Les Munro accepts Lord Ashcroft’s medal proposal

This press release was announced by MOTAT on 25 March 2015.

Aviation war hero, Les Munro has accepted Lord Ashcroft’s proposal to donate £75,000 to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in return for withdrawing his medals, log books and associated memorabilia from auction in London and gifting them to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland.

Mr Michael Frawley, CEO of MOTAT, received the news from Mr Munro this morning and said: “we are very pleased with this decision and believe it represents a positive outcome for all concerned. Mr Munro has achieved his goal of supporting the RAF Benevolent Fund and his medals and associated memorabilia will be retained by MOTAT so that future generations of New Zealanders can learn about Mr Munro and his Bomber Command colleagues’ courage and sacrifice during WWII”.

Upon learning of the decision, Lord Ashcroft commented “I am delighted with Les Munro’s acceptance of this win-win proposal whereby he has realised his altruistic aims of raising substantial funds for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in London and his medals are gifted to MOTAT for the benefit of the Nation.”

“Lord Ashcroft’s generous offer has not only ensured the return of these medals to New Zealand but the resultant publicity has also increased public awareness of the bravery and sacrifice of Bomber Command aircrew during WWII ” said Mr Frawley. “The Museum has an incredible respect and admiration for Mr Munro and intends to develop an exhibition highlighting the history surrounding him and his NZ Bomber Command comrades to commemorate the huge contribution they made to the war effort.”

Lord Ashcroft was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park which honours the thousands of young airmen who died flying with the Bomber Command during World War Two. He donated over £1 million to the initial Memorial appeal as well as the royalties from his book, ‘Heroes of the Skies’ to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

MOTAT had offered to cover the auctioneers, Dix Noonan Webb’s, withdrawal fees and out of pocket expenses on Mr Munro’s behalf if the medals were withdrawn from auction. Today the auction house announced that their fee of £10,000 should be donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund and MOTAT will facilitate this on their behalf.

Lord Ashcroft intends to personally collect the medals and logbooks from Dix Noonan Webb in London, and fly them back to New Zealand where they will be delivered to Mr Munro so that he can present them to MOTAT during April.

“We are deeply grateful to Lord Ashcroft and Mr Munro for coming to this arrangement and MOTAT will be honoured to accept these precious items into its collection” said Mr Frawley.

Mr Frawley also announced that he was working with Perpetual Guardian managing director Andrew Barnes, who has established the NZ Bomber Command Fund through the Perpetual Guardian Foundation. Mr Barnes has set up the fund and donated an initial $30,000 to help preserve the historical legacy of Bomber Command in New Zealand. The fund is open to donation from all New Zealanders.

Mr Barnes says, “We wanted to give all Kiwis the opportunity to contribute to the preservation of this important military history. Over time, the Fund will support a dedicated pavilion at MOTAT and a series of road shows that highlight the stories and courage of Mr Munro, Len Chambers and the rest of the members of NZ Bomber Command.¨

Notes to the Editor:
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist and author. He supports a wide range of charities, including those dealing with crime prevention and education. Apart from the contributions he has already made to the RFA Bomber Command Memorial and the associated Benevolent Fund, Lord Ashcroft has also been involved with the following:

  • He was a founder of Crimestoppers UK and contributed the setup costs for Crimestoppers New Zealand which was launched on 12 October 2009.
  • He donated NZ$250,000 to the Government’s Christchurch Earthquake appeal in 2011 to help New Zealand tackle the monumental task of rebuilding the city.
  • Over the past three decades, Lord Ashcroft has purchased more than 180 Victoria Cross medals, making his the largest collection of its kind in the world. Since November 2010, these decorations have been on public display at the Imperial War Museum London in a purpose-built gallery. He is passionate in his belief that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these heroes.
  • His offer of a NZ$200,000 reward for the return of the medals stolen from the Waiouru Army Museum in 2007 was instrumental to their safe recovery. Amongst the 96 medals stolen, were 9 Victoria Crosses including the rare VC and Bar of New Zealand soldier, Charles Upham, from World War II.
  • In 2009, Lord Ashcroft was appointed as Vice-Patron of the Intelligence Corps Museum in Bedfordshire and, in 2010, became a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum Foundation. Furthermore, in 2012, he became a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum itself.
  • Lord Ashcroft is the author of eight books, including five on gallantry, which tell of his lifelong interest in valour and reveal the extraordinary stories behind the gallantry medals in his collection.

For further information, photos, media passes or interviews with MOTAT, please contact: Vanessa Hefer on 845 3703 | 021 340 518 or email vanessa.hefer@motat.org.nz

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