A tiny, rare jewellery memento that belonged to one of the only three
men to successfully escape from the notorious World War II German
prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III, the subject of the 1963 film The
Great Escape, is to be sold at Lockdales later this week.
A lapel pin from The Caterpillar Club, awarded to celebrated Dutch
aviator Bram Van Der Stok after he used a parachute to bail out of a
stricken aircraft and land safely, will be sold in Lockdales’ Coins and
Collectables sale on November 17thand 18th.
Der Stok was one of the 75 prisoners who attempted to escape from Stalag
Luft III from the German province of Lower Silesia (now part of Poland),
on the night of March 24th, 1944 by crawling through a tunnel, codenamed
Tragically, while the Dutchman and only
two other escapees managed to evade recapture, 72 other captives were
quickly rounded up and 50 of them were executed on Hitler’s orders.
Over the following days, with the aid of forged passes in an imitation
leather wallet, Van Der Stok managed to travel across occupied Europe by
train to Utrecht in the Netherlands. He then joined a resistance
underground network, eventually making his way across France to Spain
and finally Great Britain where he rejoined the war effort as a pilot.
The heroic escapades of the Dutchman and his fellow escapees were the
later inspiration for the hugely popular film, The Great Escape,
starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson.
During his aviation career Van Der Stok became the most decorated
aviator in Dutch history, including his award from The Caterpillar Club
among his achievements. Lapel pins from The Caterpillar Club are
presented to anyone who manages to use a parachute to bail out of a
The distinctive jewellery pin
awarded to Van Der Stok is of a small, gold caterpillar with red
bejeweled eyes is just 2cm wide. The reverse of the pin is engraved with
his name and rank, ‘F/Lt B. Van Der Stok’.
Daley, Managing Director of Lockdales Auctioneers said, “The lapel pin
awarded by The Caterpillar Club to Van Der Stok has real historical
interest due to its personal connection to a wartime aviation hero who
is also hugely admired for escaping from Stalag Luft III. We’ve already
had lots of worldwide interest from collectors of such rare military
items, so we’re hoping that the lapel pin flies above its estimate of
£500 to £600.”The Caterpillar Club lapel pin will feature in Lockdales’
Coins and Collectables auction taking place on November 17th and 18th at
its Martlesham Heath auction house.