A book of signatures of RAF pilots who fought in Battle of Britain has been sold at an auction for £33,600 ($55,000). The book – which was described by Winston Churchill as Book of Heroes, contains 107 signatures which were collected by Norman Phillips, Mess Steward at RAF Marklesham Heath in 1941.
Its leather cover was apparently cut from a mess chair by Group Captain Douglas Bader CBE, DSO & Bar,DFC, whose remarkable story, flew in the Battle of Britain despite losing both his legs in a flying accident in 1931, was the basis of the film Reach for the Sky. 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. 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.
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.
A Bonhams spokesman said there had been so much pre-sale interest in the book, which went to a private British buyer, he was not surprised by its sale price. It’s a unique book because the autographs were taken at the time and not 30 or 40 years after the events, Chris Allen, consultant at Bonhams, said. A lot of these chaps didn’t survive the war. In fact it’s quite possible some of them didn’t even survive a week after they signed it which makes it quite an evocative thing, he added.