A WWII 'Caterpillar Club' pin, awarded to ROTC McNamara, length 2cm, gross weight 0.8g.
Consigned into our next Jewellery auction is a fantastic token of World War II history. Although the most diminutive pin to be consigned to our Christmas Fine Jewellery & Watches Sale, this eye-catching lapel pin in the form of a silk worm tells a story of high octane action, life-saving leaps and perilous wartime conditions. Bought into our saleroom by a local lady, and with no known connection to the vendor, 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 exclusively to those who had bailed out of a disabled aircraft in order to save their lives, and awardable 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!
Our example dates to the Second World War and is signed to the reverse ROTC McNamara. 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. Our example is in remarkable condition, and a wonderful, tangible piece of World War Two history, this Caterpillar Club Pin sold for £1,037 inclusive of Buyer's Premium.
This pin sold as part of our Christmas Fine Jewellery & Watches Sale, taking place on Thursday 2nd December. For further information on the lot, or to obtain a free auction valuation of your own items, contact our Jewellery & Watches Specialist Liz Bailey MA FGA DGA CPAA via email@example.com.
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