Tiny gold Caterpillar Club pin awarded to WWII hero sells for more than £1,000 at Birmingham auction

2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction
2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction | Fellows Auctioneers / SWNS
A historic 2cm long jewellery item awarded to a World War II hero has sold for more than £1,000 at an auction in Birmingham

A tiny gold Caterpillar Club pin awarded to a rear gunner who bailed out of his burning plane in WWII has sold for more than £1,000.

The 2cm Caterpillar Club brooch is a tiny but significant token awarded to very few people. The Irvin parachute company gives them to those whose lives have been saved by one of their parachutes. 

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Members receive a membership card and a distinctive pin. Engraved with the owner’s name and sometimes rank, these pins serve as tangible symbols of the thrilling tales behind their acquisition.

This one was awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron whose Lancaster MK III Bomber ME741 was downed over Dusseldorf on a raid in April 1944. He passed out on the way down and was unconscious when he hit the ground. He came to and buried his parachute but was then accosted by an armed farmer and his son and handed over to the Germans.

2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction
2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auction | Fellows Auctioneers / SWNS

He became a POW in Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekrug, then Stalag 357 ‘Kopernikus’, at Thorn, now known as Toruń in Poland. He was finally released a year after bailing out on the 16th April 1945 by Monty’s Desert Rats.

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Of his ordeal he said after the plane was hit by flak: “My intercom went dead, the hydraulics ceased to function and my guns were unuseable.I rotated the turret by manual control but, from then on, I was a sitting duck. More flak followed and with the aircraft now on fire, I decided to leave the turret. 

"On entering the fuselage I came face to face with our wireless operator who had been sent back to see if I was still alive. He indicated that we were to bale out and I put on my parachute and followed him out of the rear door.”

He passed out with the force of the parachute opening but was unhurt despite landing unconscious. He buried his parachute and lit a cigarette whilst he decided how to get to Allied territory when the farmer appeared.

After interrogation he was moved to a holding building in the center of Dusseldorf when there was another air raid. He remembered thinking:  “Oh my God. Here we go. Not only do we drop them but they get dropped on you as well.”

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2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auctio2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auctio
2cm gold Caterpillar Club pin, awarded to Sgt Bernard John Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron, has sold for more than £1K at auctio | Fellows Auctioneers / SWNS

The pin was offered for sale at Fellows Auctioneers' Monies, Medals & Militaria sale, going for £1,170. The seller was a private individual who was given the piece by her mother in the 1980s after she had seen it in her jewellery box and loved it. 

Her mother was in turn given it by an aunt who had been given it after the war as a gift. Her mother can’t remember the exact story but believes it could have been a romantic gift and has been in their family ever since. 

The seller had no idea what it was until she saw something on the Antiques Roadshow. The buyer is a local collector and wishes to remain anonymous.  Although the brooch is worth around just £20 in terms of gold value, his story helped to secure the sale.

The gold caterpillar brooch has red, sometimes garnet, other times enamel, eyes. Raised gold stripes are lined along the body of the pin just like on the body of a caterpillar.

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Antiques specialist at Fellows Auctioneers, Alison Snowdon said: “To be offering it is a privilege to share the stories of bravery and heroism wrapped up in these little pins.Their potential for research and intrigue really is second to none. The potential to uncover the stories of why and how they were awarded never ceases to amaze me”.

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