A Collection of Awards to the Royal Air Force between the Wars (1919-1939) formed by Group Captain JE Barker

Date of Auction: 6th December 2017

Sold for £3,400

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

A well documented Second War C.B., ‘Somme’ 1916 M.C. group of ten awarded to Air Vice-Marshal J. H. S. Tyssen, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, who originally served as an Observer before retraining as a Pilot, and had success against enemy aircraft in both capacities. Wounded in May 1915, he served as a Flight Commander with 22 Squadron during 1916 and witnessed the First Day of the Battle of the Somme from the air, and the first use of tanks on the battlefield at Flers-Courcellete, 15 September 1916, all recorded in his flying log book. Tyssen commanded 58 Squadron in France, January - July 1918, and 20 Squadron on the North West Frontier, 1920-23. He served as AOC British Forces in Iraq from 1938.

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, C.B. (Military) Companion’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, in Garrard & Co. Ltd case of issue, minor white enamel damage; Military Cross, G.V.R., reverse engraved ‘Capt. J. H. S. Tyssen. R.F.C. Photography. The Somme 1916. North Somerset Yeomanry’; 1914 Star, with clasp (Capt: J. H. S. Tyssen. N. Som: Yeo.); British War and Victory Medals (Major J. H. S. Tyssen. R.A.F.); India General Service 1908-35, 1 clasp, Waziristan 1919-21 (S/L. J. H. S. Tyssen. R.A.F.); Defence and War Medals 1939-45, M.I.D. Oak Leaf; Jubilee 1935; Coronation 1937, breast awards mounted for wear, generally nearly very fine or better (10) £3000-4000


Provenance: Group Captain F. Newall Collection, Christie’s, March 1988.

C.B. London Gazette 24 September 1941.

M.C. London Gazette 14 November 1916:

‘For conspicuous skill and gallantry. He has done fine work in photography, often fighting against odds in order to get his work done. On one occasion, when five enemy machines interfered with our patrol, he, with another officer, dived at one and brought it down.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 1 January 1941.

John Hugh Samuel Tyssen was born at Charlton Henbury, in June 1889. He was educated at Wellington College, and commissioned into the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry in June 1907. Tyssen transferred to the North Somerset Yeomanry, and advanced to Captain in August 1914. He served with the Regiment in the French theatre of war from November 1914, before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.

Tyssen was posted as an Observer Officer for operational flying to 3 Squadron, Chocques, near Bethune in March 1915. Between March - June 1915 he amassed 100 hours of flying in the Squadron’s ‘hotchpotch’ selection of aircraft. Tyssen helped force down a two-seater enemy aircraft with Captain G. F. Pretyman as his pilot, 5 May 1915. Flying in a Morane L the pair followed the stricken aircraft as it plunged into a ploughed field near Lille. Tyssen was hit in the leg by shrapnel when flying over the same area, 29 May 1915.

Having recuperated, Tyssen was posted for pilot training to 3 Reserve Air Squadron in August 1915. His formal training consisted of 4 hours and 45 minutes flying time carried out over two weeks. Tyssen was granted his Aviator’s Certificate 20 August 1915, and he carried out further training at 13 Squadron, Gosport. He advanced to Flying Officer in September 1915, and returned to 3 R.A.S. as an instructor. Tyssen was posted to 22 Squadron in December 1915, and was gazetted as a Fight Commander in February 1916. He flew with the Squadron to France at the end of the following month, initially arriving at Vert Galand before moving on to their base Bertangles.

22 Squadron was equipped with F.E.2bs, and was to operate as a reconnaissance unit tasked with locating enemy dumps, railheads and camps behind enemy lines. As Tyssen’s Log Book records he was up on patrol for the 1st Day of the Battle of the Somme, ‘Patrol & watched the intense...infantry attack.’ The Squadron met with considerable enemy opposition on their reconnaissance missions, and Tyssen was regularly involved in air combat. Examples of which include, 25 August 1916:

‘While on patrol at 8,500 feet over Combles we saw 2 H.A. flying over Guedecourt towards Flers at 4,500 feet. We dived on them and got on to the tail of one, firing a drum at about 80 yards. We then had the main petrol tank hit. We turned towards the H.A. and fired again just about at 50 yards range. Tracers were seen to enter the machine. One engine stopped and we turned West, crossing the lines at 3,000 feet and landed.’ (Combat Report refers)

And also, 24 September 1916, the combat which is mentioned in his M.C. citation, and is given in the Combat Report thus:

‘While on offensive patrol at 4.30 pm five H.A. (Type E) were encountered over Bus. Lt. Robarts and 2/Lt. Williams attacked one H.A. and it went down in a steep spiral and crashed at D.2. Central. This machine was seen to have one set of planes, crashed and was just at the edge of the road. It looked as if it had crashed into telegraph poles or wires. The crosses on the undamaged planes were clearly visible. Time 4.30pm.

At the same time one Roland was attacked by four other F.E.’s and was seen to go down in a vertical dive by all the pilots and observers, obviously out of control. At 4.35pm one H.A. of the same flock was noticed all alone. Capt. Tyssen and Lt. Clarke dived at him firing both guns. The H.A. went through the clouds in a vertical dive and was seen again through a gap still diving and very close to the ground. Both pilot and observer were sure that the machine was out of control, but they did not actually see it crash.

At. 5.30pm Lt. Robarts and 2/Lt. Williams attacked a H.A. (Type E) over the Wood St. Pierre Vaast, firing one and a half drums. It dived and then got into a steep spiral. They could not follow it to the ground. Later they saw a H.A. apparently upside down... which very probably was the same machine.’

The action is also noted in the Official History, The War in the Air:

‘Five FE’s of 22 Sqd were fighting an equal enemy formation at the same time over Bus, south of Bertincourt with greater success. Without loss to themselves they shot down one which crashed into a telegraph line, another which fell and overturned near the wood of St. Pierre Vaast and two others were seen in steep dives close to the ground.’

Other notable patrols carried out by Tyssen over the Somme in 1916, included, 15 September 1916. On the latter date tanks were used for the first time on the battlefield at Flers-Courcellete, and Tyssen’s Log Book records it thus, ‘Patrol for 1 hour before daylight to see the opening of the show. It was a wonderful sight & better than July 1st. Tanks first used.’

Tyssen completed his tour with 22 Squadron, and was posted to 51 (Home Defence) Squadron, Thetford, in October 1916. He advanced to Temporary Major, and Acting Squadron Commander in January 1917, and transferred as Squadron Commander to 36 (Home Defence) Squadron at Seaton Carew later the same month. Tyssen was invested with his M.C. at Buckingham Palace, 5 February 1917.

Having left 36 Squadron in December 1917, Tyssen was appointed to the command of 58 Squadron (FE2b’s) which was being mobilised at Dover prior to flying to France. He flew with his Squadron to St. Omer, 10 January 1918. The Squadron was employed as a night bombing unit tasked with attacks on enemy bases and communications behind the lines. Tyssen moved with the Squadron to it’s various bases, and continued to command until he crash landed, 24 June 1918. He was hospitalised as a result of his injuries and returned to England 8 July 1918.

Following a period of convalescence, Tyssen was posted to No. 1 School of Navigation and Bombing at Stonehenge, 16 August 1918. He saw out the war in command of No. 8 Training Depot Station, Netheravon and No. 4 (Training) Wing. Tyssen was promoted to Squadron Leader in 1919, and was posted to India the following year. He served as the commanding officer of 20 Squadron (Bristol F2b’s), Bannu, India from April 1920. The Squadron, which he commanded for 3 years, was engaged with policing the borders along the North West Frontier.

Tyssen was promoted to Wing Commander in January 1923, and returned to England to command No. 5 Wing, at Biggin Hill, from April 1923. He carried out a number of staff postings before being appointed to command and form the R.A.F. station at Tangmere in November 1926. After serving as the Senior Air Force Officer with the carrier H.M.S. Argus, Tyssen commanded R.A.F. Gosport April 1930 - March 1935. Having advanced to Group Captain in January 1931, he was appointed as Group Captain Training, HQ Fighting Area, Uxbridge, in March 1935. Tyssen was promoted Air Commodore in November 1935, and subsequent appointments included as AOC 12 Group, in 1937. Later the same year he was posted as Air Officer in charge of Administration, HQ British Forces in Iraq.

Tyssen advanced to Air Vice-Marshal, and was appointed AOC British Forces in Iraq, which position he held 1938-39. He still held this post with the outbreak of the Second War, but was invalided back to the UK in November 1939. Tyssen served as AOC No. 16 (Reconnaissance) Group, 1940-41, and had the honour of being received by H.M. King George VI, 13 March 1940. He was invested with the Companion of the Order of the Bath at Buckingham Palace, 21 October 1941, before retiring from the service the following year.

Despite retirement, Tyssen served as the Regional Air Liaison Officer for the North East, 1942-45. In later life he resided at Peteravy Lodge, Near Tavistock, Devon, and died at his son’s house in Farnham in January 1953.

Sold with the following original documents: Commission appointing J. H. S. Tyssen as a Second Lieutenant in the Volunteer Forces, dated 24 July 1907; Commission appointing J. H. S. Tyssen as a Major in the Royal Air Force, dated 1 November 1918; Commission appointing J. H. S. Tyssen as Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force, dated 2 August 1919 - all three mounted on card; M.I.D. Certificate, dated 11 August 1940; Aviator’s Certificate, No. 1624, complete with photograph; Pilot’s Flying Log Book (5 August 1915 - 8 August 1940), privately bound with hand-written career summary; named invitation to King George VI Coronation, with covering letter, and a file of copied research.