Last Dambuster pilot Les Munro accepts £75,000 Ashcroft offer to safeguard medals' future in museum collection

Les Munro at the Bomber Command Memorial for which he will now raise £85,000 
The decorations and medals awarded to Les Munro 
Les Munro leaning out of the cockpit of the Lancaster bomber he flew on the Dambusters raid 
DNW's Christopher Hill handing over the medals to Lord Ashcroft at the Bomber Command Memorial 
DNW's Christopher Hill handing over the medals to Lord Ashcroft at the Bomber Command Memorial 

24 March 2015


Les Munro, the last surviving Dambusters pilot, has accepted Lord Ashcroft’s offer to donate £75,000 to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in return for gifting his decorations and medals to a museum in his native New Zealand, Dix Noonan Webb announced today (Tuesday 24 March 2015). DNW, who had been due to sell the medals at auction, have also waived all their fees and out-of-pocket expenses on the understanding that the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, where the medals will go on display, makes a further donation of £10,000 to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

This means that Mr Munro, who is 95, will have raised £85,000 for the Fund to be used specifically for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London, which commemorates 55,573 aircrew, including 1,679 New Zealanders, who were killed during the Second World War. The publicity surrounding the auction of Mr Munro’s decorations and medals in aid of the Fund, scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday 25 March), has also resulted in donations to the charity from the public. Mr Munro’s awards, logbooks and associated memorabilia will now not be auctioned although the rest of the sale will go ahead as planned.

“I am content that I have achieved my goal of doing all I can to ensure that the men of Bomber Command who lost their lives during the Second World War will be remembered with pride for generations to come,” says Mr Munro, one of only two New Zealanders to have taken part in the historic Dambusters raid in 1943. “I have been astonished and very touched by the huge interest that the sale of my medals to raise funds for the upkeep of the memorial has aroused.”

“In the end, in consultation with my agents Dix Noonan Webb, I have decided that there was a delicate balance to be achieved between raising funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund and ensuring that my medals are preserved for future generations of New Zealanders to appreciate. Lord Ashcroft’s very generous proposal represents the best way of attaining both these objectives. I am extremely grateful to him.”

Christopher Hill, Director of Client Liaison at DNW, says: “We are delighted to have helped Mr Munro realise his aim of raising a substantial amount of money towards the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial. We share his belief that the memory of more than 55,000 aircrew who gave their lives should be preserved and we have been in close consultation with him throughout this process.”

Lord Ashcroft, a British peer who owns the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses, last week offered to donate £75,000 to the RAF Benevolent Fund if Mr Munro withdrew his medals, logbooks and associated memorabilia, from the auction and gifted them to the Museum of Transport and Technology.

As part of this proposed arrangement, the Museum would pay DNW’s withdrawal fee and out of pocket expenses. This will no longer be necessary because the auction house has waived all its fees and expenses on the understanding that the Museum donates £10,000 to the Benevolent Fund on top of Lord Ashcroft’s £75,000.

Mike Neville, Director of Fundraising at the Fund, says: "Lord Ashcroft's most generous donation, in support of Les's desire to see his efforts of the Second World War continue to bear fruit today and into the future, is simply terrific. We are very pleased for Les and delighted that he has realised his aim of supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund in their duty of maintaining the Bomber Command Memorial. Les's sacrifice and Lord Ashcroft's donation will help assure the long term future of the Memorial."

The RAF Benevolent Fund is the RAF's leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to all members of the RAF family. It works on behalf of serving and former members of the RAF, as well as their partners and dependants, whenever needed. It helps members of the RAF family deal with a wide range of issues: from childcare and relationship difficulties to injury and disability, and from financial hardship and debt to illness and bereavement.

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