Caterpillar Club Brooch will fly in sale

A tiny gold Caterpillar Club brooch measuring less than 2cms could make more than £1,000 at auction. It was awarded to an RAF sergeant and prisoner of war who bailed out of his burning plane during WWII.

Fellows Auctioneers in Birmingham will offer the pin for sale in their Monies, Medals & Militaria auction on April 25.

A Caterpillar Club pin brooch

The Caterpillar Club pin is a tiny but significant token awarded to very few people. The Irvin parachute company awards them to those people whose lives have been saved by one of their parachutes. Members receive a membership card and a distinctive pin. Engraved with the owner’s name (and sometimes rank), these pins serve as tangible symbols of the thrilling tales behind their acquisition.

The gold caterpillar brooch has red (sometimes garnet, other times enamel) eyes. Raised gold stripes are lined along the body of the pin just like on the body of a caterpillar.

Although the brooch is worth around just £20 in terms of gold value, the auction house has placed an auction estimate of £1,000-1,500 on it. The auctioneers have sold six other Caterpillar Club brooches since 2017, with the majority selling for over £1,000 each.

The rare brooch was awarded to Sgt. B. J. Warren of the RAF 103 Squadron during the Second World War. Warren was a rear gunner onboard the Lancaster MK III Bomber (ME741) operating from the Elsham Wolds RAF base in Lincolnshire.

On April 23, 1944, the eighth and final operation for Lancaster ME741 almost didn’t happen. Take-off was delayed for the bomber crews and only 13 or the intended 15 planes took off. As Warren’s crew flew over the burning German city, they were hit by a flak and lost control.

Warren said of the incident: “My intercom went dead, the hydraulics ceased to function and my guns were U/S. I rotated the turret by manual control but, from then on, I was a sitting duck. More flak followed and with the aircraft now on fire, I decided to leave the turret. On entering the fuselage I came face to face with our wireless operator who had been sent back to see if I was still alive. He indicated that we were to bale out and I put on my parachute and followed him out of the rear door.”

Warren was subsequently captured by German soldiers and became a prisoner of war. He was first imprisoned in Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekrug, then Stalag 357 ‘Kopernikus’, at Thorn (now known as Toruń) in Poland.

Antiques specialist at Fellows Auctioneers, Alison Snowdon, said: “To be offering a second Caterpillar Club pin this year truly is an absolute honour. It is a privilege to share the stories of bravery and heroism wrapped up in these little pins. Their potential for research and intrigue really is second to none. The potential to uncover the stories of why and how they were awarded never ceases to amaze me”.