Dambusters pilot to sell medals to save Bomber Command Memorial

Squadron Leader Les Munro is Britain’s last surviving World War Two Dambusters pilot and he has decided to sell the medals he received for bravery during the war in order to preserve the Bomber Command Memorial in central London.

The Dambusters consisted of 133 crewmen, including 19 commanding officers, who took part in a famous bombing raid on Germany’s dams to cause havoc to German war production.

The bombers had to drop newly developed, unique bouncing bombs that could target the Ruhr River dams from the water’s surface. Dr Barnes Wallis spent years developing the bombs so that the German weapons production factories in the Ruhr Valley, North West Germany, could be destroyed.

Eight commanding officers and 45 crewmen were killed during the mission. But Operation Chastise, as it was known, was a resounding success, destroying two of the three dams targeted and flooding the nearby landscape.

While on the mission, Les Munro’s Lancaster bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire, causing a large hole in the fuselage and terminating his communications.

Les was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for Operation Chastise, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross for his total of 58 missions throughout World War Two.

Now Les has decided to put his medals up for sale in a bid to raise as much money as possible to ensure that the Bomber Command Memorial in London’s Green Park can be preserved and kept in good condition.

Les says that he would rather sacrifice his medals and ensure that all of the 55,573 airmen commemorated on the memorial will continue to be remembered, The Telegraph reports.

It is expected that Les’s medals will fetch up to £50,000 at auction.

When Les’s mother received the telegram announcing his award, she was so distraught thinking that it was news that her son had been killed, that she collapsed and died from an aneurism that same week.

On receiving the news of his mother’s death, Les was told he could be transferred away from bombing operations, but he declined and wanted to continue with his vital role in the war.

Les, who is now 95, visited the Memorial in 2013 and was inspired to help the RAF Benevolent Fund with its upkeep. The Fund says that it is grateful for Les’s sacrifice and donation, since it costs up to £50,000 per year to maintain the memorial.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE