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Sale of County Durham RAF flying hero's war-time log delayed
THE sale of a North-East flying hero’s notes, charted on one of the most famous bombing missions of the Second World War, has been delayed pending an RAF inquiry.
Flight navigator Vivian Nicholson, from County Durham, kept the log on one of the Lancaster bombers involved in the audacious Dambusters raid to burst the Mohne Dam, on the Ruhr, a key bastion of the German war machine.
The 20-year-old navigator’s first flying mission was on the 617 Squadron mission, as part of Operation Chastise, using the Barnes Wallis-devised bouncing bomb.
He was on one of the first Lancaster bombers to leave RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, late on May 16, 1943, and his colourful observations included: “Chocks Away!” on take-off, and “Wizard” as one of the immortalised bombs was dropped.
Nicholson’s crew returned safely to base after a six-hour mission, but eight of the 19 Lancasters involved failed to avoid the German anti-aircraft flak, with 53 fatalities among the total 133 airmen involved, while three others were made prisoner.
It earned the former joiner’s apprentice, the eldest of eight brothers from Sherburn Village, near Durham, the Distinguished Flying Medal for valour, and elevation to the rank of Flight Sergeant.
But four months after the Dambusters mission he was killed in action on a follow-up raid, on the Dortmund-Ems canal.
His flight notes are among five newly unearthed logbooks from the Dambusters raid due to go on sale at JS Auctions, in Banbury, in Oxfordshire, to mark the 70th anniversary of the mission.
Estimated to reach between £1,500 and £2,000 each, auctioneers anticipate they could fetch up to £10,000.
But the sale has been postponed as the RAF investigates how they came into the public domain and whether they can be legitimately sold.
Auctioneer Tony Cribb said he believed the owner’s father bought them, 35 years ago, from someone raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
“The sale has been postponed until the RAF work out what went wrong in the past,” said Mr Cribb.
“As far as we and the vendor are concerned, it is all legal and above board.
“But, the RAF believes someone made a mistake in the past giving the logbooks out.”
Mr Cribb added that he hoped the sale could still proceed, once the inquiry is completed by the RAF.