Dambuster medals may stay in NZ

The Herald reports:

A solution may have been found to keeping veteran “Dambuster” Les Munro’s medals in New Zealand.

Lord Michael Ashcroft has offered to donate $150,000 to the upkeep of London’s Bomber Command Memorial if Mr Munro withdraws his medals from auction.

Philanthropist Lord Ashcroft will donate GPB75,000 to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, which looks after the memorial, in return for Mr Munro donating his medals to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland.

MOTAT has offered to cover the auctioneer’s fees and out of pocket expenses.

Mr Munro’s awards, including the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross, were expected to fetch between $80,000 and $100,000 at auction.

The 95-year-old veteran had put the medals up to be auctioned on March 25 to raise money for the upkeep of the memorial, which commemorates his fallen comrades.

A very generous offer to Lord Ashcroft who has a genuine affection for both New Zealand and military medals. He has the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses, which are freely displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London.

I played a very minor role in the development, tweeting the story to Lord Ashcroft (whom I know through the International Democrat Union) last week. By coincidence he was en route to NZ.

Obviously it is up to Les Munro whether he will accept the offer, or still put them up for auction. But the offer seems to be significantly higher than what they are likely to fetch at auction, so hopefully he will accept and we get a win-win of the medals remaining in NZ, and the Bomber Command Memorial getting a further donation of $150,000.

Lord Ashcroft donated more than $2 million to build the Bomber Command Memorial, which commemorates the airmen who died while flying with the Bomber Command, known as the “Dambusters”, during World War Two.

His proposal has the support of the NZ Bomber Command Association, and if successful, MOTAT will develop a travelling exhibition on the history of the Bomber Command.

He has also offered to personally collect the medals from the auction house in London and fly them to New Zealand.

Lord Ashcroft is also a major pollster in the UK. He commissions polls at both national and electorate level, and publishes them free to the world. He also publishes summaries of focus groups of undecided voters. Very very interesting material for political players and observers.

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