A silver bowl given to a first world war airman who won the Victoria Cross for shooting down enemy planes while wearing his pyjamas is expected to fetch up to £12,000 at auction.
Flight Lieutenant Alan Jerrard was in bed asleep having been stood down for the day when the order came through for him to jump into his Sopwith Camel biplane and fly a mission.
Jerrard, 20, did not have time to change so slipped his flying suit over his pyjamas and still had them on when he was captured by the Austro-Hungarian enemy after a ferocious dogfight.
Rupert Slingsby, from the auctioneers Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury, Wiltshire, said the bowl was a fine Edwardian piece that would normally be worth £4,000 but its association with Jerrard’s colourful story meant it could go for treble that.
He said: “Alan Jerrard was the winner of the so-called ‘pyjama VC’ and his story is one of the most remarkable of world war one.”
Jerrard was a member of 66 Squadron based in northern Italy in 1918. On 30 March he – in his nightwear – and two other pilots were involved in a dogfight with at least 19 enemy planes.
According to the British pilots (whose account was disputed by their Austro-Hungarian opponents), Jerrard shot down three enemy planes while the other two pilots shot down a further three between them.
Jerrard also launched an attack, flying as low as 15 metres (50ft), on an enemy aerodrome, strafing planes as they tried to take off.
He only withdrew when ordered to do so by his patrol leader and he was then pursued by five enemy aircraft.
Jerrard was forced to crash land and was taken prisoner. When his bulky suit was removed his captors were surprised to find he was in his pyjamas.
While still being held captive, Jerrard was awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation said he had displayed “bravery and ability of the very highest order”. He escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Salzburg and died at his home in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1968.
The silver punch bowl was presented by members of the Staffordshire Territorial Force Association. The son of a Birmingham headmaster, Jerrard began his military career with the South Staffordshire Regiment before he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.
The sale takes place on 18 July in Salisbury.
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