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Museums and collectors battle over book of The Few

2nd August 2011

Museums and private collectors around the world are expected to battle it out for the possession of an autograph book signed by some of the country's greatest heroes.

The book of The Few – signed by the aircraft pilots who put their lives on the line to protect Britain against the Luftwaffe during World War II - is being auctioned at Bonhams in Oxford today (August 2nd) and is expected to fetch in excess of GBP 8,000.

It contains the signatures of 107 Hurricane and Spitfire pilots compiled by Norman Phillips, a mess steward at RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk, as well as newspaper articles detailing their heroic exploits.

The signatories include Squadron Leader Robert Stanford-Tuck, commanding officer of 257 Squadron, as well as members of the famous 71 Eagle Squadron, comprising US pilots who volunteered to fight the Nazis before the Americans entered the war.

Legend has it that the leather cover of the book, which is currently owned by a private collector, was cut from a mess chair by Group Captain Douglas Bader, whose life was documented in the film Reach For The Sky.

Winston Churchill once summed up the significance of the collection when he claimed it was 'not a book of names, but a book of heroes', adding: 'God forbid it should ever be lost.' 

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