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Unsung North East hero shot down twice as many deadly V1 bombs as anyone else

A collection of medals awarded to the World War II hero known as ‘The Doodlebug Champion' is set to generate great excitement among militaria and local history collectors when it comes up for auction in Newcastle.

Rare medals awarded to RAF Squadron Leader Joseph Berry, who grew up in County Durham and Northumberland, will be a major highlight of the Anderson and Garland Fine Art Sale on June 16 and 17, which also includes medals dating from the Battle of Waterloo and World War I.

Berry was born in Quarrington, Co. Durham and moved to Stampeth near Alnwick where he attended The Dukes School, where his name stands on their roll of honour for lives lost during the Second World War.

Anderson and Garland is auctioning the amazing collection of Berry’s medals and items relating to his wartime achievements on behalf of his descendants. They include the Distinguished Flying Cross and double bar, War medal, War star, The Air Crew Europe star with France and Germany clasp, The Italy star, The Africa star with North Africa 1942-43 clasp and Defence medal, all with ribbons. There is also a Gregory and Quilter parachute survivor lapel badge, dated 12th April 1943 and inscribed to Berry, given to him after surviving his first bail out, photographs, letters from a grateful nation, newspaper cuttings and magazine articles.

There is also a short history about Berry’s life called Doodlebug Champion, written by Squadron Leader Howard Williams DFC, who flew with him.  

You can hear a recording of Berry describing how he destroyed these flying bombs dating from September 8, 1944 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz1o_Bxscpg&feature=youtu.be. 

A month later, he was dead, his aircraft brought down by ground fire over Holland, where he is buried.  His last message radioed to his comrades was: “I’ve had it chaps, you go on.”

The collection has been stored in a suitcase for decades and Berry’s niece Chris Cann now wants more people to learn about her uncle’s life and heroic deeds.

Mrs Cann from Rothbury, said: “We were very lucky to take Aunty Joyce, Uncle Joe’s widow, to Holland where he was shot down. We laid flowers on his grave and joined in the celebration given by the village of Scheemda for him. It was touching to hear how people there felt about him and learn more about how brave he was – they clearly viewed him as a hero.

“Aunty Joyce wore the medal there and after that, it was put away in a suitcase.”

Berry was her father’s brother and the family remained close to Joyce after her husband’s death. She left the collection to Mrs Cann’s son Alex.

Mrs Cann added: “My son thought long and hard about selling the collection but I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

“It’s a lovely collection with a lot of history. I think people need to know about it and we’d like to share it. 

“It still makes me feel emotional thinking about Uncle Joe; he had such as a short life. I said to my son, ‘We need to learn from him and try to live as fearlessly and bravely as Uncle Joe did.’”

The Berry collection is estimated to make £5,000 to £8,000 but it could sell for much more.

Anderson and Garland militaria specialist Fred Wyrley-Birch said: “Joseph Berry really was an unsung hero and this collection is as rare as it gets. He shot down twice as many Doodlebugs as anybody else.

“To put it into context, there were 20,000 DFCs issued in the Second World War, of them 1,550 DFCs were awarded one bar, but there were only 42 double bars during the whole war. The bars were given in recognition of further heroic and gallant acts after receiving the medal. None of Berry’s friends even knew he had a DFC.

“In the history of his life, there is a story about how Berry kept morale up. They were night time flyers, because this was the only time you could see the Doodlebugs. One night, there was bad cloud cover and no one wanted to go up. Berry got fed up of waiting, jumped into his plane and flew a mission where he shot a couple of Doodlebugs. He came back, walked into the bar and said: ‘That’s how it’s done.’

“His heroics are commemorated in a museum near where he was shot down in Holland.”

The Anderson and Garland auction is also selling a number of other interesting medals. They include one from the Battle of Waterloo, which is currently being remembered on its bicentenary. The Waterloo Medal was awarded to John Moore of the Coldstream Foot Guards.

Additionally there is a collection of First World War medals, including a Military Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal – ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’ - awarded to 16 Lieutenant Thomas Christopher Maynard of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Maynard became a colliery agent in the North East after the war.

This sold on Wednesday 17th June 2015 at Anderson House for £17,500.00.

 

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