of the E.A. formation. I fired a good burst at close range into the E.A. then it fell over on its back and continued falling from side to side and spinning. Owing to 2 other E.A. engaging my machine I lost sight of the falling E.A. after 3,000ft.’ (Ibid)

Pioneer of Civil Aviation

Travers was posted to 17 Squadron in September 1918, and the Squadron sent ‘A’ Flight to Batoum in December 1918. The latter was to co-operate with the forces fighting the Bolsheviks, and in 1919 ‘he was a pioneer pilot on the Salonika - Constantinople mail service and was the Air Member of the British Military Mission to Rumania from 1919-1920. He joined Imperial Airways in 1926 as a captain and was one of the first pilots on the African and Far East air routes flying Hercules, Atlanta and Hannibal aircraft... He became a senior captain first-class and flew all types of Imperial Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation flying boats and amassed a total of 19,500 flying hours. He first flew to East Africa in 1931.

One of his many memorable flights was the first crossing of the Indian Ocean from west to east when he flew Golden Hind from Mombassa to the Seychelles and on non-stop to Columbo, for which he received the King’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air. This operation was carried out with no aids to navigation.’ (Obituary refers)

Travers had transferred to the Reserve in 1922, and from 1925-26 he operated a private air taxi service to the south of France. He was employed by Imperial Airways the following year, and started to pioneer the Cairo-Basra-Karchi air mail route. He described his experiences in an interview, ‘We had no radio to speak of, no blind flying instruments that worked, practically no weather reports, and navigational aids which were in their infancy. With temperatures up to 127 degrees in the shade, we sat in open cockpits in the full blast of scorching air from our hot engines. The heat was so intense, the consumption of oil was enormous, and we had to feed in oil by hand from two-gallon tins. We had to force land frequently to wait for sand storms to pass; and on one occasion in Gaza’s heavy rains, water got into the petrol tanks. All three engines cut over the Syrian Desert, but we glided down safely on to a caravan track.

Even at the best of times we had to do a lot of hard routine work which the modern pilot leaves to efficient ground crews with their up-to-date mechanical aids. We had to refuel in the desert at emergency landing grounds by pumping our petrol from locked tanks in the ground. We had to raise the fuel about thirty feet - a back breaking job. Landing grounds were strips smoothed out of the desert with harrows drawn by camels. A single line furrow ploughed across the Arabian desert, which was frequently obliterated after sand storms, was the sole guide through that featureless expanse of desolation.’ (Article including in lot refers)

Travers, and Captain L. A. Waters, were granted the first Master Air Pilot’s Certificates by the British Air Ministry in February 1934. With the advent of the Second War Travers was employed flying VIP’s, secret agents and refugees to Lisbon, he also flew the famous “Horse-shoe” route to Australia. Travers made his epic crossing of the Indian Ocean in the Golden Hind in 1943, and two years later he captained the Argentina on the first BOAC commercial service to South America. He retired to Kenya in 1951, having flown approximately 19,500 hours, 3 million miles and carried 140,000 passengers. During the Mau Mau rebellion, Travers joined the Kenya Police Reserve Air Wing as a District Commandant (he did not claim his medal). His last employment was as a British Government Courier - collecting documents from Queen’s Messengers and delivering them to smaller outposts. Travers died in 1970, and his ashes were scattered over Lake Naivasha.

Sold with the following related items and documents: the recipient’s Imperial Airways and BOAC pilot’s bullion cap badges; several original photographs of the recipient in uniform; a dvd copy of a TV programme called The Last African Flying Boat which shows footage of Travers with his flying boat at Kissumu, Lake Victoria, Kenya, while on the Aouth African run; a large amount of copied research, including his Log Books, 1926-66, the originals being held along with other documents by R.A.F Hendon.