Awards to Men of the Battle of Britain
Date of Auction: 20th September 2002
Estimate: £2,000 - £2,500
1939-45 Star, clasp, Battle of Britain; Atlantic Star, clasp, Air Crew Europe; Defence and War Medals extremely fine (4) £2000-2500
FootnoteHerbert Capstick was born near Jackson Town, Jamaica in November 1920, where his father owned Mahogany Hall, a property with origins dating as far back as the Restoration. Educated back in the U.K., at Sedbergh School, Herbert enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in the summer of 1939 and was called up on 1 September.
Subsequently completing an Air Observer’s course at R.A.F. Warmwell, he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in May 1940 and posted to No. 236 Squadron, a Blenheim unit of Coastal Command operating out of Thorney Island, that July. On the 21st of the month he completed his first sortie, to Le Havre, his only outing with Squadron Leader P. E. Drew as his pilot - the latter was shot down and killed during a bomber-escort operation a few days later. For his own part, Capstick flew two similar missions before the end of the month.
August witnessed the Squadron moving to St. Eval, where Capstick teamed up with Flying Officer W. S. Moore, and completed another five escort operations, but September proved far busier, no less than 19 sorties being flown. One of these to Ostend on bomber escort duty was met by a force of 36 Me. 109s, another off Brest on convoy escort duty by a force of Me. 110s, and a third, a reconnaissance patrol of Brest and Guernsey revealed three E Boats. The final month of the Battle proper witnessed Capstick and Moore carrying out three scrambles and another four escort sorties.
Then in November, following another brace of sorties, Capstick and Moore were posted to No. 272 Squadron at Aldergrove, and quickly employed on escort duty for the S.S. Dunbar Castle, and over the next five months they would complete no less than 25 operational sorties, many of them fighter patrols.
Capstick was again re-posted in April 1941, this time to No. 254 Squadron at Sumburgh, undertaking numerous reconnaissances, searches, escorts and anti-Condor patrols with his new skipper, Pilot Officer Rollett, quite a few of them over Norwegian waters. Infact, by September 1941, they had notched up another 33 sorties. Remarkably, however, Capstick’s posting for a period of rest at an O.T.U. was cancelled in the following month, and he was compelled to complete another four missions before being sent to No. 228 Squadron, a Sunderland unit operating out of Stranraer.
Here, too, a punishing schedule of operational flying ensued, commencing with an anti-submarine patrols off the coast of Portugal and Cape Finisterre in December, while on attachment to No. 202 Squadron. Returning to No. 228 in the new year, Capstick went on to complete at least ten more longe-range anti-submarine missions before the end of May, the last of these, on 21 May 1942, over the Atlantic, resulting in a successful strike on a U-Boat. Seven depth charges were dropped and oil patches were seen on the surface of the water immediately after the attack - the Admiralty granted a ‘very probable’ damaged to pilot and crew, the latter including Wing Commander Moseley, C.O. of the Squadron, who was along for the ride.
This was to prove Captstick’s final brush with the enemy, the remainder of his war being spent on training duties, the period May 1942 to December 1943 in Canada, where he also attended a specialist navigation course. He ended the War at 2nd Tactical Air Force as a Flight Lieutenant employed on air movement duties and was released from the Service in 1946, eventually returning to Jamaica to take up employment as a solicitor.
Sold with an impressive array of original documentation, including the recipient’s Flying Log Book, covering the period November 1939 to December 1945; Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board ‘School Certificate A’ for July 1937; R.A.F. ‘Pocket Book’, 1937; Law Society Final Examination Certificate, dated 8 August 1947; appointments to serve as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court, dated 1 November 1947 and 13 February 1951; official warrant of appointment to serve as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of Jamaica, dated 7 May 1951; and comparable documents of appointment for the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, dated 27 March 1950 and 11 March 1952; together with a large quantity of other family documentation, including articles and features on the history of Mahogany Hall, Jackson Town, and numerous post-war photographs.