However, the group that made a world record auction price for an RAF Victoria Cross on April 27 reflected exceptional bravery in another, often forgotten, theatre.
Offered at London saleroom Spink with an estimate of £350,000-450,000, the VC group of five awarded posthumously to Squadron Leader ASK ‘Pongo’ Scarf sold for £550,000 (£660,000 with premium).
That result beat the previous highest sum, the £290,000 hammer, also set by Spink, in November 2009 for the VC awarded to Flight Lt Bill Reid, 61 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
By December 1941 Scarf was in command of 62 Squadron who were flying Blenheims close to the Malay-Thai border when the Japanese attacked.
Having hurriedly moved to Butterworth airfield in Malaya, the need to stem the rapid advancement and devastating aerial bombardments coming out of Singora saw Scarf take to the air.
Every single Blenheim in his flight except his was shot up before they could even get ‘wheels up’. So the responsibility fell squarely on his shoulders to make the daring raid alone and without fighter support.
Scarf made his bombing run despite being constantly harassed but was mortally wounded on the return journey, having his left arm shattered and several holes in his chest and back. Somehow, with the assistance of his two sergeants – and barely conscious – he managed to crash-land at Alor Star.
He was rushed to the hospital and swiftly administered morphia and two pints of blood donated by a nurse who was a blood match – that nurse turned out to be his wife, whom he had been married to only for a few months; she was carrying their unborn child.
It was not until nearly five years later that his ultimate sacrifice was recognised with the VC.
King George presented the VC to his widow Sally at Buckingham Palace on June 30, 1946.
The medal was consigned to auction by family and the vendor was present when it sold to a private collector, also in the room. Marcus Budgen of Spink said it showed the strength in depth of the medals market that four bidders were involved – one in the room, one commission and two phones – in taking the price from £350,000 to when the hammer fell.
He added: “It was a very emotional sale; some VC sales are not so emotional, involving medals won maybe 150 years ago, but the family here wanted it to memorialise his achievements in what was a ‘forgotten war’.”
The rarity of flying VCs helped the result – only 26 given to the RAF to date (half posthumously). Four VCs were awarded for the Battle of Malaya; just this one for the RAF.