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Spitfire Ace's outstanding medal group expected to fetch £60,000-80,000 at auction
At one point, he shot down six planes in 12 days, including two within the space of a minute.

STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET.- The outstanding medal group for one of WWII’s top Spitfire Ace’s – a Scot from Portobello – is coming up for auction.

Complete with Distinguished Service Order and bar as well as Distinguished Flying Cross and bar, they belonged to Jamie Rankin, who went on to command Biggin Hill and was singled out as one of the most revered leaders in Fighter Command throughout WWII.

Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers of Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex have been recalling Rankin’s extraordinary achievements as they announce that his group of medals – thought to be the most important Spitfire Ace group to come to auction in recent years – will be offered for sale on Tuesday, 6 December with expectations of at least £60,000-80,000, although some expect them to fetch considerably more.

“This group is worthy of joining the Imperial War Museum’s collection,” said Ivan Macquisten, former editor of Antiques Trade Gazette, who follows the market. “I can’t think of anything as important in this area that has come up for sale since 2012, when the Battle of Britain fighter ace ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham’s triple DSO took nearly £400,000 at auction.”

Such was Rankin’s aim that by the end of the war his score was 17 aircraft destroyed solo and five shared, three probably destroyed solo and two shared, and 16 damaged solo with three shared.

At one point, he shot down six planes in 12 days, including two within the space of a minute.

“The mantle of Wing Commander Douglas Bader, ace of aces, is now worn by a Scot,” wrote the Edinburgh People’s Journal in tribute in December 1941. “In fact, if a Hun fighter plane ever gets within his sights, he almost always makes a rude acquaintance with mother earth.”

Born in Portobello, Edinburgh in 1913, Rankin joined the RAF in April 1935 and after training joined No. 25 Squadron. He flew with the Fleet Air Arm with 822 and 825 Squadron on HMS Furious and HMS Glorious and then became a Flight Commander/Instructor with No.5 Operational Training Unit.

Joining No.64 Squadron after promotion to Squadron Leader in January 1941, he gained vital operational experience and shot down his first three German planes.

Aged 28, in February 1941 he took command of No. 92 (East India Squadron), which had just been re-equipped with the Spitfire Mk V, the first operational unit to receive this variant.

During the summer and fighter sweeps across the Channel, his score mounted and he was awarded the DFC in July 1941. In September he was promoted to Wing Commander and appointed OC of the Biggin Hill Wing.

Between December 1941 and April 1942 Rankin held a staff post at HQ Fighter Command, then returned to Biggin Hill for a second tour leading the wing.

In 1943 he commanded No. 15 Fighter Wing in the newly formed Tactical Air Force – when the unit was disbanded he assumed command of No.125 Wing and led this during the Normandy invasion.

At the war’s end Rankin held the rank of Air Commodore, but he reverted to Group Captain. He became the Air Attaché in Dublin in 1948 and went on to be the OC of RAF Duxford in 1954. During his tenure he hosted visits by Haile Selassie and Marshal Tito. The latter witnessed a tragic accident between two Meteors that crashed taking part in a demonstration for dignitaries.

On 11 July 1957 Rankin flew Spitfire PM631 from Duxford to Biggin Hill, with two other aces from the war to form the RAF’s Historic Aircraft Flight that later developed into the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This Spitfire is still flying to this day.

Rankin retired in 1958 and died in 1975.

Alongside the medal group, which also includes the Belgium Croix de Guerre, Sworders will offer citations and two albums composed by Rankin’s wife Frances, composing a number of photographs of Rankin and his men from the war, as well as newspaper cuttings detailing his exploits.

Also included is a page from The Tatler and Bystander of October 28, 1942, profiling Six of Britain’s Fighter Boys, portraits by the war artist and former Royal Flying Corps pilot Cuthbert Orde published in Pilots of Fighter Command, featuring Rankin in prime position and describing him as “one of the great leaders in Fighter Command”.

The lot is completed by a German Luftwaffe Pilot’s wrist compass ‘Armbandkompass’ presented to Rankin by a German pilot who he had shot down; investiture tickets to Buckingham Palace; and a visitors book, from June 1942 to 1965, containing inscriptions and autographs from friends, colleagues and fellow aces Johnnie Johnson, Brian Kingcome and Paddy Barthropp.

“Exceptional and outstanding are two overused words, but not here,” said Sworders’ Director John Black. “Rankin was not just an Ace in the true sense of the word, but an inspirational leader who gave his all when it meant the most.

“This group of medals and accompanying documents are an important piece of history, not just because they record the contribution of such a highly significant figure, but because they also shed light on the conditions under which Rankin and his men had to operate, helping to bring their experiences to life for subsequent generations.”

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