17 September 2004
A well-documented Great War observer’s group of six awarded to Lieutenant T. W. Brockley, Royal Air Force (afterwards R.A.F.V.R.), who was decorated by the Russians for his services in No. 47 Squadron during the intervention 1919-20
British War and Victory Medals (Lieut., R.A.F. ); Defence and War Medals; Russian Order of St. Vladimir, 4th class breast badge, with swords, 38 x 38mm., gold and enamel, stamp marks on suspension eyelet, reverse centre missing; Russian Order of St. Stanislaus, large “double-sided” badge, with swords, 62 x 62mm., bronze-gilt and enamel, Kerensky period, representative of the recipient’s 3rd class insignia, mounted as worn, contact marks and polished, generally very fine unless otherwise stated (6) £1400-1800
Tom Ward Brockley was born at Middlesbrough in July 1898 and enlisted in July 1916, being posted to a Training Reserve Battalion. In August 1917, however, while stationed in Edinburgh, he was successfully recommended for a commission and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, gaining appointment as a 2nd Lieutenant and Observer.
Brockley subsequently served in No. 7 Squadron out in France and Belgium during the summer of 1918, when that unit was placed at the disposal of the Belgian Army for its offensive in the northern sector of the Front, flying R.E. 8s. Invalided home in September 1918, he did not see further active service, or not at least until being posted to South Russia in July 1919.
Joining No. 47 Squadron - otherwise known as “Collishaw’s Flying Circus” because it came under the command of the multi-decorated Canadian ace - Brockley would have been employed on numerous ground strafing and bombing missions in the unit’s D.H. 9s. Transportation to the battlefront was care of four special trains, one for each Flight and another for a mobile H.Q. Much of its work was afterwards described in detail in H. A. Jones’s history, Over the Balkans and South Russia, while further information maybe found in two or three pilot autobiographies, Collishaw’s among them.
One of the more notable events in No. 47’s Russian sojourn was the rescuing of a downed crew after a raid against Tcherni-Yar, another pilot landing nearby and taking-off with his two new occupants as enemy cavalry arrived on the scene - his own observer had to stand on the lower wing, his thumb blocking a bullet hole in one of the petrol tanks, while the newly arrived passengers crammed themselves into the rear cockpit.
On another raid against Tsaritsyn, one of the Squadron’s aircraft gained a direct hit with a 112lb. bomb on a building hosting the local Soviet meeting - just two out of 41 Red officers present emerged to tell the tale; and in another action, No. 47 caught around 5000 enemy horsemen out in the open, 1600 of whom fell to their accurate machine-gunning and bombing - or the White cossacks who were quickly on the scene. Then in September 1919, the Squadron carried out a three day sustained assault against a fleet of some 40 Red vessels that had assembled on the Volga to bombard Tsaritsyn, eventually sinking eleven of them and forcing a hasty Red retreat.
It was at this point that No. 47 was re-titled ‘A’ Squadron, largely as a result of minority opposition being voiced back in the home press, but such nominal amendments were all too late, for by the year’s end the White Russians were in full retreat. As a result, the Squadron’s special trains were ordered to withdraw towards the Crimea, ‘C’ Flight’s carriages nearly being captured by a pursuing Bolshevik train - Collishaw and his men eventually reached safety in early January 1920. The remainder of the Squadron was evacuated from Novorossiysk in March, but the surviving aircraft had to be destroyed.
While Brockley’s entitlement to a 3rd class Stanislaus with swords is verified in Brough’s published roll of White Russian Awards to British and Commonwealth Servicemen for the Allied Intervention in Russia 1918-20, his 4th class Vladimir has yet to be confirmed and is therefore worthy of further research. Interestingly, both awards caught the eye of the Duke of Kent at Edinburgh Castle in May 1935, during a ceremony to unveil the Scottish National War Memorial.
Accompanying photographs show Brockley wearing the uniform of a Flight Lieutenant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, but in exactly what capacity he served in the 1939-45 War remains unknown.
Sold with three Great War period photograph albums, the first black leather bound, with in excess of 300 images, commencing with aircraft and personnel while on active service in Belgium in August-September 1918, and incorporating subsequent postings to Egypt and Turkey through to operational flying in Russia 1919-20, and thence back to the U.K. with family/home scenes through to 1923, many of the R.A.F. photographs captioned, including the scenes from Russia, and as such an important and hitherto unpublished photographic record of that campaign; the second album bound in red cloth, with approximately 90 images, these largely covering postings and travel to Egypt, Malta, etc., in 1920, in addition to scenes from home later that year, once again with captioned aircraft and personnel photographs; and the third album green leather bound, with approximately 50 images, these largely of a “tourist” nature with landscape scenes, etc., taken in Egypt and Turkey; together with a quantity of other original documentation, including the recipient’s R.A.F. commission warrant, dated 1 November 1918.