When trawlerman James Walker was fishing in his boat Thalassa off Ingoldmells Point near Skegness in September 2007 his catch turned out to be a big one. Just not edible.
Coming up out of the depths was a Heinkel He III H-3 propellor. After inspection by authorities from East Kirkby and the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group it was established that only one Heinkel was known to have crashed in that area during the Second World War and it was one of great RAF significance.
The German plane had been shot down off Skegness Pier on March 15, 1941 by a Beaufighter crewed by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DFC (1918-44) – of Dambusters fame.
Gibson had spotted the Heinkel flying north and immediately got behind and in range of the enemy aircraft. At the crucial moment, he suffered gun trouble, and by the time his colleague Sergeant James had cleared it the Heinkel was turning out to sea and diving home, but they still destroyed it.
The three-blade propeller is now supported on a steel stand which has been constructed recently for a television programme (it featured in Salvage Hunters, The Restorers in September).
It is estimated at £10,000-15,000 in the Dominic Winter December 17 Military & Aviation History auction in South Cerney, Gloucestershire (the propellor is in Lincolnshire).
Barnes Wallis archive
Alongside Gibson, the key figure in the Dambusters raid on May 17, 1943, was Barnes Wallis (1887-1979) – inventor of the bouncing bomb. Wallis’ achievements in his working life stretched far beyond that, however, as an archive also on sale at Dominic Winter demonstrates. He worked first at a marine engineering firm and in 1913 moved to Vickers where he designed airships, including the R100. In 1930 he transferred to concentrate on aircraft.
His innovations include the first use of geodesic design in engineering, which was key to his development of the Wellesley and Wellington bombers. When the Second World War began Wallis was assistant chief designer at Vickers’ aviation section.
In February 1943 his ideas for a drum-shaped, rotating bomb to attack the dams emerged. A year later he was instrumental in the Tallboy bomb used to sink the battleship Tirpitz and the Grand Slam in 1945 for attacking heavily fortified targets.
The archive offered at Dominic Winter comes from the Wallis family by direct descent.
One of the lots, estimated at £2000-3000, is a printed menu signed by Gibson for Wallis from the Oatlands Park Hotel in Weybridge, Surrey, on June 23, 1943 (the month after the Dambusters raid).
According to the auction house: “The dinner here is not the much-written about and photographed Dambusters’ dinner hosted by AV Roe that took place at the Hungaria in London on June 22, following the investiture at Buckingham Palace, where Gibson received his VC. This is a menu from a lesser-known dinner event hosted by Vickers at Weybridge on the following evening.
“The Oatlands Park dinner was given in thanks to Vickers staff, test pilots, directors and their wives. Wallis attended with his wife Molly and met Gibson and his wife at the railway station.
“At the dinner Gibson was seated on Molly’s right (a privileged place). Molly and Gibson hit it off and Gibson told her how much he admired Barnes, and that the success of the raid was essentially his.
“This pleased Molly because she was frustrated by the security blackout that forbade public acknowledgement. As the evening broke up, Gibson signed Wallis’ collar to show that he was the real dam buster – which pleased Molly even more. Sadly, the collar has long since vanished (or possibly the inscription simply washed out), making the survival of this near-pristine signed menu all the more remarkable and special.”