Offered in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, on December 14, an early 20th century Steiff bulldog, a felt elephant of similar date (and possible manufacture) and a small Doulton stoneware ‘Baby’ hot water bottle were the childhood toys of Ewen Montagu (1901-85), the brain behind Operation Mincemeat.
This was the ruse that successfully fooled the German forces into believing the Allies were going to land in Greece rather than Sicily. Montagu’s book The Man Who Never Was was made into a film in 1956 and more recently in 2021 the operation was covered again with Colin Firth playing the role of Montagu.
All three elements of this lot are desirable collectables – particularly the bulldog that was made c.1906 at a time when a similar character (Tige) appeared in the popular US comic strip Buster Brown.
The toys were in decent condition for their age with some areas of fur loss, open seams and minor holes, the water bottle showing a small hairline.
However, provenance is just as important to collectors of stuffed toys as is to those of more mainstream antiques – knowing the owner adds a story and a personality.
The association with Operation Mincemeat helped the group to £2000 against a guide of £100-300.