Dambusters pilot halts sale of war medals


Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 5

The sole surviving pilot from World War II’s legendary Dambusters’ mission yesterday canceled plans to sell his medals after a wealthy British peer intervened, the auction house handling the sale said.

New Zealander Les Munro had planned to sell his medals, logbooks and other memorabilia to raise funds for maintenance of the Bomber Command War Memorial in London, estimated at £50,000 (US$75,000) a year.

However, the sale, scheduled for today, was called off after Briton Michael Ashcroft agreed to donate £75,000 toward the memorial’s upkeep, auction house Dix Noonan Webb said.

It said Munro, 95, had agreed to donate his medals to Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology, which in turn would donate an additional £10,000 to the memorial’s maintenance.

“I am content that I have achieved my goal of doing all I can to ensure that the men of Bomber Command who lost their lives in World War II will be remembered with pride for generations to come,” he said in a statement.

Munro said he had been astonished by the response to his plan to sell the medals and was pleased that they would be staying in New Zealand.

Munro piloted one of the 19 Lancaster bombers that left a British airbase on May 16, 1943, on a top-secret mission over Nazi Germany’s industrial heartland.

The aircraft were carrying the revolutionary “bouncing bomb,” which skidded along the water’s surface once released and were used to attack three dams.

The mission, immortalized in the 1955 film The Dam Busters starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd, destroyed two of its targets and damaged a third, drowning 1,600 people and forcing the Nazis to divert significant resources to rebuilding.

The Bomber Command Memorial opened in 2012 and is dedicated to the 55,573 aircrew who died in the war.