Hero's medals up for auction

A prestigious military decoration awarded to a Bermudian First World War hero will be auctioned in England next week — and a local relative of the recipient is planning to bid.

Lieutenant Arthur Rowe Spurling, from Hamilton, was given the WWI Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918 after he flew his bomber into the centre of a formation of some 30 German planes and he and his observer shot three down in flames and sent two others crashing to the ground.

His family is now selling his medal, along with memorabilia connected to the late officer's distinguished military career, including a postcard sent to his half-sister Ethel in Bermuda after he was injured twice on the front line.

  • <b>Lt. Arthur Rowe Spurling</b>, Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, the Lincolnshire Regiment and Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force veteran of the First and Second World Wars, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down (with his gunner) five German aircraft in one action in 1918 and another plane a few weeks later.

    Lt. Arthur Rowe Spurling, Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, the Lincolnshire Regiment and Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force veteran of the First and Second World Wars, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down (with his gunner) five German aircraft in one action in 1918 and another plane a few weeks later.

  • <b>Rowe Spurling's</b> Distinguished Flying Cross (left) and 1915 Star trio group with supporting documents and other mementos from the Bermudian's First World War experience will be auctioned next week.

    Rowe Spurling's Distinguished Flying Cross (left) and 1915 Star trio group with supporting documents and other mementos from the Bermudian's First World War experience will be auctioned next week.


A prestigious military decoration awarded to a Bermudian First World War hero will be auctioned in England next week — and a local relative of the recipient is planning to bid.

Lieutenant Arthur Rowe Spurling, from Hamilton, was given the WWI Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918 after he flew his bomber into the centre of a formation of some 30 German planes and he and his observer shot three down in flames and sent two others crashing to the ground.

His family is now selling his medal, along with memorabilia connected to the late officer's distinguished military career, including a postcard sent to his half-sister Ethel in Bermuda after he was injured twice on the front line.

Auction house Warwick & Warwick describe the sale on Wednesday (August 12) as a rare opportunity to acquire a collection — with an estimated worth of £3,000 ($5,000) — concerning an "outstanding bomber pilot" from the Island.

Auctioneer Richard Beale said Lt. Spurling was a national hero and that the lot contained an archive of original Bermuda Colonist newspapers, photographs and "personal ephemera".

Retired businessman and former MP Rick Spurling told The Royal Gazette he planned to bid for the collection and hoped to see the DFC return to the Island. "I have a lot of memorabilia, from my grandfather [parliamentarian Sir Stanley Spurling, uncle of Arthur Rowe] in particular, and I'm interested in antiques anyway," he said. "I think the story that goes with this is quite intriguing.

"It would be interesting to have, with the postcard and other things. I just collect stuff like that and this is an opportunity."

Lt. Spurling's daughter Ilys Marsh, of Surrey, England, said she and brother Arthur jointly decided to sell the DFC and other items, including a Star Trio medal awarded to their father in 1915.

"My brother has five children and I have seven and they said they would probably split the collection up when we are gone. We had a long discussion and we decided we wanted to sell them to a collector and [for them to] be kept in one group."

Mrs. Marsh — who was brought up at "Penarth", the family home in Rosemont Avenue — said her father rarely talked about his wartime experiences, including the heroics which led to his DFC.

"He just said everyone said he was incredibly skilful as a pilot and he said luck was with him as well," she said. "He just said he never thought he was going to get out alive."

Her father, known as Rowe, was born in 1896 and joined the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps in February 1915, sailing with the first war contingent for England in May and soon after being posted to the Lincolnshire Regiment.

His 1916 postcard to Ethel describes how was "wounded in the hand" on July 3 and returned to the front to be "wounded in the foot and buried for a few hours" on July 13.

"I was sent down to hospital with shell shock and wounded in the foot but now I have just come out of hospital in London and I am on leave," he wrote.

He was commissioned in July 1917 and qualified for service in the Royal Flying Corps in September, before being posted to France and joining 49 Squadron in July 1918.

His DFC was announced in the London Gazette on November 2, 1918, in a report which described how he got separated from his formation and was attacked by a Fokker biplane at 2,000 feet.

"Lt. Spurling then observed some 30 machines of the same type, heavily camouflaged; with great gallantry he dived through the centre of the formation, shooting down one machine in flames; two others were seen to be in a spin," said the article.

"Five of them then closed on his machine, but by skilful manoeuvring, Lt. Spurling enabled his observer to shoot down two of these in flames. The three remaining aircraft broke off the combat and disappeared in the mist. A fine performance, reflecting the greatest credit on this officer and his observer."

He returned a hero to Bermuda after the First World War and obtained his commission again in World War II, serving in Canada with RAF Ferry Command, where he was credited with unearthing a Nazi spy.

He married Ilys Darrell in 1948 and ran a taxi service on the Island, as well as importing mushrooms and starting the Rowe Spurling paint supply company.

He and his wife moved to Guernsey in the early 1970s but eventually sold up there with a plan to return to Bermuda.

Instead, Lt. Spurling developed Alzheimer's Disease and died in a nursing home in England, aged 88.

His body was flown back to the Island for a funeral at the Anglican Cathedral and he is buried in Pembroke.

• To view the collection visit www.warwickandwarwick.com/pages/medals.htm.

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