A Collection of Awards to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force
Date of Auction: 10th December 2014
Sold for £8,000
Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000
Distinguished Flying Cross, G.V.R., the reverse privately engraved, ‘Lieut. G. F. M. Apps, 24th July 1919’; British War and Victory Medals (Lieut. G. F. M. Apps, R.A.F.), a little polished, very fine or better (3) £8000-10000
FootnoteD.F.C. London Gazette 21 September 1918:
‘A bold and skilful airman who in recent operations has destroyed six enemy aeroplanes, accounting for two in one flight. He displays marked determination and devotion to duty.’
Gordon Frank Mason Apps, who was born in Lenham, Kent, in May 1899, was educated at Sutton Valence School and enlisted in the Artist’s Rifles in February 1917, direct from an engineering apprenticeship at the Tilling-Stevens Motor and Munition Factory.
Transferring to the Royal Flying Corps that April, he qualified as a pilot and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in August 1917, following which he was ordered to Italy to join No. 66 Squadron, a Sopwith Camel unit.
Carrying out his first offensive patrols in January 1918, he was to remain similarly employed until being wounded by A.A. fire in his right leg on 17 July 1918 - a period encompassing well in excess of 100 operational sorties, 10 confirmed victories and a considerable amount of work alongside the Canadian ace, Captain W. G. “Billy” Barker, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., and Lieutenant Alan Jerrard, V.C.
Apps gained his first confirmed victory, a Berg Scout north of Valstagna, on 11 March, while flying with Alan Jerrard and Captain P. Carpenter, the latter stating that he last saw the Berg ‘going down absolutely out of control, but was not seen to crash as it had disappeared, spinning slowly into a deep ravine, but would almost be certain to crash as apparently no machine could have landed safely in such a place.’
On 28 March, in a combat over the locality of Oderzo, Apps destroyed an Albatross D. III, the relevant report stating ‘Lieutenant Apps followed his E.A. down to about 400 feet, firing about 300 rounds into the E.A., which crashed at 3.20 p.m. However, Apps low-level tactics were not without cost, for ‘machine-gun fire from the ground was very bad’ and his ‘machine was hit in several places.’
On 4 May, while patrolling over Vidor, Apps and three other 66 pilots were attacked by 14 enemy aircraft:
‘Patrol then engaged these E.As. Lieutenant Apps got on the tail of a DV and shot him down in flames over the River Piave. The E.A. fell this side of the lines. Lieutenant Apps was then attacked head on by a D. III, this being repeated on four distinct occasions and on the last of which the E.A. went down out of control. This E.A. was observed to crash and the enemy pilot get out of his machine at Moriago by Lieutenant McLeod of No. 28 Squadron, who went down and shot the pilot.’
Once again Apps returned to base in a badly damaged aircraft: ‘machine was shot through the engine, cowling, centre section, L.H. bottom plane, elevators and one flying wire shot away.’
In a combat on 20 May, fought alongside “Billy” Barker and Lieutenant W. M. MacDonald, Apps chased down a D.V. which had been shot up by Barker, thereby confirming his leader’s victory - it crashed into the side of a mountain at Sevla.
A few days later, on the 24th, and once again flying with Barker, he claimed another confirmed D. III, following a spectacular 15 minute combat just above Mount Coppolo - ‘Lieutenant Apps fired a long burst when the E.A. was doing a climbing turn and the E.A. went down out of control and crashed in the valley.’
On 21 June, during an offensive patrol with Barker over Motta, Apps took out a D.III, ‘after a fight from 14,000 to 9,000 feet, during which he fired several good bursts, and the E.A. fell out of control and crashed just south of the railway at Sala di La. This was observed by Captain Barker.
Having then destroyed another Albatross D. III in a combat over Chromenti on 28 June - it crashed near Cismon - Apps took out yet another one in a combat at 5,000 feet south of Godega on 13 July, the latter, as confirmed by Barker, ‘turning over and falling to pieces’.
Finally, on 16 July, Apps shared in the destruction of an L.V.G. south-west of Posimone with Lieutenant A. E. Baker, but on the following day he was seriously wounded in the right leg by A.A. fire and had to make an emergency landing back at base.
Evacuated for treatment in France, and thence in the U.K., he was passed as fit for home service duties in September 1918, when he joined No. 50 Squadron as a Flight Commander.
Finding employment as a civil engineer with the United Aircraft Company at Croydon after the War, Apps settled in Canada in the early 1920s, initially working for the G.P.O’s Imperial Radio Chain.
In March 1924, however, he was appointed a Flying Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and, having gained advancement to Flight Lieutenant, he was killed in a flying accident in October 1931. He was buried at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, Manitoba; sold with extensive copied research, including a complete run of war diary entries for Apps’ time with No. 66 Squadron.
Also see Lot 1119 for his brother’s Great War awards.