Operation Violet | A Rare WW2 Medal Grouping...


Operation Violet | A Rare WW2 Medal Grouping...


We are delighted to soon be offering the rare and historically important WW2 Special Forces (Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force) Operation Violet Military Medal Grouping Awarded to Sergeant Phillip Potter US Army O.S.S.

The medal in this lot is accompanied by a grouping of Potter's original cloth insignia; including his very rare embroidered special forces (S.F) wing, 2x British airborne parachute qualification wings, parachute qualified ‘light bulb’ sleeve patch, sterling silver US army issue jump wings with pin back fitting and red on khaki ‘AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE’ shoulder title, plus other items of cloth insignia.

The lot also features an original snapshot photograph album compiled by Sergeant Potter and (assuming his brother) Alan Potter, during WW2.

Lot 124 is coming up for auction with us this July, in our two day Fine Arms, Armour & Militaria auction taking place on the 16th & 17th July. The medal grouping in this article will be going under the hammer on the first day of the auction, Tuesday 16th July, from 10:30am.





The Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force (SAARF) was set up by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in February 1945. They were tasked with being dropped behind enemy lines near prisoner of war / slave labour camps to report on the conditions and to prevent atrocities being carried out by the retreating German forces etc. Other duties would involve the hunting down of possibly war criminals.

The unit was only involved in one Airborne drop before the unit was disbanded. The unit consisted of just 96 Americans, these mostly came from the US equivalent of the SOE, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and members of the allied airborne divisions.




Operation Violet


On 25th April 1945, the SAARF operation to drop 6 multi-national teams at three different drop zones, to reach the German Prisoner of War camp XI A, near the village of Altengrabow, took place. This operation was codenamed Operation Violet.

At the time the camp held some 60,000 allied prisoners of war. The six 3 person teams were to be parachute in, close to Altengrabow behind the German lines, drop 1 was a British team ‘Erasure’, commanded by SOE veteran Major Phillip Worrall and French team ‘Briefcase’ commanded by Pierre Cambon. Drop zone 2 was British team ‘Pennib’ under Major Forshall and US team ‘Cashbox’ under Captain Brown. The final drop zone, drop zone 3 was US team ‘Pencil’ led by Captain Warfield and French team ‘Sealingwax’. Sergeant Potter, was serving in the US team Pencil, as the wireless operator under Captain Warfield.

Each drop zone was allotted one RAF transport aircraft to carry the two teams, leaving from RAF Airfield Great Dunmow in Essex. The operation did not go smoothly to begin with, with the teams missing the drop zones and the heavy presence of German forces in the area resulting in many of them being captured, including the British team ‘Erasure’, and sent to the very prisoner of war camp they'd been sent to observe; Stalag XI A.

British officer Major Worrall requested an interview with camp commandant, Oberst Ochemal and following this explained the mission of SAARF. With the war looking like it would soon be lost, and the Soviet Russians fast approaching, the camp commander eventually cooperated and allowed the SAARF teams to set up communications with SHAEF.

On 3rd May 1945, Major General Robert Macon, US army, sent a convoy of trucks to liberate the allied prisoners of war and transport them West, along with the captured German commander and his men. US trucks were then sent in with aid and rations. The following afternoon (4th May 1945) the Soviet army had advanced and arrived at the camp. Enforcing their authority, they began only allowing POW’s from certain nations to be evacuated, blocking Polish and Italian prisoners from leaving.

On 5th May, Major Worrell was told by the Soviet commander that he had only two hours for his SAARF team to pack up their equipment and leave the camp to return to Western allied lines. As the war drew to a close, the tensions between the Western allies and the Soviet command were starting to show.


The Recommendation of Sergeant Phillip Potter


The recommendation for Potter's Military Medal was by Brigadier J S Nichols D.S.O MC Commander SAARF:

'HQ and HQ Det OSS, US ARMY Attached SAARF - 11121960 Sgt Philip B K POTTER.

Sgt POTTER was the W/T Operator in Captain WARFIELD’s Team, one of the six Recce teams operating under my direct command which were dropped by parachute on the night 25/26 April 1945 near ALTENGRABOW P W CAMP Twenty miles EAST of MADGEBURG and fifteen miles behind the enemy lines.

This team was dropped on a belt of trees in an area occupied by a German Division and fifteen miles away from the correct DZ. Sgt Potter recovered his W/T equipment and immediately got into communication with this Headquarters – although in imminent danger of capture by the enemy parties searching the area.

Together with his team he then moved twenty miles through German Formations to the original target. During the whole of this time and in spite of the great danger and extreme hardships caused by lack of food, rain and cold, Sgt POTTER maintained his communications with complete success and transmitted valuable information. He also took considerable risks in recharging his batteries by a hand generator whilst surrounded by German Troops. I consider this NCO’s conduct outstanding.’



View Lot 124 in full here >>



Join our newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest news and insights from C&T Auctioneers

Select your interests