Victoria Cross for one of the bravest acts of the Second World War sells for record price

The Victoria Cross medal awarded to Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf, which sold for a record amount at auction
The Victoria Cross medal awarded to Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf, which sold for a record amount at auction

A Victoria Cross won by an RAF pilot who landed his plane despite being mortally wounded in a near-suicidal raid has sold for a world record £682,000.

Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf took off for a mission to attack a Japanese air base just as enemy planes arrived to dive-bomb his RAF aerodrome in Malaya.

Despite seeing all the aircraft due to accompany him on the raid destroyed and several colleagues killed, he carried on alone and encountered enemy planes lining up to fire at him.

He used his brilliant flying skills to complete a successful bombing run on the Japanese air base in Thailand, but was shot several times by close-range cannon and machine gun fire.

Barely conscious, he somehow kept his grip on the controls and crossed back over the Malay-Thai border.

He carried out a “miraculous” forced landing in a paddy field, allowing his two crew members to escape without injury.

Sqd Ldr Scarf was rushed to the nearby hospital where his wife Sally, a nurse who was pregnant with their child, was based.

She donated two litres of blood to try and save him. As he was wheeled into theatre for surgery, he told her “don't worry, keep smiling, chin up”.

He died a short time later from wounds to his back and chest. He was aged 28.

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry, which his widow received from King George VI after the war.

Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism
Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism

The medal was sold by her family with London-based auctioneers Spink & Son to raise awareness of his heroic service.

It achieved a hammer price of £550,000, with extra fees taking the final figure paid for it to £682,000. It was bought by an anonymous bidder in the room.

Only 26 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to RAF personnel, half of which following the death of the recipient.

Sq Ldr Scarf's medals set a world record for an RAF Victoria Cross, eclipsing the £290,000 hammer price realised for Flight Lieutenant Bill Reid at the same auctioneers in November 2009.

'He thought only of his duty'

Marcus Budgen, head of the medals department, said following the sale: "We are thrilled for this remarkable world record result for this truly unique Victoria Cross.

"The realisation proves and memorialises the ultimate sacrifice made by the gallant Sqd Ldr Scarf.

"He thought only of his duty and put himself last."

He added: "The medals and archive of Sqd Ldr Scarf are of the greatest importance in the history of the Second World War.

"His bravery is ranked amongst the finest single acts that took place during the Second World War and Scarf gave his life for his comrades.

"His cool, calculated acts of bravery laid unknown after the carnage and the Fall of Malaya but now is the time that the story of the 'Forgotten VC' comes to wider public recognition.

"The true rarity and importance of this Victoria Cross cannot be overstated. It simply is first class."

'Heroism in the face of tremendous odds'

Sqd Ldr Scarf, known as Pongo to his friends, was born in Wimbledon, south-west London, in 1913.

He joined the RAF in 1936 and was assigned to 62 Squadron in 1938 and sent to northern Malaya at the start of the Second World War.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was followed two days later by the Japanese invasion of Malaya.

At about 5pm on December 9, a squadron of Blenheim bombers were tasked with attacking the forward base of the Japanese air force at Singora, Thailand, close to the Malayan border.

Sq Ldr Scarf got airborne just as the enemy launched a surprise attack on the RAF airbase.

He had a bird's eye view of the death and destruction suffered by his colleagues on the ground.

His Victoria Cross citation reads: "Sqd Ldr Scarf circled the airfield and witnessed the disaster.

"It would have been reasonable had he abandoned the projected operation which was intended to be a formation sortie.

"He decided, however, to press on to Singora in his single aircraft.

"Sqd Ldr Scarf displayed supreme heroism in the face of tremendous odds and his splendid example of self-sacrifice will long be remembered."