BIOGRAPHICAL Late 1940 RAF Eagle Sq Patch for Left Shoulder Wear Battle Dress Ed Orbison 71 Sq KIFA

BIOGRAPHICAL Late 1940 RAF Eagle Sq Patch for Left Shoulder Wear Battle Dress Ed Orbison 71 Sq KIFA

Code: emp20023edo


Product Description


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This is an Extremely Rare circa Late 1940 RAF Eagle Squadron Patch for Left Shoulder Wear on Battle Dress. 

It came out of an old collection in Northern California and is attributed to Ed Orbison of Sacramento California and appears to have been removed from a uniform. Probably by a family member, as Orbison was KIFA (Killed in Flying Accident). 

The patch is in an old cellophane baggy, possibly what it was originally issued or sold in. 

From the American Air Museum in Britain:

Edwin Ezell Orbison Joined RAFVR, service pilot training in US, shipped overseas to ETO aboard SS 'Duchess of Richmond' for Liverpool early July 40, OTU training, assigned to 71[Eagle] Sqn RAF.
Flying Hurricane V6983 during formation flying practice, had MAC with Hurricane V6636 of P/O Philip Howard Leckrone [KIFA], managed to land the damaged A/C. 5-1-41.
Killed a little over a month later, in the crash of his Hurricane on the 9-2-41. Hurricane V6983 went into a spin as the result of pilot disorientation while flying in cloud. KIFA.

The Eagle Squadrons were three fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force (RAF) formed with volunteer pilots from the United States during the early days of World War II, prior to America's entry into the war in December 1941.

With the United States still neutral, many Americans simply crossed the border and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to learn to fly and fight. 

Charles Sweeny, a wealthy businessman living in London, persuaded the British Government to form an RAF squadron composed of Americans. Sweeny's efforts were also coordinated in Canada by the World War I air ace Billy Bishop and the artist Clayton Knight, who formed the Clayton Knight Committee, which by the time the United States entered the war, had processed and approved 6,700 applications from Americans to join the RCAF or RAF. Sweeny and his rich society contacts bore the cost of processing and sending the men to the United Kingdom for training.

Three Eagle Squadrons were formed between September 1940 and July 1941. On 29 September 1942, they were turned over to the Eighth Air Force of the U.S. Army Air Forces and became the 4th Fighter Group. Of the thousands who volunteered, only 244 Americans served with the Eagle Squadrons. Sixteen Britons also served as squadron and flight commanders.

The first Eagle Squadron, No. 71 Squadron, was formed in September 1940 as part of the RAF's buildup during the Battle of Britain,[2] and became operational for defensive duties on 5 February 1941. 71 Squadron commenced operations based at RAF Church Fenton in early 1941, before a move to RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey. In April, the squadron transferred to RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk for operations over Europe. During May, it suffered its first loss when Mike Kolendorski was killed during a fighter sweep over the Netherlands. The intensity of operations stepped up with a move into No 11 Group of Fighter Command, being based at RAF North Weald by June 1941. On June 21, 1941, 22 year-old Nathaniel Maranz became the first American pilot to become a prisoner of war when he was shot down by a Bf109 over the English Channel and picked up by a German patrol boat after swimming for an hour and a half. He was a prisoner in Stalag Luft III.[3] The squadron's first confirmed victory came on 21 July 1941 when P/O William R. Dunn destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109F over Lille. In August, 71 Squadron replaced its Hurricanes and Spitfire Mk IIs, before quickly re-equipping with the latest Spitfire Mk Vs. The unit soon established a high reputation, and numerous air kill claims were made in RAF fighter sweeps over the continent during the summer and autumn of 1941. In December, the squadron was rested back at Martlesham Heath, before a move to Debden in May 1942.[4]

The second Eagle Squadron, No. 121 Squadron, was formed at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey in May 1941,[2] flying Hurricanes on coastal convoy escort duties. On 15 September 1941, it destroyed its first German aircraft. The Hurricanes were replaced with Spitfires, and Spitfire Mk Vs arrived in November 1941. The following month, the squadron moved to RAF North Weald, replacing 71 Squadron. In 1942, its offensive activities over the English Channel included bomber escorts and fighter sweeps.[4]

The third and final Eagle Squadron, No. 133 Squadron, was formed at RAF Coltishall in July 1941, flying the Hurricane Mk IIb. A move to RAF Duxford followed in August, and re-equipment with the Spitfire Mk V occurred early in 1942. In May, the squadron became part of the famed RAF Biggin Hill Wing. On 31 July 1942, during a bomber escort mission to Abbeville, 133's Spitfires fought 52-kill Luftwaffe 'ace' Oblt. Rudolf Pflanz of 11./JG 2 in combat; after shooting down one, Pflanz was himself shot down and killed in his Messerschmitt Bf 109G-1 over Berck-sur-Mer, France. 133 Squadron claimed three destroyed and one probable, while losing three aircraft. P/O "Jessie" Taylor accounted for two of the claims (a Bf 109F and an Focke-Wulf Fw 190) and P/O W. Baker was credited with a Fw 190 destroyed. On 26 September 1942, 11 of the unit's 12 brand new Spitfire Mk IXs were lost on a mission over Morlaix while escorting USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses in heavy cloud cover. Strong winds blew the unit further south than realised and, short of fuel, the squadron let down directly over Brest. Six pilots were shot down and taken prisoner, four were killed, one bailed out and evaded capture, while one crash landed in England. One of the British pilots taken prisoner, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Brettell, was later to be shot as one of the escapees in The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III in 1944.

The Dieppe Raid was the only time all three Eagle Squadrons saw action operating together. No. 71 moved from Debden to Gravesend in mid-August in anticipation of the Dieppe action, while No. 121 operated from Southend. 133 Squadron moved with No. 401 Squadron RCAF from RAF Biggin Hill to Lympne on the English south coast. 71 Squadron claimed a Ju 88 shot down, 121 an Fw 190, while 133 claimed four Fw 190s, a Ju 88 and a Dornier Do 217. Six 'Eagle' Spitfires were lost, with one pilot taken prisoner and one killed. Through to the end of September 1942, the squadrons claimed to have destroyed 73 - 1/2 German planes while 77 American and 5 British members were killed. 71 Squadron claimed 41 kills, 121 Squadron 18, and 133 Squadron 14 -1/2.

Spitfire Mk Vb of the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, previously of No. 71 Squadron.
When informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of the Eagle Squadron pilots wanted to immediately join the fight against Imperial Japan. Representatives from 71 and 121 Squadrons went to the American embassy in London and offered their services to the United States. The pilots from 71 Squadron decided they wanted to go to Singapore to fight the Japanese and a proposal was put to RAF Fighter Command, but it was turned down.

On 29 September 1942, the three squadrons were officially transferred from the RAF to the Eighth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces, with the American pilots becoming officers in the USAAF. The Eagle pilots had earned 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses and one Distinguished Service Order. Only four of the 34 original Eagle pilots were still present when the squadrons joined the USAAF. Typical were the fates of the eight original pilots in the third squadron: Four died during training, one was disqualified, two died in combat, and one became a prisoner of war. About 100 Eagle pilots had been killed, were missing or were prisoners.

Determining what rank each pilot would assume in the USAAF also had to be negotiated, with most being given a rank equivalent to their RAF rank. For example, a flight lieutenant became a USAAF captain, while a wing commander became a lieutenant colonel. None of the Eagle Squadron pilots had previously served in the USAAF and did not have US pilot wings. As such, it was decided that they be awarded USAAF pilot wings upon their transfer. Due to their insistence, the Eagle Squadron pilots who transferred to the USAAF 4th Fighter Group were permitted to retain their RAF wings, reduced in size, on the opposite side of their uniform to their new USAAF pilots wings.

VINTAGE: Circa late 1940.

SIZE: Approximately: 2-9/16" in height x 2-13/16" in width.

MATERIALS / CONSTRUCTION: Canadian Made of thin Silk Embroidery on Cotton gauze backed Woven Gabardine Wool.

ATTACHMENT: To be sewn onto a uniform.


Hand written in fountain pen ink faded to purplish:
Ed Orbison

ITEM NOTES: This is from a WWII Aviation Collection which we will be listing more of over the next few months. MFJJX22 LBIIEX12/20/23 

CONDITION: 7+ (Very Fine +): Patch shows light wear and minor fraying on a couple of the edges. Some string remnants are present wear patch had been sewn to a uniform. 

GUARANTEE: As with all my artifacts, this piece is guaranteed to be original, as described.