Spring Auction 2019 Sale 75
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/1/2019
STEPHEN BURNS (1921-1943) British Flight Sergeant, Rear Gunner of Lancaster ED936G AJ-H of 617 Squadron on the Dambusters Raid, 16th May 1943. A pair of dark brown leather flying gauntlets used by Burns during World War II, and being the gloves worn by him on the Dam Busters Raid. The gauntlets were issued by the Air Ministry and each feature official stamps and markings within and dated 1940. The gauntlets measure 14.5" in length and have working zippers with the original oval leather pulls attached. The left hand glove bears the ink ownership name of “W[illiam]. A[lbert]. Gillen” Some overall age wear, else very good. Accompanied by a copy of a typed inventory of the Burns Archive prepared by a previous owner in 2001 when he acquired the material from Dorothy Mundon, the sister of Stephen Burns. The present gauntlets are listed on the inventory, and also included in the lot is a copy of a handwritten letter from Mundon to the previous owner explaining that she has been through the inventory and that it is correct, and further stating that “flying gloves worn by Steve in Dams Raid” are included. WILLIAM ALBERT GILLEN (1917-1943) was a Canadian flight sergeant who served with the RAF in 57 Squadron at the same time as Burns. Gillen was killed in action on 9th January 1943. There could be a number of reasons why Burns was later to wear the gloves of his flying colleague, although it would appear most plausible that Burns was simply handed the gloves for his own use following Gillen’s demise. Burns then flew as tail gunner Pilot Officer Geoffrey Rice's crew for the Dambusters Raid of 16th May 1943 and the near fatal events of his Lancaster are well documented. Alan Cooper in his book “The Dam Buster Raid - A Reappraisal 70 Years On” (2013), wrote: “Geoff [Rice] himself was not immune from trouble as he reached the Zyder Zee, hugging the surface of the water which was dark and unforgiving, he hit the water. He pulled up the stick but the damage was already done. The underside of the Lancaster was torn out and with it the bomb. So much water came in that Sergeant Burns, his rear gunner, was up to his knees in water and at one time the water came over his turret. The tailwheel had been forced up into the aircraft, breaking the main spar of the tailplane and finishing up near the Elsan toilet, which was near the rear door” It has also been written that Burns, to avoid drowning, smashed the Perspex windows of the rear turret, certainly while wearing the present flying gauntlets, so that the water could drain out, having remarked to Rice: “Christ! It's wet at the back, Skipper”. Following Burns' involvement in the Dam Busters Raid, he returned home to Dudley for a short period of leave during which time he gave the gloves to his younger brother, Freddie. Burns and all but one of his fellow crewmen would be killed the following December when flak struck their Lancaster over Belgium. Items of flying clothing used by any of the crew members from the eleven Lancaster bombers who participated in Operation Chastise very rarely appear at auction and are highly desirable.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $600.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $1,168.50
Estimate: $1,200 - $1,500
Auction closed on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
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