Wings of history for sale

He was one of the ultimate second world war heroes, one of the select few to hold a Victoria Cross, the leader of the famous low-flying Dambuster raids and dead at 26 years old, covered in glory and admiration.

He was one of the ultimate second world war heroes, one of the select few to hold a Victoria Cross, the leader of the famous low-flying Dambuster raids and dead at 26 years old, covered in glory and admiration, his name secure in the history books.

And now what appears to be a matchless piece of Guy Gibson's history is being put up for sale at a Norfolk auction house.

Wing Cmdr Gibson commanded the squadron which carried out the famous Operation Chastise, more commonly known as the Dambuster raids. The daring and highly secretive raids were designed to destroy dams in the Ruhr area of Germany and used the now legendary bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis.

The 1943 operation - flown exactly 64 years ago today - was successful despite very heavy casualties, with eight of the 19 Lancaster bombers lost and 53 crew members killed.

Dams at Moehne and Eder were breached and although the German recovery was quicker than expected, the propaganda boost given to the allied war effort was considered deeply significant.

A famously tough man with a strong disciplinarian streak, Gibson died less than 18 months later, killed in action.

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Now a framed set of RAF officer's wings which apparently once belonged to Gibson will be auctioned on Saturday following the death of a local collector.

A series of items have been put up for sale by the widow of the unnamed Gorleston man.

Although the Gibson wings have no documentation supporting their authenticity, the auctioneers have inspected them and feel the chances are high they are genuine.

“It is a framed set of wings with a little inscription reading 'Pilot's wings belonging to Wing Cmdr Guy Gibson VC and presented to Barnes Wallis the inventor of the bouncing bomb after the dams raid',” said Henry Horner-Glister, of auctioneers Horners.

“There is no documentary proof, but also no reason to doubt they are genuine.”

Mr Horner-Glister said no value had been set on the lot because it was impossible to do so without the correct paperwork.

Gibson's former adjutant from his time in 617 squadron, which flew the Dambuster mission, has lived in Weybourne for many years.

Yesterday Harry Humphries said he would be cautious about the veracity of the wings.

“It's a tricky one,” said Mr Humphries. “I would have thought if they had been presented to Barnes Wallis then the surviving members of his family would still have them and would never have given them away or sold them.”

But if the framed memento is real, it is not only a potentially valuable document, but acts as an important historical record, helping demonstrate the level of respect between Gibson and Barnes Wallis.

This is hardly a surprise; Barnes Wallis himself described Gibson as “a man of great courage, inspiration and leadership”.

The auction on Saturday, at Horners' salesroom in Acle, will also feature a wide range of other military memorabilia. Among the other lots are a dress sword, bicorn hat and epaulettes which once belonged to Lt Cmdr MC Morris, who was commander of HMS Lawford when it was sunk off Normandy in 1944.

Lt Cmdr Morris survived but has since died and left the items to the Sea Scouts. They are now being auctioned off and the estimated value of £500 to £1,000 will go towards funds to help the Sea Scouts.

Another item of interest is an ABC auxiliary engine, of which there are only thought to be around 20 in existence in the world, said Mr Horner-Glister.

The historic engine was bought from a Norfolk boat auction many years ago, cleaned up and identified. The same type of engine was used to power nose cone searchlights in world war one submarines and bilge pumps in flying boat aircraft.

Other lots will include flintlock pistols, medals, swords, Norfolk Regiment shoulder titles and a large collection of original condition boxed Britains toys.

A host of Norwich City Football Club memorabilia will also be for sale.

The auction starts at 10am on Saturday, with viewing from 10am to 8pm on Friday. For more information call freephone 0800 9754416 or log on to www.horners.co.uk. Log on to www.the-saleroom.com to bid live online.

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