Thursday - 11 February 2016

Chamberlain’s other piece of paper

11 August 2014Written by Tom Derbyshire

The ‘piece of paper’ waved by Neville Chamberlain on his return from meeting Hitler in 1938 must count as one of the most infamous documents in history.

When he landed at Heston airport on September 30 the British Prime Minister made a speech alongside the plane straight after landing, saying "settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace". It promised "peace for our time", he later said at 10 Downing Street.

Another 'piece of paper' dating from that Munich Agreement visit to Germany was included in Spink's postal history, autographs and historical documents sale in London on July 18. This was Chamberlain's British Airways flight ticket numbered BA/WS 18249.

Dated September 28, 1938, the return ticket for The Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain is completed in pencil capitals for the journey from London to Munich. The first flight was scheduled to take off at 8.30am from Heston - the aerodrome that operated as a civil airport in the 1930s prior to the post-War supremacy of Gatwick and Heathrow.

On arrival back in the UK, the Lockheed 14, piloted by Victor Flowerday, was greeted by a large contingent of the press and cheering supporters who gave the PM a hero's welcome. The famous footage and Richard Dimbleby's original report can be viewed online as part of the BBC archive.

The complete ticket was found in the papers of George William Denny, one of the founders of British Airways, but has since been split into two copies. The 'under half' of this one was sold at Christie's South Kensington in October 1992 for a premium-inclusive £13,500 against an estimate of £3000-4000.

The top copy of the ticket seen at Spink was housed in a manila envelope marked The Prime Minister's ticket on his last visit to Munich at which an agreement with Hitler was reached. 29.9.38. It last came up for sale at Mullock's of Shropshire in January 2010, selling to a private British buyer for £8000 against an estimate of £5000-7000.

This time the estimate was £12,000-15,000 and the hammer price £14,000.


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