GIBSON (GUY, VC, DSO, DFC) Autograph letter signed, to Flight-Lieutenant Cecil Wilfred 'Ginger' Parkins, 1943
Lot 325
Sold for £5,625 (US$ 9,454) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("Guy P Gibson"), to Flight-Lieutenant Cecil Wilfred 'Ginger' Parkins ("My Dear Ginger"), at RAF Indian Command, telling how nice it is to hear from him again and gossiping about old times ("...I'm afraid Cranfield is not the same gay place it used to be. I must say G/c F.G. was a wizard for parties. So old Pauline is out Eh? I hope some-one married her!..."), and reminiscing about his Indian boyhood ("...I'm sure you must love India! It's not a bad place – Now when I was in POONA – I used to make regular trips to catch Prawns in the Irriwaddy! You must try the same when the Japs clear out..."); he then passes on war news ("...Life in England is much the same with everyone very optimistic. The Ruhr certainly is getting the biggest bashing of its life. How anyone can stick it – I just don't know..."), and ends: "Well Ginger give any of the boys you may see my love/ and all the best to you"; with autograph stamped envelope, marked by Gibson: "Sender. W/c G.P. Gibson, V.C.", 2 pages, very light dust-staining and spotting, 4to, "Royal Air Force/ Bomber Command/ 26. 6. 43"


  • 'THE RUHR CERTAINLY IS GETTING THE BIGGEST BASHING OF ITS LIFE. HOW ANYONE CAN STICK IT – I JUST DON'T KNOW' – GUY GIBSON WRITES TO AN R.A.F. CHUM AFTER THE DAMBUSTERS RAID. This had taken place five weeks earlier, on 16 May; Gibson being awarded the Victoria Cross on 28 May. At the time he wrote this letter he was still in command of 617 Squadron, which had been formed that March with the specific aim of attacking the dams in the Ruhr. But he had to relinquish his command on 3 August as by then his fame had made him too valuable an asset to risk. Having accompanied Churchill to Canada and subsequently served as a staff officer, he eventually persuaded a reluctant 'Bomber' Harris to allow him to return to active service, only to be killed coming back from his initial mission in September 1944. His celebrated memoir, Enemy Coast Ahead, was to be posthumously published in 1946 and filmed as The Dam Busters in 1955. Since when he has, as David Gunby puts it, 'achieved near-legendary status' (ODNB). This is the only autograph letter by him of which we can find record that has appeared for sale (ABPC listing only two dictated letters).

    The recipient of this letter, Cecil 'Ginger' Parkins (1911-1958), had written to congratulate his friend from India, where he was then stationed. He is recorded as having been gazetted Aircraftman, 2nd Class, in 1940, and Pilot Officer in 1941. He is known to have been stationed at RAF Cranfield for some time, the family holding letters from the officers mess there dating from 1941; and he appeared that year in a photograph printed in the Tatler captioned 'Headquarters Staff at an RAF Station – Somewhere in England'. Other family letters show him to have still been there in January 1943. Soon afterwards he was posted to India, and was in command of No 35 PTC RAF Peshawar in 1944-1945. He subsequently took command of the Calcutta RAF Transit Camp, and was Squadron Leader at No 35 PTC RAF, Calcutta, in 1945 (further details, supplied by the family, are included with the lot). It is uncertain when he and Gibson first met; but as this letter makes clear they overlapped at Cranfield, where Gibson was stationed as Chief Flying Instructor from December 1941 till April 1942. Family tradition holds that he served as Gibson's best man in 1940, but neither we, nor they, have been able to verify this. He is, however, mentioned, in Enemy Coast Ahead, as having flown Gibson 'to the north of England', in March 1942.

Saleroom notices

  • When Gibson returned to active service in the summer of 1944, he in fact made a handful of flights before his final, fatal, flight in September.
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