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The outstanding Great War Western Front ‘Bloody April’ aerial combat Military Medal group awarded to Corporal Reginald Edmund Tollerfield, M.M., No. 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, who as the Observer and Aerial Gunner of a F.E.2b aircraft on 22nd April 1917 was engaged in a combat with 14 machines of Jasta 11, led by Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron), during which he was wounded and displayed great gallantry.

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We are pleased to say this group is going back into the family after over 20 years

The outstanding Great War Western Front ‘Bloody April’ aerial combat Military Medal group awarded to Corporal Reginald Edmund Tollerfield, M.M., No. 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, who as the Observer and Aerial Gunner of a F.E.2b aircraft on 22nd April 1917 was engaged in a combat with 14 machines of Jasta 11, led by Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron), during which he was wounded and displayed great gallantry. He had served on the Western Front as a member of the ‘Contemptible Little Flying Corps’ from 9th September 1914 and as an Observer and Aerial Gunner from 10th November 1916, being promoted for gallantry in the air, and was responsible for shooting down an enemy aircraft on 13th April 1917. He subsequently went on to qualify as a Sergeant Pilot.

Military Medal (GVR) (1197 CPL. R.E. TOLLERFIELD. 11/SQN. R.F.C.); 1914 Star, with clasp ‘5th Aug – 22nd Nov. 1914’ (1197 2/A.M. R.E. TOLLERFIELD. R.F.C.); British War Medal and Victory Medal (1197 SGT. R.E. TOLLERFIELD. R.F.C.); 

The group comes with a substantial folder of research, which includes a copy photograph of the recipient, plus a large quantity of digitally stored research.

Military Medal London Gazette 9th July 1917.

The following recommendation for the award of the Military Medal was submitted on 7th May 1917 by Major C.T. Maclean, Commanding No. 11 Squadron R.F.C.:

“May I bring to your notice the very gallant work performed on many occasions by Corporal Tollerfield R.E., No.1197, of No. 11 Squadron RFC, especially on 22/4/17 when on Photographic Reconnaissance with Capt Manning he took photographs as ordered although attacked by 14 hostile machines and wounded in the hand. All the other machines of the formation were shot down and Captain Manning and Corporal Tollerfield successfully engaged the hostile machines until the rest of the formation had recrossed the lines; they then returned to our lines with engine damaged and controls shot through.

Corporal Tollerfield although wounded kept a rapid and accurate fire on the hostile aircraft and enabled his pilot to return to the lines safely. The photographs taken by this NCO under the above difficult circumstances were all successful and covered the correct area. Corporal Tollerfield did not go to Hospital but had his hand dressed at a C.C.S. daily and continued his work as an Observer. This NCO has done very gallant and useful work as an Observer with this Squadron for about 7 months and has had many successful combats with hostile aircraft.

On 12/4/17 he was promoted Corporal from 2/AM in recognition of his gallantry and good service in the air on many occasions. On 13/4/17 when flying with Lieutenant Savery he shot down a Hostile machine. Corporal Tollerfield has always behaved with great coolness and gallantry on Reconnaissance and in combats with Hostile aircraft”.

At around 2.30 pm six FE2b aircraft of No. 11 Squadron RFC took off from Le Hameau on a Photographic Reconnaissance Patrol, one of the aircraft, ‘A810’, being flown by Captain E.R. Manning, with Corporal R.E. Tollerfield as his Observer and Aerial Gunner. What might have been expected to have been a routine operation soon turned into disaster when the formation was spotted by the exuberant Jasta 11, led by Manfred von Richthofen, already with 45 victories to his credit. Richthofen led his staffel down onto the pushers and made short work of the lumbering FE2b’s, shooting down four aircraft, while the remaining two returned with wounded gunners. It is not possible to say with any certainty which of these aircraft was added to Richthofen’s tally as his 46th kill. The most likely candidates are the aircraft of Paine/Rothwell and Fletcher/Franklin, whilst those of Parker/Hesketh and Manning/Tollerfield are also possibilities. (Ref ‘Bloody April… Black September’ and ‘Above the Trenches’ by Franks, Guest & Bailey).

Reginald Edmund Tollerfield was born in Parkstone, in the Parish of St Clements, Dorset, on 6th February 1896. He was a Motor Mechanic and Chauffeur when he enlisted for the Royal Flying Corps on 20th April 1914. As a 2/AM he went to France with No. 12 Squadron on 9 September 1914, a member of the ‘Contemptible Little Flying Corps’, and transferred to No. 11 Squadron in September 1916. He was promoted in the field to Corporal in April 1917, and was wounded in action on the 22nd April. He was promoted to Sergeant on 16 May 1917 and returned to the home establishment two days later on 18th May. Tollerfield qualified as a Pilot and transferred to the R.A.F. as Sergeant Mechanic (Pilot) on 1st April 1918, and was discharged on 19 April 1922. He died at Moscow, Russia, in 1969, aged 73.

Only 243 Military Medals and two second award bars were awarded to members of the flying services (RFC and RAF) during the Great War and only 52 Military Medals were awarded to the RFC / RAF in the First World War for aerial combat.

Provenance: DNW 22nd June 1999, lot  793. And 10th December 2014, lot 794.

Condition: Extremely Fine.