A Rare Great War DFM Balloonatics Group to Percival G. Phillips
A Rare Great War DFM Balloonatics Group to Percival G. Phillips - Distinguished Flying Medal, George V, un-crowned head (33443 SERGt MECH. PHILLIPS, P.G., R.A.F.); British War Medal (33443. SGT. P.G. PHILLIPS. R.A.F.); Victory Medal (33443. SGT. P.G. PHILLIPS. R.A.F.); and Special Constabulary Long Service Medal, George VI, 1st Issue (PERCY PHILLIPS.). Naming is officially impressed. Court-mounted, slack suspension on the DFM, cleaned, light contact, very fine. Accompanied by his Pocket Barometer/Altimeter (blackened copper casing, marked "Surveying Aneroid Compensated PAT. No 23485" and maker marked "ROSS LONDON", flat glass cover, blue needle, various gradations, copper stem, 50.2 mm in diameter x 18.2 mm in depth), six Photographs from the Imperial War Museum in London (black and white, gloss finish, 206 mm x 253 mm each), copies of his Recommendation for the DFM and RAF Roll, along with a copy of the London Gazette 31098 (mentioning Phillips as a recipient of the DFM). Footnote: Percival George Phillips, a native of East Ham, enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on June 17, 1916, for the Duration of the War. He was trained as a Telephone Operator in the field, prior to joining No. 47 Balloon Section, a component of the 2nd Balloon Wing on the Western Front. He was promoted to Sergeant-Mechanic (Air Mechanic 1st Class) on October 1, 1917, six months prior to the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merging to form the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918. Upon his joining the newly formed RAF, he was re-mustered as a Private 1st Class. Those in balloons were nicknamed "Balloonatics", an assignment which was one of true skill, daring and nerve, and definitely far from being an easy one. A brief but illuminating summary of the trials and tribulations of the Balloonatics is to be found in the introduction to Alan Morris’ definitive history of the same title: "Perceiving their elongated brownish-grey skins the Allies eschewed the technical description of "gasbag, stabilised, captive". To them kite-balloons were "sausages", although, as the comically somnolent appearance belied their true nature, the Germans’ drachen (dragon) was more apt. Generals knew them as observation-balloons, and the Teddy Bears ensconsed in wicker cages beneath the bellies were agents of the Great War’s most devastating weapon - heavy artillery. Throughout the obscene struggle these observers were to be the only men who could speak from the air, the only ones who might disregard - in any military sense - the seasons, the elements, and even time itself. At any given moment during the final phase 300 of them would be signposting the newcomer’s path to hell. Nevertheless, to accomplish these feats they were placed in the position of goats staked out as tiger-bait, and when the luck ran out - as in 1918 it often did after half a day’s work - their end could be even more gruesome. Nor did success necessarily win plaundits. Too frequently their efforts were discounted, even derided, by comrades. Hybrids, neither aviators nor artillerymen, they endured the demands and discomforts of both occupations yet remained isolated from such benefits as might accrue from belonging to the "established" body of either Service. Consequently they came of a rare and peculiar breed, sustained by their belief that, through proxy, their deadliness equalled that of any aeroplane or submarine; and by the highest form of individual courage. Oddities in the first conflict of Mechanical Man, kite-balloon observers earned, but could never hope to receive, a completely dignified salute. When at last a tribute was paid it was a compound of amusement, rough reflection, and incredulous admiration." Sergeant-Mechanic Percival George Phillips (East Ham) was recommended by the Brigadier-General (later Air Chief Marshal) Edgar Rainey Ludlow-Hewitt GCB, GBE, CMG, DSO, MC, DL, Commanding the 10th Brigade, Royal Air Force for a Distinguished Flying Medal: "This N.C.O. is a first rate Observer who had done exceptionally good work in the air this summer. He has frequently been shelled in the air, and has helped to locate and neutralise the gun wherever possible. He has shown the utmost devotion to duty, and has been of the greatest value to his Section in every way. He has done over 150 hours in the air, and made two parachute descents." He was awarded the DFM, as mentioned in the Seventh Supplement to the London Gazette 31098 of Tuesday, December 31, 1918, on Wednesday, January 1, 1919, page 98. Approximately 105 George V, un-crowned head Distinguished Flying Medals were issued between 1918 and 1930. He was also entitled to wear the Observers Half-Wing Brevet. For his First World War service, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After the war, Phillips founded the Cornwall Aviation Company, which carried civilians, often on their first flights, in an age when flight had been experienced by very few and was still being heavily scrutinized. It is reported that he flew 91,000 passengers, the majority of them in an Avro 504K, over a period of fifteen years. In addition, Phillips won the Devon Air Race in 1937 before a crowd of over 35,000, with his wife as his co-pilot. He flew the race in his banner-towing Avro 504NS, owned by Air Publicity Limited, but without the banners, over a triangular seventy-seven mile course. A skilled pilot with a terrific machine, he made others take notice. Other owners admitted that they couldn't remember encountering a 504 in a race since 1927. Phillips was later awarded the Special Constabulary Long Service Medal.