25/10/2023 Jewellery, Latest News
The Caterpillar Club Pin is a truly fantastic token of military history. Although the most diminutive pin we offer in our Fine Jewellery & Watches Sales measuring a mere 2cm in length, these eye-catching lapel pins in the form of a silk worm tell a story of high octane action, life-saving leaps and perilous wartime conditions. Exclusively presented to survivors of the most challenging conditions plausible, this remarkable little pin signifies entry into one of the most exclusive clubs of the 20th century - The Caterpillar Club.
The Irvin Caterpillar Club was founded in 1922 by Leslie Irvin of the Irvin Air Chute Company of Canada. The idea was to award a gold pin to every person whose life had been saved by an Irvin parachute. Reserved for those who had bailed out of a disabled aircraft in order to save their lives, and awarded only upon company verification of each incident, these pins were accompanied by a certificate and bore the name of the recipient to the reverse of each pin.
The Irvin Caterpillar Club pins were set in 9ct gold, cast in the form of a silkworm with cabochon red gem eyes. The name 'Caterpillar Club' refers to the silk threads that made the original parachutes, thereby recognising the role of the silkworm in saving the lives of thousands of soldiers.
Little silk worm - so very small,
You saved me from an awful fall.
Tho you're such an ugly thing,
I owe my life to your man made wing.
A POW poem by Leland Potter
It is worth noting that other Caterpillar Club pins exist, awarded by other parachute makers such as Switlik Parachute Co., and these are cast in varying, gold, silver and enamel designs. The Irvin Caterpillar Club remains in existence and continues to award pins to qualifying candidates to this day!
Notable club members include aviator Charles Lindbergh and retired astronaut John Glenn. Recently, a Caterpillar Club Pin awarded to Bram Van der Stok, of whose story inspired the film The Great Escape sold at auction for over £3,000. So, if you have a family history connected to the Air Forces, or have discovered a curious caterpillar badge, do get in touch for a free auction valuation and entry into one of our Fine Jewellery & Watch Sales.
Bought in on a recent valuation appointment, this Caterpillar Club pin recalls a phenomenal tale of courage and resilience. Sgt. H. Wood served in the Bomber Command Unit in WWII flying in Lancaster Bombers and 'bailed out' of his aircraft over France, the only member of crew to survive. Upon landing, he was captured by the Germans and taken to the 'Stalag lV B' POW Camp and remained imprisoned until the end of the war.
Press cuttings from the time show the story of Sgt. Wood from Poynton, shot down over France with pilot Eric Siddall. Pictured below is his Stalag Camp entry form dated 1943.
A WWII 'Caterpillar Club' pin, awarded to ROTC McNamara, length 2cm, gross weight 0.8g. Sold for £850.
This fascinating Caterpillar Club pin was bought into our saleroom in 2021 by a Cheshire lady. With no known relation to the original recipient of this honour, she was intrigued as to the meaning and value of the pin. Inscribed 'ROTC McNamara,' this pin was awarded to a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. According to The Army Historical Foundation, the ROTC trained around 8.3 million men and women in uniform between 1940 and 1941.
For a free auction valuation of your jewellery or wristwatches, contact our specialist Liz Bailey via email@example.com
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