A small leather-bound book that powerfully evokes The Few of WWII Battle of Britain, listing 107 signatures of RAF flying officers, sold at Bonhams
Militaria Sale in Oxford yesterday, August 2nd, for £33,600. The pre-sale estimate was just £6,000 to £8,000. It went to a private British buyer.
Collected by Norman Phillips, a mess steward at RAF Marklesham Heath in 1941, the little books leather cover was apparently cut from a mess chair by Group Captain Douglas Bader CBE, DSO & Bar,DFC, whose remarkable story flying again after losing both his legs was the basis of the film Reach for the Sky.
Winston Churchill, in a conversation with Douglas Bader, referred to the book as "not a book of names, but a book of heroes. God forbid it should ever be lost." The book contains the signatures of the following, as well as many others. Squadron Leader D. R. S. Bader D.S.O., D.F.C. and bar, C.O. 242 Squadron. Squadron Leader R.R. Stanford-Tuck D.S.O., D.S.C. and bar, C. O. 257 Squadron. Wing Commander A.D. Farquhar D.F.C., 257 Squadron. Squadron Leader A.W.A. Bayne D.F.C. 17 Squadron. There are also signatures from American Volunteers, 71 American Eagle Squadron, and other Canadian, Australian, Polish, and Czech pilots, many of whom did not survive the War.
Robin Lucas, Head of Antique Arms and Militaria at Bonhams Oxford said after the sale: There was so much pre-sale interest in this item from media in this country, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Poland its hardly surprising that it did so well. It is part of our historical DNA.
The 316 lot sale made a total of £230,712 with 100% by value and 99.36% by lot sold.