MEDALS AWARDED TO
AVIATION LEGEND JOHN 'CAT'S EYES' CUNNINGHAM DOUBLE THEIR PRE SALE
ESTIMATE RAISING £384,000 FOR CHARITY
London. September 6, 2012. The outstanding collection of medals
and memorabilia relating to Group Captain John 'Cat's Eyes'
Cunningham, the highest-scoring night fighter ace of the Second
World War and pioneering chief test pilot for de Havilland during
the jet age, sold at Spink today for a staggering £384,000, more
than double their pre-sale estimate of £140,000-180,000. The
proceeds of this and the other 57 lots in the charity auction will
go directly to the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust
Mark Quayle, Head of Spink's Medals department, said: "We are
delighted with the result of the sale, which has generated a huge
sum of money for such a worthwhile cause. We hope that the funds
raised will go some way to helping the trust achieve its' overall
target and encourage those still to donate, to do so."
Speaking on behalf of the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust
Appeal, Brian Burridge, said: "The trust is hugely grateful to
Spink for facilitating this auction, which has generated enormous
interest. This underscores just how important the Battle of Britain
is in our national memory. The creation of a museum and learning
centre at Bentley Priory is designed to ensure that this memory
never fades. The funds raised today will help us to travel the last
mile of our final target of £1.2 million."
Cunningham's Honours and Awards include the C.B.E. (Commander of
the Order of the British Empire); the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service
Order) with 2 Bars; the D.F.C. (Distinguished Flying Cross) with
Bar; the 1939-1945 Star, with Battle of Britain Bar; the Air Crew
Europe Star; the War Medal, with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf;
the Air Efficiency Award; the American Silver Star; and the Soviet
Order of the Patriotic War First Class, and were offered with a
large related archive including the recipient's Flying Log Books
and various trophies, uniforms, and aviation memorabilia.
The proceeds from the sale are going towards a new education
centre and museum, as well as flying scholarships for young people.
This is an entirely fitting tribute that ensures the legacy of such
men is passed onto the next generation.
Cunningham first came to prominence in the night skies over
London during the 1940 Blitz, where he quickly achieved a number of
victories and gained national recognition with the British public.
Paraded as a hero by the Royal Air Force, he was given the
nick-name 'Cat's Eyes'- for the benefit of propaganda his uncannily
clear eyesight at night was attributed to the carrots that he ate,
when in reality it was due to the top-secret A.I. Radar system.
Bentley Priory served as the Headquarters of Fighter Command
during the Battle of Britain. It was from here that Air Chief
Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding controlled and directed the Battle between
10th July 1939 & 31st October 1940. It is a battle in
which Cunningham excelled and in which the courage of all those who
participated was pivotal, as its success averted a German invasion
and led the way for European liberation.
As the house was declared surplus by the Ministry of Defence, an
opportunity arose to tell its unique and important story for future
generations. The role of preserving this architecturally
significant building that played such a significant role in
national social and international military history was taken on by
The Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust. The Trust was
created by the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, whose members
are made up of the survivors of 'The Few' aircrew that fought in
the Battle of Britain. 'The Few' consider Bentley Priory their
After seven years of hard work and negotiation the Trust has
secured £11.6 million out of the total project costs of £13.4
million required to secure the long term future of the Priory and
to create a sustainable museum and learning centre that will
benefit a broad audience. The final hurdle is to raise £1.2 million
to fit out the museum. A bid for a Heritage Grant of £650,
000 has been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund who have already
generously awarded £45,000 towards the development work for the
The museum and learning centre will offer a state of the art
programme about the significance of the Battle of Britain and
provide information on citizenship and above all, history. The lots
offered in today's special charity auction, donated by the families
of those that have fallen, or were honoured for outstanding bravery
in action, and have since died, will make a significant
contribution to this worthy cause. The Trust is very grateful
to Spink for all of their generous support.