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Johnson was recognised as the top scoring pilot of WWII. He died in January a year ago, leaving instructions that his medals should be auctioned. The atmosphere in the room became tenser as the bidding was augmented. It fell to a private buyer in this country and it is a relief to report that such an emotive group will stay in this country. The Hendon Museum was the very disappointed underbidder. David Erskine-Hill, the director of medals at Spink and the auctioneer on the day, said: “Let us hope that it (the group) might be loaned for public display.”

The previous world record for a group of medals was the $400,000 set on October 1997 for the campaign awards to Lieutenant John McCrae, the Canadian war poet who wrote In Flanders Fields.

Dix Noonan Webb had their sale on December 4. They sold a group of 12 medals won by Air Vice-Marshal H.V. Champion de Crespigny for £6200. DNW’s total for orders, decorations and medals in 2001 was £1.6m, a very slight decrease (four per cent) on the year before, caused by the fact that they sold no Victoria Cross groups. In 1999 they had four. This indicates a general increase in the material that they offer. Only a “suit” would differ. For the second year running they have done better than their main rivals Spink and for the third time in the last seven years.