An Independent Family-Owned Newspaper
Follow us on:
Subscribe to our RSS News Feed
An extraordinary collection to go under the hammer
Thursday, 06 September 2012
THE term ‘hero’ may be one which is rather overused today, but a man who could undoubtedly be described as just that was legendary RAF figure Robert ‘Pinpoint’ Bateson.
Air Vice Marshal Bateson, who lived at Weir Quay, distinguished himself during daring RAF raids on German targets in the second world war and earned himself the nickname of ‘Pinpoint’ by dropping a bomb right through the Gestapo headquarters’ front door in the Hague, Holland.
A painting of the attack by the Mosquitos of No 613 Squadron and Bob Bateson’s medals, along with his Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Service Order and Bar, are among medals and memorabilia which will be auctioned by Spink and Son of Bloomsbury today (Thursday).
The collection, which also includes his 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Africa Star, Pacific Star as well as decorations from Denmark and Holland in grateful recognition of his wartime service, is estimated to raise between £20,000 and £50,000.
The last time this particular medal collection was auctioned was in 1998, when they were sold to a private collector of RAF gallantary medals.
No doubt the former RAF pilot would be delighted to know that proceeds from the auction will go towards the creation of a Battle of Britain Museum near Stanmore, in north west London — where the medals and memorabilia will go on public display.
Oliver Pepys, medal specialist at Spink and Son who is conducting the auction, told the Times: ‘Apart from being a superb pilot and leader of men, he took part in extraordinary bombing missions and in one of the most famous raids of the second world war.
‘The raid was not just the usual military or industrial target, but the headquarters of what was a very evil organisation, the Gestapo.
‘His bombs smashed through their front door — he wasn’t called Pinpoint for nothing!
‘By his actions, and that of the other RAF personnel who took part, there is no doubt the raid had a huge humanitarian impact, as it helped saved the lives of many resistance fighters imprisoned there, or whose lives would have been comprimised if it had not taken place.’
Bob Bateson, a proud member of Weir Quay Yacht Club and who lived at Weir Quay, died in 1986, at the age of 73.
The ‘Aviation collection’ as described by top auctioneers Spink is a reminder of the remarkable achievements and heroic exploits of this quietly spoken man who ‘brought a touch of inspired genius to attacking some of the most difficult targets of the whole war.’
Air Vice-Marshal Robert Norman Bateson was born at Barcombe, Chailey, Sussex in 1912, and educated at Hove High School and Watford Grammar School.
He joined the Royal Air Force in 1936 and was posted as pilot officer to No 113 Squadron in 1937, moving with his Squadron in 1938 to the Middle East.
On June 11, 1940, a few hours after Italy’s declaration of war, he attacked El Adem aerodrome in what is believed to be one of the first strikes by an Allied Squadron against the Italians.
During the Libyan Campaign he rose to the command of No 113 Squadron and was blown up by a booby trap, suffering corrosive acid burns to his face.
At the end of 1941 he was appointed to the command of No 211 Squadron, then destined for Singapore, but, when the island fell to the Japanese in February 1942, he commanded it instead at Sumatra, until that too was overrun.
Bob Bateson escaped via Australia, and in June 1942 was appointed to the command of No 11 Squadron in Ceylon.
By the time he returned to the UK in 1943, the Mosquito had emerged as one of the fastest and most formidable weapons of the war. After a stint at 13 OTU Bateson was given command of No 613 Squadron, equipped with Mosquitos at RAF Lasham.
The squadron under Bateson’s command opened 1944 with repeated low-level precision attacks against V1 flying bomb sites in Northern France.
But the most spectacular of all its operations was undoubtedly the precision daylight raid made on April 11, 1944 when Bateson, leading six aircraft, succeeded in destroying the Gestapo archives housed in the Kunstzaal Kleizcamp in the Hague.
The operational requirement was for the destruction of the archive alone, without harming the surrounding buildings, a feat virtually achieved by Bateson’s bombing run alone.
Describing the raid for The Times of London he said: ‘l came down, and we went in on what was virtually a perfect practice bombing run.
‘The building was a five storey affair — I should say about 90 feet high.
‘We bombed from below the height of the building at about 50 feet. I was a bit worried about my port wing catching the spire of the Peace Palace.
‘I could not see what happened myself, but my number two told me he could follow my bombs all the way down, and that two went bang through the front door and the other two went through the two big windows on each side of the doorway.
‘I was a bit worried about the two wing bombs: if any of us had been the least bit too much to port or starboard we should have hit one of the next door houses.
‘We all bombed dead on, and the incendiaries did their stuff beautifully.’
On this occasion Bateson’s customary prosaic log book-style gave way to comparative exuberance: ‘Daylight attack leading six aircraft on single house in centre of The Hague. House completely demolished. Whoopee!’
An Air Ministry bulletin acclaimed the Hague strike as ‘probably the most brilliant feat of low-level precision bombing of the war’.
In early 1945, crippling Gestapo infiltration of the Danish Resistance prompted those still at liberty to send out the following urgent call for help on March 15: ‘Military leaders arrested and plans in German hands. Situation never before so desperate.
‘Remaining leaders known by Hun. We are regrouping but need help.
‘Bombing of S D Copenhagen will give us breathing space. If any importance is attached at all to Danish resistance you must help us irrespective cost.’
The Gestapo’s Copenhagen headquarters were housed in Shell Oil Company’s former head office.
Bateson and his navigator, Squadron Leader ‘Daisy’ Sismore would lead 20 Mosquitos to the target, where 18 would make the attack and two, of the Film Production unit, would record it.
‘Operation Carthage’ took place on March 21, 1945, flying from Fersfield in Essex.
Take-off was scheduled for the next morning at 08.40 hours so that the attack would take place at the height of the Gestapo’s morning work.
In Copenhagen, the Gestapo had unimaginatively camouflaged the Shellhuset with green and brown paint — the only office block in the city so decorated!
The Nazis also let it be known that they had converted the sixth floor of the building into a 22 cell prison for their most valuable Danish prisoners.
Air Vice-Marshal Embry, who flew in the first wave of Mosquitos, recalled ‘rarely flying 'behind a better leader than Bob Bateson’.
Embry remembered a rough and boisterous flight across the North Sea at 50 feet.
‘At times we had to pull up to avoid high-tension cables, trees and other obstructions, but our mean height was below tree-top level.
‘It was an invigorating and satisfying sensation, especially as we were on our way to strike another blow at the evil Gestapo’.
With Sismore navigating a perfect course to the target, check point after check point flashed past until the Shellhuset raced into view.
Sismore had the bomb doors open, and Bateson pressed the release. The incendiary from Bateson’s Mosquito thundered into the building between the first and second floors, followed by that of the second Mosquito and then by Embry’s.
Between 100 and 200 Gestapo workers perished, and yet only ten of the prisoners held on the sixth floor lost their lives.
Less than a month after the Shellhuset Raid, Bateson led six aircraft on one last low-level daylight operation against the Gestapo’s sole remaining HQ in Denmark, to ensure that they were unable to re-group.
The target was situated on the Island of Odense and was completely destroyed.
There were no losses to the civilian population, nor the attacking aircraft or the Mustang escort, and 121 Gestapo were killed.
In May 1945 he made a pilgrimage to Denmark and was received as a hero.
Several men, who had been undergoing torture in the Copenhagen HQ when his force had arrived overhead, told him personally that they owed their lives to him.
He twice dined with the Queen and Crown Prince and on the May 22, 1945, in a heart-felt and successful effort to safeguard the financial future of Danish child war victims, he climaxed a fundraising air show at Kastrup by leading an exhilarating low-level Mosquito fly-past.
After the war Bateson continued in the RAF and was promoted to Air Commodore in 1958 and Air Vice-Marshal in 1960.
He retired in 1967.
With the proceeds of this collection going fittingly to the Battle of Britain museum there is perhaps no more fitting legacy for this extraordinary man who was a proud member of Weir Quay yacht club.
All content © of Tavistock Times Gazette unless stated otherwise.
Comments on this news item:
Be the first to comment using the form below.
Add your comment:
Something to sell?