Medals awarded to RAF hero who became Princess Margaret’s lover fetch £260,000

War medals awarded to Princess Margaret’s lover, Group Captain Peter Townsend, have sold at auction for £260,000.

The Battle of Britain fighter, who died in June 1995, became the first pilot to bring down an enemy aircraft on English soil in February 1940.

He later commanded No 85 Squadron from May 1940 to June 1941, during which he completed more than 300 operational sorties.

Peter Townsend's collection of medals sold for £260,000 (Dix Noonan Webb/PA).
Peter Townsend’s collection of medals sold for £260,000 (Dix Noonan Webb/PA).

Grp Capt Townsend twice took to his parachute, once when wounded, and destroyed at least 11 enemy aircraft during his service.

In June 1942, he assumed command of No 605 Squadron and later RAF West Malling and the Free French Training Wing.

He was made equerry to King George VI in 1944 and comptroller to the Queen Mother’s household in 1953, with his royal appointments leading to his forlorn relationship with Margaret.

The group of 11 medals were sold at Dix Noonan Webb to a private collector.

The medals included a Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross and Second Award Bar, and came with his original flying log books that cover his operational career.

Medal specialist Mark Quayle, from Dix Noonan Webb, said: “We had hoped this iconic group of medals was going to achieve this spectacular result.

Royalty – National Day of Prayer Service – St Paul’s Cathedral
Group Captain Peter Townsend, centre, then an equerry to the King, pictured with the royal family leaving St Paul’s Cathedral in 1947 (PA)

“If only as a reflection of Group Captain Townsend’s glittering service career as a Battle of Britain fighter ace – ‘One of the Few’ – and his story combined with a tale of royal love and heartbreak provided the ultimate human interest story that appeals to all collectors.”

In his later years, Grp Capt Townsend travelled the world to meet young victims of war.

He decided to sell his honours and awards at auction in November 1988 and donated the proceeds to a charitable fund set up to assist children.