18 Mar 2015

Plan to keep Dambuster medals in NZ

9:43 am on 18 March 2015

Medals awarded to New Zealand Dambusters pilot Les Munro may be able to stay in New Zealand.

Les Munro at the Bomber Command Memorial in London.

Les Munro at the Bomber Command Memorial in London. Photo: SUPPLIED

The 95-year-old war hero has put the medals up for sale in London to raise money for the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park. The decorations include the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

British philanthropist Lord Ashcroft has offered to donate $150,000 for the memorial's upkeep if Mr Munro gifts the medals to Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland and withdraws them from sale.

New Zealand museums had not been able to agree to a solution with Mr Munro and had confirmed they could not participate in the auction of the medals as a consortium.

"I believe this proposal is win-win situation whereby Mr Munro secures substantial funds for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, and his medals and associated memorabilia are gifted to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland for the benefit of the Nation," Lord Ashcroft said.

DNW - Les Munro medals.

Les Munro's medals Photo: SUPPLIED

Details of the proposal were discussed during a visit by Lord Ashcroft to MOTAT on Monday, where he viewed one of the last remaining Avro Lancaster Bombers housed in the Museum's Aviation Display Hall.

Mr Munro said it was a very good offer, and he had told MOTAT he would like to think it over for a few days. He expected to make a decision next week.

Michael Frawley, the chief executive of MOTAT, said: "We have the greatest admiration for what Mr Munro and his colleagues did during the Second World War, and we will cover the Dix Noonan Webb auction house's costs so that the burden does not fall on Mr Munro."

If Mr Munro agreed to the proposal, Lord Ashcroft said he would collect the medals and logbooks from the auction house in London and fly them to New Zealand, so they could be presented to MOTAT in April.

Lord Ashcroft and Mr Frawley indicated that whatever the outcome, they would respect and support Mr Munro's decision, but would not be participating in the auction process if the proposal was rejected.