The Book of Heroes
A book of signatures of RAF pilots who fought in Battle of Britain is expected to fetch up to £8,000 at auction today.
The book - which was described by Winston Churchill as 'a book of heroes' - contains 107 signatures which were collected by Norman Phillips, Mess Steward at RAF Marklesham Heath in 1941.
Auctioneer Bonhams said the book's leather cover was apparently cut from a mess chair by Group Captain Douglas Bader whose remarkable story, flying again after losing both his legs, was the basis of the film Reach for the Sky.
Book of Heroes: This book, containing 107 signatures by RAF pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain, is expected to raise £8,000 at auction:
Famous names: Among the signatures is that of Group Captain Douglas Bader, an inspirational figure who climbed back into a plane to fly even after losing both his legs:
Heroes: This 1940 photo shows Squadron Leader Bader (4th from right) with pilots of No 242 Squadron (L-R): Denis Crowley-Milling, Hugh Tamblyn, Stan Turner, Saville (sitting on the wing), Campbell, Willie McKnight, Bader, Eric Ball, Homer and Brown:
Bader's signature, accompanied by an oval photograph of him, is included alongside some other notable names.
Among them is Squadron Leader R.R. Stanford-Tuck, whose autograph is accompanied by a newspaper clipping detailing his honouring by the King. Squadron Leader Stanford-Tuck became the first ever man to have a second bar added to his DFC after shooting down 27 German planes.
The autographs also include American volunteers, 71 American Eagle Squadron, and other Canadian, Australian, Polish, and Czech pilots, many of whom did not survive the war.
Churchill referred to the book as 'not a book of names, but a book of heroes. God forbid it should ever be lost' and, given his ties to the piece, suitably carries his words on the front.
Downed 27 German planes: The signature of Squadron Leader R.R. Stanford-Tuck is accompanied by a newspaper clipping detailing his honouring by the King:
Famous flying machines: The Spitfires flown by RAF pilots flew during the Battle of Britain are a powerful symbol, and the book is a valuable national artefact:
The pocket-sized book is housed in a brass-mounted glass casket with an inscribed lid featuring Churchill's famous tribute: Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.'
The book - Lot No: 316 - has an estimated price of between £6,000 and £8,000 because it is a highly-valued tribute to the 544 who lost their lives in the skies above south-east England in the historic events of 1940.
The Battle of Britain was the only one ever fought entirely in the air. It was a pivotal turning point of the Second World War - persuading Hitler to scrap a planned invasion of the UK.
The phases of the battle from July to September 1940 took place first over the Channel convoys, then there were attacks on the southern airfields, then the intended knock-out blow to destroy the RAF during which Fighter Command very nearly ran out of pilots.
It climaxed on September 15, when every available fighter was in the air and no reserves were left.
But suddenly, on Hitler's orders, the attack was switched to night bombing of cities - the Blitz.
Fan: Winston Churchill Winston gave the Book of Heroes its name, and his words adorn the cover:
Reluctant tourist: This is not how the pilot of this Messerschmitt would have liked to have seen Westminster but the photo is testament to the skill of the RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain:
Historic: The Battle of Britain took place from July until September in 1940 over southern England, though this photo comes from a 1953 flypast tribute to the pilots' heroism:
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