A Collection of Awards to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force
Date of Auction: 19th June 2013
Sold for £1,500
Estimate: £500 - £600
British War Medal 1914-20 (Capt. J. L. Trollope, R.A.F.), good very fine £500-600
FootnoteM.C. London Gazette 13 May 1918:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During a period of three months has engaged and brought down completely out of control four hostile machines, and has sent crashing to earth three others. On all occasions he has displayed the greatest courage, determination and skill, and it is largely due to his fine leadership that the flight under his command has contributed so much to the marked success of the squadron.’
Bar to M.C. London Gazette 22 June 1918:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion during the recent operations, while on offensive patrol, he encountered three enemy machines, two of which he completely destroyed. He then attacked a scout, and after firing 100 rounds into it, the enemy machine went down completely out of control, eventually crashing. Later in the same day, on his flight encountering four enemy two-seater planes, he sent three of them down crashing to earth. Within a month previous to this he fought two hostile formations, numbering 12 machines in all, single-handed, and did not break off the engagement until he had driven off all of them towards the East. He has accounted for 14 enemy machines and has rendered brilliant service by his gallantry and determination.’
John Lightfoot Trollope was born in Wallington, Surrey, in May 1897, and was educated at Malvern College. A trainee surveyor and estate agent by the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers and went out to France as a Corporal in July 1915, in which capacity he served as a dispatch rider until returning home that October.
Subsequently transferring to the Royal Flying Corps, he took his Aviator’s Certificate (No. 3772) in August 1916 and was posted to No. 70 Squadron out in France as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, in which capacity he flew a number of reconnaissance and fighter escort missions. But it was as a Camel pilot in No. 43 Squadron, which he joined as a 20 year old Flight Commander in late 1917, that he achieved his remarkable feat of destroying six enemy aircraft in a single day, a feat matched only by one other pilot.
Trollope opened his account in January 1918, with a DFW.C downed over Vitry on the 19th, followed by two more of the same type in mid-February. What followed in March, however, was by any standards quite remarkable, namely the destruction of another 14 enemy aircraft and one balloon inside four weeks, six of the former, famously, in a single day, and another three in his final sortie, when he was shot down by the ace Leutnant Paul Billik of Jasta 52 on the 28th, terribly wounded and taken prisoner.
Final combat - the height of extreme courage
The history of No. 43 Squadron takes up the story:
‘Ten weeks later after 16 victories, including a record-breaking six on the same day, he was finally vanquished in a fight with eight of the enemy. This battle and its aftermath were a classic of personal courage. Henry Woollett has said that what he hated above all was to see, when engaged with an enemy, one of his machines with a Hun on its tail. It made him feel inwardly sick and all the more determined to finish off his opponent so that he could go to the aid of his friend. This was the way of Trollope's last combat. Outnumbered in the initial clash he saw his pilots shot down one by one, young Adams and Maasdorp and the more experienced Prior and Owen, until he was all alone. He did not know just how many of the enemy there were, he did not know that Cecil King had climbed up to help him, he was too busy using all his superb skill and trying every trick the Camel possessed to avoid one constant attack after another. Finally he was hit, once, then several times in the leg, arm, head and back, one bullet lodging so near to his spine that during the next forty years no surgeon was ever prepared to remove it. A bullet passed through the windscreen, leaving a neat round hole and then, faint with the loss of blood from his many wounds Trollope passed out. He was still out when his spinning Camel hit the ground and the control column was pushed into his stomach and his left hand was mangled by the collapsing airframe.
His machine crashed just on the wrong side of the lines. In after years Trollope said that if there had been just one good puff of wind in the right direction as his Camel spun down he would have been safe. Removed to a German hospital it was found that his mangled hand would have to be amputated. There were no anaesthetics available - by 1918 the Allied blockade was very effective. He was visited after the operation by Hermann Goring who had been involved in the air battle. Trollope gave him a gold identity disc which he possessed. Goring in return, and full of admiration for the great fight Trollope had put up, smuggled eggs into the hospital in direct contravention of an order that he was not to do so. Trollope said those eggs saved his life for there was virtually nothing else he could eat. Three months after his capture Trollope was repatriated.’
As cited above, he was awarded the M.C. and Bar, but in view of the fact Trollope had downed another three enemy aircraft in his final combat, and fought to the end, the C.O. of 9th Brigade, R.A.F., submitted a recommendation for a D.S.O., in which he concluded, ‘It is the opinion of his Squadron Commander, and others who knew him, that had he not had the misfortune to be brought down he would have early ranked with the most famous fighting pilots. His name is still a bye-word for skill and bravery in No. 43 Squadron’.
The recommendation, however, was declined, owing to the recent announcement of his second M.C. And of subsequent events, 43’s history continues:
‘Of course Trollope never flew again and his injuries continued to plague him for the rest of his life. As a result of delay in treating his arm a gangrenous condition developed and 39 more operations became necessary during the years after the war. Eventually the arm was removed up to the shoulder, which ‘stopped him playing golf’. In World War II he rejoined the R.A.F. and rose to the rank of Wing Commander. His home at Purley was destroyed by a bomb, and a married quarter evacuated by his wife and daughter at 1800 hours received a direct hit at 2130 the same night. It seemed the Germans had not forgotten what he did to them 22 years before. To the last of his days he was at times in great pain because of his multiple wounds - ‘but I never once heard a word of complaint’ his widow will tell you with pride. Whatever else John Trollope may have lost in the crash that ended his ten weeks of glory in 1918, his courage was not among it.’
Sold with an extensive file of research, including a complete run of combat reports, lengthy recommendations for his M.C. and Bar, and D.S.O., and much besides.