The group of 21 works were painted by the English artist Ivor Beddoes (1909-81) and were offered in a single lot on November 7 as part of the library collection of military historian Bob Wyatt.
Beddoes, who is best known for his film sketch and scenic design work on movies such as Black Narcissus, Star Wars and Superman, produced the majority of the 21 works in 1940 while working as a stretcher-bearer during the Blitz.
According to Beddoes, he made the sketches on the spot (adding the colour later) and hoped they “might be of use as documentary evidence” to the Artist’s Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Information.
However, they were apparently never accepted and for many years their whereabouts were unknown.
Estimated at £3000-5000, the lot drew multiple bids from bidders in the room, on the phones and via the internet before it was knocked down to the latter on thesaleroom.com at £19,000. The buyer was New York book dealer Justin Schiller, who described the watercolours as “exceptional as well as historically important”.
The detailed scenes, some of which are annotated, include Londoners sleeping on an Underground station, rescue men searching for survivors in bomb-damaged homes and the aftermath of a bombing in Piccadilly Circus.
Stretcher-bearers playing snooker off duty and the Women’s Voluntary service giving tea near Swiss Cottage station were also among the scenes depicted.