‘Real surprise’ in Honiton as medal of trailblazer WWII female pilot sells for £5,800 at auction

A medal belonging to one of Britain’s World War Two first-ever female test pilots auctioned in Honiton proved a ‘real surprise’ when it sold for £5,800.

The MBE belonging to trailblazer WW II pilot Joan Hughes, plus her Pike Trophy medal and a scrapbook charting her skills, sold for the ‘unexpectedly high’ sum last month during the two-day sale held by Chilcotts Auctioneers.

Auctioneer Duncan Chilcott said Joan’s war efforts associated with the MBE – awarded in 1946 – prompted high interest in the sale, reaching more than 20 times the estimated price when it went under the hammer in December 2020.

He said: “We were delighted with the amount of interest around Joan’s medal.

“Her story was so interesting and inspirational that it captured people’s imaginations.

“A civilian MBE will usually sell for around £100 so this was a real surprise.”

The auctioneer said change in public shopping habits since start of the pandemic had been reflected in the saleroom.

Last month’s auction attracted 984 online bidders, in addition to phone and commission interest, with Covid restrictions allowing no more than 10 people in the saleroom.

Chilcotts said three times the number of packages were sent out post-sale, as people shunned human contact to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The auction house has temporarily halted any further sales until at least March, in a bid to safeguard staff, vendors and buyers.

Liz Chilcott said: “As for everyone, the past months have been different – and challenging – in terms of managing a business.

“However, early on we worked hard to stay ahead of the curve introducing Covid security, not only at the saleroom but also during valuation visits to clients’ homes.”

She added: “At the end of 2020, unsurprisingly our turnover was slightly down but I’m pleased to say the drop isn’t drastic and despite the latest lockdown, we are in a robust position.

“This is in no small way due to the support of our customers and the commitment of our team.”

December sale items sold by the auction house included a vintage gold and diamond Rolex watch, fetching £11,000; a tiny marriage casket making £600, a small bronze incense burner selling for £720, plus a collection of drawings – including a sketch of Florence Nightingale – going for £800.

The auction house is expected to move to the Dolphin Salerooms, in Honiton High Street, at the end of February 2021.


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