Daring World War II pilot Ken Gatward's medals auctioned

Wing Commander Ken Gatward, his medals and a cartoon depicting his wartime exploit
Image caption Wing Commander Ken Gatward, his medals and a cartoon depicting his wartime exploit

Medals awarded to a World War II pilot who risked his life to drop the French Tricolour over the Arc de Triomphe in occupied Paris in 1942 are being auctioned.

Wing Commander Ken Gatward, who lived in Essex, first flew his Bristol Beaufighter down the Champs-Elysees in the operation to boost French morale.

He then machine-gunned the Gestapo headquarters.

His eight medals are expected to make £8,000 at auction on Friday.

Colchester auctioneer's Reeman Dansie are auctioning the items following the death of Wing Cdr Gatward's widow.

They had lived near Frinton-on-Sea and Wing Cdr Gatward died in 1998, aged 84.

In a Bristol Beaufighter of RAF Coastal Command, Wing Cdr Gatward and his crew flew over the main streets of the capital at the level of third-floor windows.

'Boy's Own' hero

People in the Champs-Elysees watched as the French Tricolour streamed from the fuselage of the aircraft and floated down on to the Arc de Triomphe.

The airmen then attacked Gestapo Headquarters dropping another flag in the hope it would fall across the front door.

Wing Cdr Gatward's gallantry was rewarded with his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in July 1942.

He received a second DFC in September 1944 where he participated in an operation which resulted in the destruction of a German Convoy and, despite sustaining serious damage to his aircraft, flew safely back to base.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in June 1944 and Mentioned in Despatches in January 1944.

The medal group are official replacements because the originals were lost.

Press cuttings including cartoons of the Paris attack, original photographs and congratulatory telegrams are included in the lots.

Head auctioneer at Reeman Dansie, James Grinter, said: "I am privileged to be selling the collection. He was such a brave and interesting character - a real 'Boy's Own' hero."

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