Press release by MOTAT on 15 April 2015
Today veteran Squadron Leader, Les Munro, presented his gallantry medals, flight logbooks and associated memorabilia to the Museum of Transport and Technology in a special hand-over ceremony at the Museum’s Aviation Display Hall. The presentation took place in front of one of the few remaining examples of the Avro Lancaster Bomber, made famous as a successful night bomber by the RAF Bomber Command in WWII.
Lord Ashcroft, whose generous donation of £75,000 to the RAF Benevolent Fund made it possible for the medals to be retained in the country, collected the decorations and memorabilia from London auction house, Dix Noonan Webb, a couple of weeks ago and personally flew them back to New Zealand.
Earlier in March, Les Munro accepted Lord Ashcroft’s substantial donation to the RAF Benevolent Fund in return for withdrawing his medals from auction and gifting them to MOTAT. The auction house waived receipt of their fee on the basis that MOTAT would pay it to the Benevolent Fund instead.
Lord Ashcroft gave a moving speech at the ceremony explaining how his interest in war history was sparked as a 10-year-old boy when he learned of his father’s personal experiences as a World War One veteran. “I’m sorry if I sound a little emotional” said Lord Ashcroft “I’m a hard-headed businessman but this is my passion” he concluded.
Prime Minister John Key acknowledged Mr Munro’s altruism and referred to Lord Ashcroft as “a true unsung hero of New Zealand with a real passion for the country”
Mr Munro said he was extremely grateful for Lord Ashcroft’s generosity which allowed the medals to remain on home soil. Although the medals will no longer be within the Munro family Mr Munro said “I am comforted by the thought of my medals being situated in close proximity to the Lancaster at MOTAT as I flew all but one of my operations in these planes. I appreciate very much indeed that they will have some relationship.”
“The Museum is honoured to accept these precious items into its collection for the benefit of the Nation” said MOTAT CEO, Mr Michael Frawley. “MOTAT has a close association with NZ Bomber Command and the utmost respect for the sacrifice and courage these men showed in the Second World War. It’s our intention to develop an exhibition highlighting what Mr Les Munro, Mr Len Chambers and the other New Zealand members of Bomber Command, in particular 617 Squadron, did during the war.”
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