Sir Winston Churchill called them heroes and claimed they changed
the course of World War II. To the mess steward at RAF Marklesham Heath who collected their signatures in 1941 they were simply comrades in arms.
Now the little leather book of autographs that Norman Phillips collected has been sold by Bonhams in their Militaria Sale in Oxford and it fetched an extraordinary £33,600, four times more than was expected.
Within its slender pages are gathered 107 signatures of the pilots who defended our shores during the dark days and nights of 1940/41. Many of them took to the skies never to return - all of them came to be regarded as national heroes. It was Churchill who, in conversation with Group Captain Douglas Bader referred to the book as "not a book of names but a book of heroes. God forbid it should ever be lost."
Apparently insignificant in size, Norman Phillips autograph book is bound in leather that was reputedly taken by Douglas Bader from a mess chair at Marklesham Heath. Bader's remarkable story - flying again after losing both his legs in action - was the basis of the film 'Reach For The Sky.'
Included among the 107 names contained in its pages are those of Squadron Leader R.R.Stanford-Tuck and Wing Commander A.D.Farquhar, both of 257 Squadron, and Squadron Leader A.W.A.Bayne of 17 Squadron, besides that of Bader himself, C.O. of 242 Squadron.
There are also signatures of American volunteers, 71 American Eagle Squadron, as well as pilots from Canada, Australia, Poland and Czechoslovakia, many of whom did not survive the war.
Commenting on the sale, Robin Lucas, Heads of Antique Arms & Militaria at Bonhams Oxford, said: "There was so much pre-sale interest in this item from media in this country, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Poland it’s hardly surprising that it did so well. It is part of our historical DNA."
Why not visit winstonchurchillshop.com to find many more items relating to these heroes? Try your hand at the 1000 piece Battle of Britain Deluxe puzzle or order a Battle of Britain plate, complete with Winston's great words: "Never have so many owed so much to so few."