Very rare handwritten letter from war hero Guy Gibson to be sold at Bonhams

Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs including the Aldine Collection of the late Sir Robert Horton
12 Nov 2013
London, Knightsbridge

An extremely rare handwritten letter from war hero Guy Gibson to a friend in India written just five weeks after the famous Dam Busters raid which he led is to be sold at Bonhams sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs in London on 12 November. It seems to be the only handwritten letter by Gibson ever to appear at auction and is estimated at £2,000-3,000.

Guy Gibson is one of the most celebrated figures of the Second World War and Operation Chastise, the Raid on the dams of the Ruhr valley on May 16th and 17th 1943 has achieved legendary status. In his letter to fellow pilot Flight-Lieutenant Cecil 'Ginger Parkins', who had written to congratulate him on the raid and on his subsequent Victoria Cross, Gibson says, "The Ruhr certainly is getting the biggest bashing of its life. How anyone can stick – I just don't know." '

At the time he wrote the letter Gibson was still in command of 617 Squadron – which had been put together specifically to carry out the raids - and based at Cranfield. Writing in the idiom of the day he gossips about old times, "I'm afraid Cranfield is not the same gay place it used to be. I must say G/c F.G. (Group Captain Fighter Group) was a wizard for parties. So old Pauline is out Eh? I hope someone married her!"

Gibson had spent his boyhood in India and passed on some tips, "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!

Cecil 'Ginger' Parkins met Gibson when they were both stationed at Cranfield in either 1941 or 1942. He was posted to India in early 1943 and ended the war as Squadron leader at No 35 PTC RAF, Calcutta.

Guy Gibson's Dambuster exploits were an important boost to national morale and he was considered too valuable to risk in further combat. He occupied a staff officer role for a while but, wishing to resume his flying career, he persuaded the Head of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, to allow him to return to the air. He was shot down and killed in September 1944 returning from his first major mission after his return to active service.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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