The medal group of Les Munro, the last surviving Dambusters pilot, was due to appear at Dix Noonan Webb last Wednesday (March 25), with an estimate of £40,000-50,000, to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund's upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in London.
Before the sale, Mr Munro accepted Lord Ashcroft's offer to donate £75,000 to the fund in return for gifting his decorations and medals to a museum in the RAF veteran's native New Zealand.
Mr Munro, now 95, was one of only two New Zealanders to have taken part in the raid.
DNW decided to waive all their fees and out-of-pocket expenses on the understanding that the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, where the honours will go on display, makes a further donation of £10,000 to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The memorial in Green Park commemorates 55,573 aircrew, including 1679 New Zealanders, who were killed during the Second World War.
Lord Ashcroft owns the world's largest collection of VCs, which are on display at the Imperial War Museum.
However, the British peer failed in his bid to buy another Dambusters medal set. Ft Lt Richard Trevor-Roper's Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) pair, being sold by the family, doubled the top estimate to make £120,000 at Dorset auctioneers Charterhouse on March 19-20 (plus 19.5% buyer's premium).
Ft Lt Trevor-Roper was gunnery leader, flying as rear-gunner in Guy Gibson's lead Lancaster ED932 AJ-G, and won the DFC for his part in the Möhne Dam attack on May 16-17, 1943. He received the DFM (gazetted December 23, 1941) as a sergeant with 50 Squadron.
On the sale day, bidding rose quickly and it became a two-way battle between phones, with Lord Ashcroft the underbidder. The unnamed buyer acquired the lot as a tribute to his former school teacher, who was also a Lancaster rear-gunner and DFM winner.
Charterhouse owner Richard Bromell said: "We received instructions to sell the medals directly from the family and this is the first time they have appeared on the open market, having spent several decades in a box file."
Fascinating Dambusters items offered on the market for the first time appeared at JP Humbert (19.5% buyer's premium) of Towcester, Northamptonshire, on January 20.
The original mahogany 'Dann' bomb sight used during the raid by bomb aimer John Fort on board the AJ-J, the fifth aircraft on the mission, piloted by David Maltby, sold to a private buyer for £41,500 (est: £20,000-25,000). The 'bouncing bomb' guided by this sight was the one that successfully breached the Möhne dam.