One coming up at Special Auction Services of Newbury on June 15 doesn’t have an immediately obvious connection: a 7½in (19cm) high Steiff teddy bear c.1908.
However, this no ordinary bear, as evidenced by his name: ‘Squadron Leader Ted’. Not to mention the three miniature medals he is wearing, two from the Great War and the third a Second World War Defence Medal, for service in the Home Guard.
Ted was the childhood toy of Sidney Herbert Moy ('Bert'), born on December 17, 1899. By repute he was bought for Bert at Weston-Super-Mare in 1903 for 3s 6d., although obviously he dates from a later period.
Bert, from Coventry, initially joined the Royal Warwickshires shortly after turning 18 in January 1918, then quickly transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he probably went first to the No.2 School of Aviation, then to Waddington, before joining the 6th Squadron at Oxford in March 1918.
During his short career in the Great War, Bert ferried a succession of aircraft from England to the Western Front and Sqn Ldr Ted flew strapped to his master’s biplane on those numerous flights.
Sqn Ldr Ted is being sold by descent by Bert’s grandson and is estimated at £2000-3000. The grandson says: “Ted used to get covered in oil and soot. Grandfather’s flight sergeant used to dunk him in a bucket of aviation fuel, and that’s probably why he still has quite a lot of fur.”
Documents and photographs accompany Ted. “The aircraft in one photograph is a Maurice Farman Longhorn and my grandfather flew this aircraft type. He has written on the back ‘Maurice Farman Longhorn at Waddington Aerodrome near Lincolnshire’. These were in use as trainers in particular with RFC and used by several countries in combat.”
The second unusual RFC lot in question sold at Shropshire saleroom Trevanion & Dean on May 20.
Its connection to the RFC is immediately obvious, however.
A vendor called into the auctioneers’ Whitchurch premises with a large carved wooden panel depicting the insignia of the RFC (the RFC was founded in 1912 but became the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918, when it merged with the Royal Naval Air Force).
It is believed the carved panel may have formed part of the interior of an officers’ mess or official quarters during 1912-18 until the name change.
Auctioneer Aaron Dean says: “The wings were an absolute joy to see. They were a gift to the vendor’s husband, who was an ex-pilot and acquired them over 20 years ago. It is believed they may have been from a pub in the Chester area that was undergoing refurbishment and the wings were surplus to requirements.
"They have been languishing in the loft ever since and were on their way to the tip, following a spring clean, when the lady called in to one of our valuation days. It’s not the sort of thing we see regularly, or indeed ever. So it was difficult to put an estimate on them.”
On sale day the panel attracted attention from military historians, institutions, dealers and collectors alike. Bidders in the room, online and six phone bidders battled it before they finally sold to a bidder in the room for £4000.