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War hero’s medals make £5.4k at auction
7:00pm Monday 30th September 2013 in News
THE medals of a Swindon war hero who fought in the skies above Britain and airlifted evacuees from an African revolution sold for more than £5,000 when they went under the hammer.
Wing Commander Paul Bingham Elwell, from Highworth, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for taking on five Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes in a dogfight near Cherbourg on June 26, 1944.
Bidders smashed auctioneer’s expectations when the price tag for the collection peaked at £5,400 at Moore Allen and Innocent’s selected antiques sale in Cirencester on Friday. The auction house had predicted the medals would go for somewhere between £3,000 to £5,000.
Born in 1910, and apprenticed as an engineer at the Great Western Railway Works in Swindon, Elwell started flying in 1932 and joined the RAFVR in 1939. After the war he continued to fly for commercial carriers in Africa.
He then moved to Uganda where – while working for Caspair Air Charters – he trained the first African pilot and was involved in the evacuation of European refugees from Belgian Congo during the country’s revolution – an act that won him an MBE.
On October 8, 1962, Elwell was coming in to land at Entebbe Airport in Uganda when he suffered a heart attack. His DH Rapide crashed and he was killed.
His son John Elwell, 64, of Lechlade-on-Thames, said it was a very difficult decision to part with the medals.
“It was not an easy decision,” said John. “I was his only son and my son now lives in Australia. I just felt my father would be happy to know his medals would go towards supporting his grandson.”
With the money John plans to buy land in Australia for his son to use.
“There is a lot of local interest about him. People always say he was the first man to land at Watchfield and they later turned it into an airfield.”
He said he hoped the new owners would keep his father’s memory alive.
“When people pay substantial amounts for things, this being to the sum of £5,000 it guarantees it will always be held in value,” added John.
Paul’s medals and war mementoes include a range from his DFC, MBE and a medallion awarded by the Belgian government, to epaulettes and cloth wings, flight logs, newspaper cuttings and his personal diary.
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