Personal and wartime objects once belonging to Royal Air Force Warrant Officer Percy Yasuyi Sekine are slated to hit the auction block at Rowley’s Auction House in Ely, United Kingdom.
Sekine was born in the UK to a British mother and a Japanese father, who at the time was working at the Mitsui Bank in London. At the outbreak of World War II, the then-19-year-old judo black belt volunteered for the Royal Air Force, serving as both an air gunner and wireless operator in No. 83 Squadron.
While flying over the Netherlands in January 1942, the Hampden bomber Sekine was flying onboard was hit by anti-aircraft fire. At fewer than 3,000 feet, he and another airman, Harold “Ginger” Holmes, bailed out of the aircraft. Sadly, the first and second pilots were unable to escape and were killed in the crash.
After five hours, Sekine was captured by enemy forces and sent to a prisoner of war camp, where he remained for a few months before climbing over a wire and escaping. He was recaptured shortly after and imprisoned at Stalag 383 in Hohenfels, Bavaria, where he created a judo club, set up a dojo, and held tournaments for his fellow prisoners.
Sekine escaped two more times, once by going under the wire and the other time be walking through it. While out, he seemingly taunted the Germans, queuing at a mobile German soup kitchen while wearing his RAF battledress and marching by a group of soldiers in the town of Bad Tölz. Not long after this, he was recaptured
Speaking about Sekine’s later life, Roddy Lloyd of Rowley’s Auction House said, “After the war, Sekine followed his mother’s occupation as a diamond polisher in Hatton Garden, but the lure of judo was too much. After the war, Warrant Officer Sekine became a renowned judo expert post-war, training comedian Tommy Cooper and race car legend Stirling Moss, as well as Royal Marines at his Hammersmith judoka.”
“He became an instructor and competitor, set up his own club in Hammersmith, and trained the Royal Marines. He represented and captained the British judo team through the 1950s and 1960s, and although he was just 9.5 stone and judo didn’t have weight categories, he remained undefeated.”
“In the 1960s, he became the British judo team manager and was the first Briton to be appointed to the exalted rank of seventh dan in the martial art,” he concluded.
Sekine passed away in 2010, at the age of 90.
Among the items up for auction include a firsthand account of the Hampden bomber crash, Sekine’s RAF dress tunic, letters relating to his time during the war, and a host of photographs, including one of his air crew, on which he noted which were killed or captured. There are also never-before-seen images from the PoW camp, with one showing “my judo group” at Stalag 383.
There is also ephemera related to Sekine’s relationship with his wife, Hana, who was the daughter of Gunji Koizumi, the “father of British judo,” as well as a number of judo belts, a cup, and a photograph of him and fellow PoW Douglas Bader, with whom he played golf.
“Collectors of wartime memorabilia and of judo items will be interested in these items, relating as they do to a remarkable man who straddled the British and Japanese cultures with ease,” said Lloyd.
The items are expected to fetch hundreds of pounds and will be sold in four lots. The auction will be held on May 7, 2022.