War medals of tragic RAF ace killed over Dunkirk put up for auction
Extraordinary story of tragic WWII RAF pilot who was shot down and killed over Dunkirk as his brother watched from the beaches below emerges as his medal are put up for auction
- Flying Officer Peter Dixon had taken out five German aircraft in five days before his Hurricane was hit by a Luftwaffe fighter plane
- Dixon died from his injuries two days later aged 25 after the pilot bailed out only for his parachute to catch fire
- His brother, Major John Dixon, is likely to have seen the ambulance carrying his brother go by without realising he was on it
- But later research revealed the pilot he had seen fall was his brother who was not confirmed dead by the Air Ministry until July 1942
- The medals of F/Off Dixon are now being sold by a private collector with London auctioneers Spink & Son
The tragic tale of a RAF ace who was shot down and killed over Dunkirk while his brother watched from the beaches can be revealed after his medals emerged for sale.
Flying Officer Peter Dixon had taken out five German aircraft in five days before he engaged three more Luftwaffe fighter planes on June 1, 1940.
The British troops below, who included Major John Dixon, cheered on the RAF before being silenced when F/Off Dixon’s Hurricane was hit.
They watched the pilot bail out only for his parachute to catch fire.
War medals belonging to WWII RAF pilot Peter Dixon, who was shot down and killed over Dunkirk, have been put up for auction
The medals for Flying Officer Dixon, are being sold by a private collector with London auctioneers Spink & Son
He was recovered from the sea and taken by ambulance to the end of The Mole, the breakwater at Dunkirk where thousands of troops waited to be evacuated.
One of those was Maj Dixon who is likely to have seen the ambulance go by without realising his brother was on it.
F/Off Dixon died from his injuries two days later aged 25.
When Maj Dixon returned home weeks later he read the dreaded telegram his parents had received stating Peter was missing ‘as a result of air operations on 1st June 1940.’
Later research revealed the pilot he had seen drop from the skies was his brother who was not confirmed dead by the Air Ministry until July 1942.
The medals of F/Off Dixon, who two weeks before his death managed to fly himself back to Britain after being stranded in northern France following a crash landing, are now being sold by a private collector with London auctioneers Spink & Son.
Marcus Budgen, head of the medal department at Spink & Son, said: ‘The awards of Flying Officer Peter Dixon are perhaps the most poignant and moving that I have ever had the privilege to offer.
‘His service as a gallant Hurricane pilot over the skies in the summer of 1940 was impeccable.
‘Shot down over Dunkirk whilst the fate of Britain was on a knife edge, the family story of loss is simply so heartbreaking for his brother watched the scene unfold.
‘Peter was fished out of the sea, so badly burnt that he died just two days later.
‘We hope that collectors far and wide will appreciate his story and expect strong bidding.’
F/Off Dixon was born in Darlington, County Durham, in 1915.
The Cambridge University graduate, who worked at his father’s engineering company, joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936.
He was commissioned with No 607 Squadron, initially flying Gladiators over the North Sea, before joining the Advanced Air Striking Force in France and converting to Hurricanes.
In May 1940, he claimed five kills in as many days.
Describing his first success in his combat report, he wrote: ‘I was flying Red 3 on patrol when four He. (Heinkel) 111s were sighted being attacked by three Hurricanes.
F/Off Dixon had shot down five German aircraft in five days before his Hurricane was brought down by a Luftwaffe in June 1940
‘One dropped back with starboard engine revving slowly. I attacked, which stopped its port engine.
‘The aircraft then released its bomb loads in fields and was seen gliding down for the ground with both motors stopped.’
Later that month, F/Off Dixon was forced into an emergency landing at a shell-cratered airfield near Tirlemont, Flanders, France, when he ran out of fuel after trailing and taking out a Heinkel plane.
He set off in search of fuel but by the time he returned to the airfield the Germans had destroyed his Hurricane.
F/Off Dixon joined a column of refugees and hitched a lift with a Belgian army officer to Brussels where he swiftly returned to the cockpit.
There was another near-miss when he was almost shot in the foot and then ran out of oxygen at 17,000ft, forcing him to do a hurried landing at high speed.
With No 607 Squadron sustaining such heavy losses, the surviving aircrew were sent back to Britain in mid-May 1940 and F/Off Dixon was transferred to No 145 Squadron at RAF Tangmere in West Sussex.
Major John Dixon was watching on the beaches below at Dunkirk in June 1940 as his brother fell from the skies to his death
During Operation Dynamo – the Dunkirk evacuation – F/Off Dixon made several flights over northern France to fend off the Luftwaffe from dive-bombing the 400,000 troops on the beaches.
On June 1, he was acting as a ‘weaver’ for a large attack when he was shot down.
He was taken to a cafe that had been turned into a casualty clearing station and then transported to The Mole ready to be evacuated.
He fell into a coma shortly before his death on June 3.
F/Off Dixon was buried at Rosendeal before his remains transferred to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Dunkirk in 1948.
F/Off Dixon’s friend Petter Parrott, in a touching letter to the fallen airman’s family, said: ‘On the 1st June I had been given a day off to go to London to get a new uniform.
‘On my return to Tangmere in the evening I was told Peter was ‘missing’. A day or two later we heard he had ‘belly-landed’ on the beach at Dunkirk, badly wounded.
Although not initially realising, research revealed the pilot he had seen drop from the skies was his brother who was not confirmed dead by the Air Ministry until July 1942
‘Later still we heard that he was seen on a stretcher being loaded aboard a destroyer, then the final blow the destroyer was sunk.
‘In the short time we had known each other we became close friends and, had he survived, I am sure we would still be close.
‘He was the most likeable person, with a good sense of humour, kind, generous, and truly a gentleman.’
Later investigations found he had landed in the sea, and not on the beach.
F/Off Dixon’s medal group, which is expected to fetch £800, consists of a 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star and War Medal 1939-45.
The sale takes place on April 22.
F/Off Dixon was initially flew Gladiators over the North Sea, before joining the Advanced Air Striking Force in France and converting to Hurricanes.
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