Oxford

Douglas Bader World War II book sells for £33,600

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Media captionGp Capt Douglas Bader was among the pilots who signed the book

An autograph book containing signatures from RAF officers who took part in the Battle of Britain has sold for £33,600 in an auction at Bonhams in Oxford.

Described by Winston Churchill as "not a book of names, but a book of heroes", it had a pre-sale estimate of £8,000.

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 was signed by 107 pilots at RAF Martlesham Heath, in Suffolk, in 1941.

Robin Lucas, at Bonhams Oxford, said: "There was so much pre-sale interest in this item from media in this country, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland it's hardly surprising that it did so well. It is part of our historical DNA."

Chris Allen, consultant at Bonhams, said: "It's a unique book because the autographs were taken at the time and not 30 or 40 years after the events."

The signatures were compiled by mess steward Norman Phillips after the officers had returned from duty and were relaxing in the officers' mess.

'Really outstanding'

Its leather cover is said to have been cut from one of the mess chairs by Gp Capt Douglas Bader CBE.

Gp Capt Bader, who flew in the Battle of Britain despite losing both his legs in a flying accident in 1931, inspired the Bafta-winning film Reach for the Sky.

Mr Allen added: "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.

"To have an object quite so personal is particularly desirable. Provenance is very important and to have something that's passed through the hands of so many of these people is really outstanding."

Churchill, in conversation with Gp Capt Bader about the book, is said to have remarked: "God forbid it should ever be lost."

The book also contains signatures from American volunteers as well as Canadian, Australian, Polish and Czech pilots.

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