Collection Details War’s “Most Daring Flight”
A rare photo archive that documents what was called World War II’s “Most Daring Flight” is soon to be auctioned, reports the UK newspaper, The Mail. The collection of photos documents Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 1942 crossing of the Atlantic following a conference with U.S. President Roosevelt. Churchill’s plane was dogged by the Luftwaffe and his own Fighter Command before he returned safely to London. The photos have been in private hands since the flight, some 70 years ago.
Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the U.S. into the war, and Churchill wanted to persuade Roosevelt of the need to focus attention first on Hitler. Though he had journeyed to America by ship, Churchill decided to return to England by air.
The 18-hour flight was made aboard the Royal Mail Aircraft “Berwick”, a Boeing 314a Clipper. On board with the Prime Minister were the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sur Dudley Pound, Air Chief Marshall Sir Charles Portal and Lord Beaverbrook, Minister for Aircraft production. The Berwick had to be lightened in order to carry enough fuel for the flight which, at that time was still a daring distance.
The flight turned dodgy when it ventured too close to the French port city of Brest, home to a German naval base and a squadron of Luftwaffe fighters were scrambled to shoot the plane down. The flight was piloted by the celebrated Captain John Kelly-Rogers who flew for two hours on radio silence to avoid the fighters.
Because of his evasive action, Churchill’s plane approached England from an unexpected southerly direction leading England’s Fighter Command to scramble its own squadron to ‘splash the bogey.’ Churchill later recalled is as, “Six Hurricanes from Fighter Command were ordered to shoot us down – but failed in their mission.”
The recently discovered photos were taken by Flying Officer Ron Buck, an amateur photographer aboard the flight. The pictures capture intimate moments of the flight including Churchill sitting at the controls of the aircraft with his signature cigar. Also included is a signed menu card that shows the PM and others dined on shrimp cocktail, vegetable soup, roast chicken, York ham, potato salad, beetroot, Bartlett pears with cream and coffee.
The Mail reports that the collection was discovered when Miles Buck, a nephew of Flying Officer Buck living in New Zealand, took the items to a Antiques Roadshow event.
The collection is being offered by Art and Object of Aukland and carries an estimated value of 12,000 British Pounds or about $18,000!
(Image of Boeing 314a Clipper type)