UPDATE, Sunday 4th October
We’re pleased to confirm that the pin sold for £4,700.
Our militaria valuer, Ken Payne thinks this is a record for such a pin. It exceeded the price paid for the same pin presented to Dutch aviator Bram Van der Stok, one of only three people to successfully escape from Stalag Luft III, which sold for over £3,200 at auction in 2018.
We received 89 bids and the pin finally went to a private collector in the UK.
Caterpillar pin awarded to incredible World War II hero up for auction
A gold pin, awarded to a Polish pilot for parachuting out of his shot down Supermarine Spitfire during the Second World War, is up for auction this month through 1818 Auctioneers on the Cumbria, Lancashire border.
The 19mm-long, nine-carat gold Caterpillar Club Irvin pin, with red amethyst eyes, was awarded to Kapitan Stanislaw Zygmunt Krol in 1942. His name is engraved on the reverse.
The Club was set up in 1922, to recognise those who successfully ‘bailed out’ of a disabled plane wearing a parachute made by the Irvin Air Chute Company. The Club name refers to the role of the silkworm in producing parachute fabric.
1818 Auctioneers valuer Ken Payne says there’s a lot of interest in the badge which he expects to make over £800 at the firm’s timed online Militaria auction. It goes live between Thursday 17 September and Sunday 4 October.
As Ken Payne explains:
“It’s the exceptional nature of the recipient of this badge which makes it stand out. And it’s his war service that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Stanislaw, or ‘Stan’, was a Spitfire pilot who not only fought the Germans in Poland but also in France and Britain and escaped many times when captured.
“Stan was eventually brought to Stalag Luft III, a prisoner of war camp in Poland for repeat escapees. The film, the Great Escape, tells of the bold breakout from Stalag Luft III by Allied prisoners in 1944. An iconic event of the Second World War it embodied Allied bravery and Nazi evil. When recaptured, Stan – along with many of the 76 men who escaped with him – was murdered on 12 April 1944 by the Gestapo.
“Stan’s Caterpillar Club Irvin pin is being sold by a vendor from North Lancashire who wishes to remain anonymous. It belonged to her parents-in-law who first met Stan when they were on holiday.
“They formed a deep relationship with Stan who was like a second son to them. Stan named them as his next of kin, a requirement of pilots flying from British bases. The vendor has tried to return the pin to Stan’s family making enquiries through military and Polish museums. And now, drawing a blank, she wants this incredible badge and man to be remembered and hopes a purchaser from Poland may come forward.
“The vendor says her parents in law spoke rarely of Stan because of the upsetting nature of his death and it was they who applied for the award for Stan, who never collected it,” adds Ken Payne.
Accompanying the pin are two letters from the Caterpillar Club, confirming its authenticity. A letter of Feb 27th, 1942 states, ‘We hope that he will soon be able to come home and claim it’. Sadly, he never did.
In 2018 the same badge presented to Dutch aviator Bram Van der Stok, one of only three people to successfully escape from Stalag Luft III, sold for over £3,200 at auction.