Tuesday 16th May 2023
The Royal Air Force Museum is proud to announce the success of its campaign to keep the Arthur Scarf Victoria Cross and medal bar in the UK and on display at the London site.
The Arthur Scarf medal
The Victoria Cross awarded to Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf for his bravery during the Second World War is a unique and rare artefact which shares the story of the RAF in the Far East.
This important part of history was under risk of being lost to the nation after being sold at auction to a private overseas buyer. With the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, generous donations from the public and other charities, and coverage in the press, the RAF Museum has now matched the £660k winning auction bid in order to keep the medals in the UK.
Maggie Appleton, RAF Museum CEO, said:
‘A heartfelt thank you to every single person who supported us. Whether you donated or shared our campaign with friends and family, we couldn’t have done this without you. To have raised £660,000 in three months is simply amazing. Special thanks to the National Heritage Memorial Fund for their major donation of £390k, and to our good friends at the RAFHS and the Bomber Command Association. We will be displaying Arthur’s Medal at our London site this summer and will also make short tour of our Midlands site. So come and visit and discover more about this remarkable story.’
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said:
‘I am delighted that the RAF Museum’s campaign to acquire Arthur Scarf’s Victoria Cross has been successful and that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has been able to support this important acquisition with a grant of £390,000. The National Heritage Memorial Fund works to safeguard the UK’s most significant heritage and form a lasting memorial to those who gave their lives. This rare and unusual medal, which will now form part of the national collection, perfectly encapsulates what NHMF stands for.
About Arthur Scarf
Scarf joined the RAF in 1936 aged 23, and three years later was sent to Singapore with No. 62 Squadron to join the forces in the Far East. On the 9 December 1941, he led a formation of Bristol Blenheim aircraft in a daylight attack on Japanese forces occupying airfields in Burma, what is today Thailand. As Scarf became airborne, a formation of Japanese bombers swept over the airfield destroying every British aircraft on the ground.
Realising that none of his squadron’s aircraft had survived the Japanese bombing, Scarf was determined to complete his squadron’s allotted task. Flying low for some 30 miles into enemy occupied territory, Scarf skilfully evaded several attacks by Japanese fighters, and released the bombs whilst his crew manned the machine guns. With the task complete and now heading home, more Japanese fighters arrived attacking at close range. Greatly outnumbered, hopelessly outgunned and in aircraft slower than the enemies, Scarf flew at tree top height, desperately seeking whatever protection he could find. Despite evading the worst of the Japanese attacks, machine gun fire riddled the Blenheim. Scarf was mortally wounded but continued to fly the aircraft while being held upright by his crew mates and managed to make a controlled crash landing at a nearby British controlled airfield without injury to his crew, but Scarf died from his wounds shortly afterwards.
The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously in 1946 and was presented to his widow, Elizabeth, by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
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Feature image: Bristol Blenheim I aircraft of 62 Squadron, Tengah February 1941, with Brewster Buffalo aircraft behind – Crown Copyright, RAF Museum