22 April 2010

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm,
18 Squadron, Royal Air Force

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1939-45 Star
  • Air Crew Europe Star
  • Africa Star
    • clasp: "North Africa 1942-43"
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Wing Commander Hugh Malcolm, 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force, have been sold at auction by Spink of London. The auction took place on Thursday, 22nd April 2010 and the sale of the VC realised a hammer price of £210,000 ( estimate £180,000 - £220,000 ). The VC was purchased by the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC collection.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 27 April 1943 ], Chouigui Area, Tunisia, North Africa, 17 November - 4 December 1942, Wing Commander Hugh Gordon Malcolm, 18 Squadron ( Blenheim V Light Bombers ), Royal Air Force.

This officer commanded a squadron of light bombers in North Africa. Throughout his service in that theatre his leadership, skill and daring were of the highest order.

On 17th November 1942, he was detailed to carry out a low-level formation attack on Bizerta airfield, taking advantage of cloud cover. Twenty miles from the target the sky became clear, but Wing Commander Malcolm carried on, knowing well the danger of proceeding without a fighter escort. Despite fierce opposition, all bombs were dropped within the airfield perimeter. A Junkers 52 and a Messerschmitt 109 were shot down: many dispersed enemy aircraft were raked by machine gun fire. Weather conditions became extremely unfavourable and as a result, two of his aircraft were lost by collision: another was forced down by enemy fighters.

It was due to this officer's skilful and resolute leadership that the remaining aircraft returned safely to base.

On 28th November 1942, he again led his squadron against Bizerta airfield which was bombed from a low altitude. The airfield on this occasion was heavily defended and intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire was met. Nevertheless, after his squadron had released their bombs, Wing Commander Malcolm led them back again and again to attack the airfield with machine gun fire.

These were typical of every sortie undertaken by this gallant officer: each attack was pressed to an effective conclusion however difficult the task and however formidable the opposition.

Finally, on 4th December 1942, Wing Commander Malcolm, having been detailed to give close support to the First Army, received an urgent request to attack an enemy fighter airfield near Chouigui. Wing Commander Malcolm knew that to attack such an objective without a fighter escort - which could not be arranged in the time available - would be to court almost certain disaster: but believing the attack to be necessary for the success of the Army's operations, his duty was clear. He decided to attack.

He took off with his squadron and reached the target unmolested, but when he had successfully attacked it his squadron was intercepted by an overwhelming force of enemy fighters. Wing Commander Malcolm fought back, controlling his hard-pressed squadron and attempting to maintain formation. One by one his aircraft were shot down until only his own aircraft remained. In the end he, too, was shot down in flames.

Wing Commander Malcolm's last exploit was the finest example of the valour and unswerving devotion to duty which he constantly displayed.

Wing Commander Malcolm's aircraft was seen to crash and erupt in flames some 15 miles west of the target. An infantry officer and two other men arrived at the scene of the crash only minutes later and, despite the intense heat and detonating ammunition, were successful in retrieving the body of Pilot Officer James Robb, the navigator. Hugh Malcolm, James Robb and James Grant DFC, were buried in the Beja War Cemetery in a collective grave.


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Iain Stewart, 22 April 2010