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RAF Victoria Cross

Call goes out for the public to dig deep and help keep historical RAF medal in the UK

A FRESH appeal has been made for the UK public to back a campaign to keep a medal intrinsically linked to the RAF in this country, with one of World War Two’s most important artefacts at risk of finding a home overseas.

Sqn Ldr Arthur Stewart King Scarf

(Sqn Ldr Arthur Stewart King Scarf)

The Victoria Cross awarded to Squadron Leader Arthur ‘Pongo’ Scarf was purchased last year by an overseas buyer, a price of £660,000 paid for the VC along with four other medals awarded to one of No. 62 Squadron’s most famous names.

But it is the VC that is of primary significance, being the only one presented for actions in the Far East, given posthumously to the widow of Sqn Ldr Scarf, Elizabeth; better known as Sally, she was pregnant with the couple’s child and working as a nurse at Alor Star Hospital in what was then Malaya when her husband was killed

Bristol Blenheim I bombers from 62 Squadron in Malaya, 1941

(Bristol Blenheim I bombers from 62 Squadron in Malaya, 1941)

Scarf’s heroics saw him spearhead a daylight raid on Japanese forces in Singora, Malaya on December 9, 1941, his Bristol Blenheim flying alone with all other aircraft destroyed or disabled before taking off from Butterworth – Scarf airborne just seconds before Japanese aircraft attacked. Under constant attack from enemy fighter aircraft, he and his crew were determined to complete their mission, carrying out the bombing run before turning for home. More attacks came on the return journey and during the mission Scarf was hit in his arm and back, drifting in and out of consciousness before crash-landing at Alor Star, his plane riddled with bullets but all crew safe except Scarf.

After arriving at the hospital where his wife was working, he succumbed to his injuries two hours later, despite Sally donating blood in the hope of saving her husband. Known to his family as John and to colleagues and friends as Pongo, Wimbledon-born Arthur was just 28 when he died. 

Scarf's headstone at Taiping War Cemetery 

(Scarf's headstone at Taiping War Cemetery)

Chaos followed in Malaya as Japanese forces advanced with many British personnel heading south, and many records were lost or destroyed, with Scarf’s heroism only coming to light in 1946 – the Victoria Cross was presented to Sally by King George VI in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The two other crewmen on Scarf’s plane were also given awards for their courage during the action: Sergeant (later Squadron Leader) Paddy Calder was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal and Sergeant Cyril Rich, who was killed in action in 1943, posthumously mentioned in Dispatches. 

The VC is the highest decoration for valour in the British armed forces, with only 22 awarded to RAF personnel during the whole of WW2, and just one for their service in the Far East. After being on display for many years, it was put up for sale last year by Scarf’s family. 

It is seen as one of the most important VCs awarded during World War Two, with the RAF Museum now appealing to people to join a gofundme campaign to raise enough to buy the medal back, and prevent it leaving these shores.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) recommended the export licence application for the VC be deferred to January 27 this year. At the end of that period, owners will have 15 days to consider any offers at the recommended price of £660,000 plus VAT of £22,000 which can be reclaimed by an eligible institution.  

RAF Museum historian and head of collections, Dr Harry Raffal, said: “Not only does Squadron Leader Scarf’s VC represent his outstanding devotion to duty and supreme act of bravery, it is also a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by all the British and Commonwealth service personnel fighting in the Far East, and the role of the RAF within this context.

“This unique medal is part of our nation’s heritage, and a significant element to a decisive moment in British history.

“There is an imminent risk of it leaving the UK, but we’re hopeful that with public support we can prevent this from happening, and for the medal to remain on our shores. If we’re successful, the medal will be displayed at the Museum in London, in the heart of our collection, helping us to share the stories of all those RAF personnel who fought, lived and died in the conflict.” 

Fundraiser by ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM : Save the Scarf VC (gofundme.com)

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