Last Dambusters pilot Les Munro sells medals for £75,000
Medals belonging to the last surviving Dambusters pilot have been sold to a British peer and donated to a museum, the day before a planned auction.
Les Munro was selling his medals to help pay for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in London.
The 95-year-old has accepted an offer of £75,000 from Lord Ashcroft, which will go to the RAF Benevolent Fund to help maintain the memorial.
His medal collection will now go on display in his native New Zealand.
The airman's medals were due to be auctioned in London on Wednesday and were estimated to fetch about £50,000.
But they were withdrawn, along with logbooks and associated memorabilia, when Lord Ashcroft, who has the largest collection of Victoria Crosses, offered to donate the money to the RAF charity, the auction house said.
Lord Ashcroft wrote on Twitter: "Delighted that last Dambuster pilot Les Munro has accepted my medals offer."
The medals will be gifted to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, which will pay an additional £10,000 to the fund.
The auction house has also waived its cancellation fees, allowing all the proceeds to go to the charity.
Sqd Ldr Munro said: "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 during the Second World War will be remembered with pride for generations to come.
"I have been astonished and very touched by the huge interest that the sale of my medals to raise funds for the upkeep of the memorial has aroused."
He added he was extremely grateful to Lord Ashcroft for his generous offer.
Sqd Ldr Munro is also being honoured by the RAF Benevolent Fund, which said it was "enormously grateful" to him.
Mike Neville, director of fundraising, said: "Les' sacrifice and Lord Ashcroft's donation will help assure the long term future of the memorial."
The charity is compiling a book of gratitude to thank the airman for his support.
- On the night of 16 May 1943, 19 bombers left RAF Scampton near Lincoln in three waves
- The first heading to the Mohne and the Eder Dams, the second and third to the Sorpe dam
- Out of the 133 crew which set off only 77 returned, including Sqd Ldr Munro, who made it home after flak destroyed the internal and external communications in his Lancaster bomber over Holland
- He had been briefed to attack the Sorpe Dam by flying parallel to its wall and releasing the bomb from the lowest possible height, whilst flying at 180 mph (290 km/h)