£150,000 for the medals of a 'Wing Commander of outstanding merit'

As we write, a wealth of exceptional and historic militaria is going under the hammer at Spink's auction of Orders, Decorations, Campaign Medals and Militaria in London - a definite early contender for 'collectible medals sale of the year.'

So-far, the auction's sold lots have included the first-ever Victoria Cross medal awarded to a British soldier, Major J S Knox, of his services in the Crimean War.

Also among the medals offered to lucky collectors is a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) group which, in a less exceptional auction, would be considered far-and-away the standout lot.

The DSO group of medals was awarded to pilot Captain P H "Dutch" Hugo for his services in World War Two, and is among the greatest testaments to military bravery ever to auction.

A cursory glance at Hugo's (born Petrus Hendrik Hugo in South Africa, in 1917) recommendations from senior officers uncovers numerous references his skill, leadership and bravery in combat...

"[Hugo] is credited with 13 enemy aircraft destroyed... His work and enthusiasm to seek out the enemy was inspiration to all pilots in his wing," reads a dispatch to the London Gazette in May 1942.

"I consider him both a Squadron Commander and Wing Commander of outstanding merit."

"He has at all times set a magnificent example for coolness and gallantry when on active operations," writes another officer in the same report. "And I very strongly recommend him for the DSO."

Soon recognised among peers for his exceptional skills as a pilot and marksman, Hugo's first victory came in 1939 with the shooting-down of a Heinkel III during his time with the 615 Squadron.


Captain P H "Dutch" Hugo's DSO group of medals, sold for £150,000

According to records, at least five of Hugo's 22 victories were made during the Battle of Britain. On July 14, for instance, his section engaged three Stukas. All three were shot down, two of them by Hugo.

A week later, Hugo's virtuosic flying continued to build his reputation. This including successfully felling a German Messerschmitt, after his Spitfire's engine had stopped and both aircraft were in a freefall at 3,000 ft.

Afterwards spotting the German pilot bobbing in the waters below, Hugo radioed for a launch to be sent out for his safe rescue.

Not long afterwards, Hugo would also be shot down himself in another battle - "shot up by Me 110s," say records - having returned to combat just two days are sustaining injuries in another flight.

It was while in hospital suffering from severe injuries that Hugo learned that he had been awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Two more bars would be added to his DFC, in 1941 and 1943.

Thereafter, Hugo's prestigious career included a meeting with Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill (as his Squadron's Air Commodore) and promotion to Group Captain of the 322 Wing in North Africa.

By then, he was aged just 24-years-old.

Sixty-eight years later, Hugo's legacy remains in his group of nine medals. They auctioned at Spink today (April 22) with an estimate of £100,000-120,000.

Hugo's DSO group includes the triple-barred DFC, 1939-1945 Star (with Battle of Britain Bar), Air Crew Europe Star (with France and Germany Bar), Africa Star (with North Africa 1942-43 Bar), Italy Star, Defence and War Medals, American Distinguished Flying Cross and French Republic Croix de Guerre 1939-45.

The group was sold with various recommendations and letters from senior officers, several pieces of shrapnel and a bullet removed from Hugo himself, and other memorabilia of the true stories behind Hugo's exceptional life and achievements during WW2.

Unsurprisingly given the medal's incredible provenance, the lot sold for £150,000 including buyer's premium.

 

 

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