Adding to the collectable kudos of such an elite regiment was the provenance given by auction house C&T (22% buyer’s premium): this hat belonged to actor Richard Todd, who served with 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment on D-Day, helping Major Howard and his glider force from the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry to hold Pegasus Bridge on June 6, 1944.
Remarkably, as a Hollywood star Todd even portrayed Howard in the film The Longest Day (1962), wearing this very beret, it is believed.
It was accompanied by a signed autograph album page by Todd and three document folders with personal correspondence and paperwork.
Todd was discharged from the army in 1946 and continued to pursue his love of acting. This finally paid off and he became one of England’s most famous actors of the early 1950-60s etc. His first major film role was his portrayal of Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC in The Dam Busters (1955).
This beret and paperwork was all discovered when his property was cleared after his death in 2009 and had been in a private collection since.
Estimated at £3000-5000 in the February 17-18 auction, the beret sold online for £7000 to a private UK-based collector.
Another British airborne beret sold to the UK trade for a low-estimate £2000 had belonged to Royal Artillery Colonel Patrick Anthony Porteous. He won the Victoria Cross during the disastrous 1942 Dieppe Raid while attached to the No 4 Commando.
He was badly wounded at Dieppe but was later posted to No 1 Air Landing Light Regiment RA. In June 1945 he was posted to 53 Air Landing Light Regiment RA with which he served in Palestine from November 1945 to March 1946, then HQ RA 16th Airborne Division until January 1947 as Brigade Major. From February 1948 to April 1949 he was Battery Commander with the 33rd Airborne Light Regiment.
Part of the lot was an original handwritten and signed letter from Porteous to the current vendor gifting him this beret on October 12, 1977.
Dress to impress
Also in this sale, a rare 1945 pair of special pattern battle dress trousers issued to British paratroopers more than doubled top estimate at £6200. Special features included a leg pocket for the famed Fairbairn Sykes knife.
The same owner’s British airborne forces Denison smock made £520, just over estimate. The smock – a coverall jacket – was designed to be worn over ordinary battle dress and webbing but under the parachute harness, to prevent snagging.
C&T director Matthew Tredwen said: “These two items were handed into a charity shop in Essex along with a quantity of other various unrelated military clothing. They were brought to us for evaluation and eventually consigned.
“The trousers are very rare to find and as such we thought that we would have a lot of interest from both the trade and private collectors. They eventually sold to a private collector online, beating our strong commission bids and phone bidder from France.
“The smock also performed well considering its condition and date being 1945, which is not always popular with collectors. This sold to an internet bidder from the UK.”