BBC News

Black WW1 pilot's ID bracelet sells for thousands at Kent auction

Published
Related Topics
  • World War One
image copyrightG&K Auctioneers
image captionSgt William Robinson Clarke was injured flying over German lines during WW1

An identity bracelet belonging to a man believed to be the first black pilot to serve in the Royal Flying Corps during World War One has been sold at auction.

Sgt William Robinson Clarke, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1895 paid for his own travel to England to enlist so he could help the war effort.

He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, which later merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force in 1918.

The bracelet sold for £3,800.

It had been expected to fetch between £100 and £150.

image copyrightC&K Auctioneers
image captionSgt Clarke's identity bracelet had a guide price of between £100 and £150

C&T Auctioneers, in Ashford in Kent, described the bracelet as an "historically interesting" identification bracelet of the "first black pilot to serve with the RFC during WW1".

The auctioneers said: "Sgt Clarke's flying career was very brief, like so many pilots at the time."

On the morning of 28 July 1917 his plane was attacked by German scouts while flying a reconnaissance mission over Ypres, five miles inside German lines.

He was seriously wounded and lost consciousness and his observer brought the plane down over British lines.

The auctioneers said in a letter written to his mother after the action he wrote: "I was doing some photographs a few miles the other side when about 5 Hun Scouts came down upon me, and before I could get away, I got a bullet through the spine."

image copyrightG&K Auctioneers
image captionSgt Clarke stayed in the RAF as a mechanic after he was injured

He recovered from his wounds but was deemed medically unfit to fly again. He was awarded the Silver War Badge.

Sgt Clarke, who died on 26 April 1981, returned to Jamaica after the war and was made life president of the island's Royal Air Forces Association.

Follow BBC South East on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Send your story ideas to southeasttoday@bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics