WWII Find at Flea Market May Have Belonged to WWII Ace

Braham was a RAF Flying Ace.
Braham was a RAF Flying Ace.

Jose Fernandez thought he might have found a war relic when he was shopping in a Costa del Sol flea market. He found a World War II-era fighter pilot helmet at a weekly market in Benalmadena and bought it for £50.

When he got it home, he found an original document inside with the initials of  John Braham, the famous World War II fighter ace. That’s when he began to realize that he might have something extra special.

He is intending to authenticate the helmet, which still has its oxygen mask and audio system, by checking with the Royal Air Force and UK antique experts.

Known as “Bob,” Braham was credited with destroying 29 enemy aircraft. Nineteen of those occurred at night. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order.

Braham is regarded as the greatest British twin-engine aircraft pilot. His night-time total was surpassed only by Branse Burbridge, who had the Allied record of 21 aerial victories at night in WWII.

Braham was shot down on June 24, 1944, and captured by the Germans. He was liberated in May 1945.

In 1974, he died from an undiagnosed brain tumor. He was 53 years old and living in Canada. He and his family had emigrated to Canada when he had trouble finding work after the war.

Fernandez bought the helmet for £50 from a friend who had paid £10 for it at the market. Fernandez works as an antiquities valuation expert and a legal archeological specialist.

By his estimation, the helmet is worth £900, as long as he can prove beyond doubt that it was Braham’s helmet. He claims he is not interested in selling it, but may loan it out for exhibition by charitable organizations.

When he purchased the helmet, he thought it was possibly of some value as a WWII artifact. When he got home with it, he found the document with the initials “J.R.D.B.” After researching, and discovering that Braham’s full name was John Randall Daniel Braham, he began to realize that he had found something special.

The document was not immediately visible, tucked in the helmet near the earpiece. Fernandez is certain that the helmet is an authentic WWII fighter pilot helmet and that the document, which lists the campaign stars issued for service in WWII, is authentic as well. He is now trying to link the two together to prove they were owned by the same man.

Fernandez was unaware of Braham’s service until he began researching the helmet.

Braham was born in Holcombe, Somerset to a Methodist minister who had served as a pilot in World War I.

Braham was successful as a boxer in his youth and worked as a clerk in Wigan for the Greater Manchester Police before joining the RAF at the age of 17.

His name consistently appears on the lists of flying aces in WWII.

His first aerial victory was during the Battle of Britain in August of 1940. By the end of the war, he had been on 318 operational sorties, won 29 aerial victories, survived 5 crash landings and been hit 11 times.

It’s considered a miracle that he survived the war. He was taken prisoner after he crash-landed his plane at 150 mph on a beach. He escaped the wreckage with his navigator Don Walsh. Moments later, the fuel tanks exploded.

He was questioned by the Nazis about his knowledge of British defenses and the RAF’s Supermarine Spitfire aircraft.

When he returned to Britain, he had a difficult time. He is known to have physically thrown journalists out of his home due to his aversion to publicity.

He emigrated to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1952, Mirror reported.

The father of three had retired from the military and was working as a civil servant for the Canadian government when he died.

Ian Harvey

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