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FLYING OFFICER G. H. MARKES AND CREW
This crew initially joined 550 Squadron based at RAF North Killingholme between Scunthorpe and Grimsby. Completing 20 Main Force operations until the crew were selected to join the reformed 150 Squadron. This squadron had undertaken sterling work as part of the British Advanced Air Striking Force in France during 1939/40, the squadron transferred to the North African campaign in December 1942, disbanded and reformed back in the UK as a Main Force squadron within No 1 Group in November 1944.
150 Squadron were initially based at Fiskerton, No 1 Group decided the Squadron would move to RAF Hemswell and share this airfield with 170 Squadron. This crew flew three operations from Fiskerton, all in Lancaster NG264 IQ-B (Baker). The crew's first operation from Fiskerton (their 21st) was on the evening of 16th November 1944 to Duren, 22nd operation on the 18th November 1944 to Wanne Eickel and the 23rd operation on the 21st November 1944 to Aschaffenburg.
The crew then moved over to Hemswell and completed their tour of 36 operations and were then screened.
Crew from the left to right
Len Buckell --- Mid Upper Gunner
Ken Brotherhood --- Flight Engineer
Bill Mann R.A.A.F--- Navigator
Gordon Markes --- Pilot
Danny Driscoll --- Rear Gunner
Vernon Wilkes --- Air Bombardier
Frank Petch R.A.A.F --- Wireless Operator
Main Force operations undertaken by 150 Squadron whilst stationed at Fiskerton
The crew's lancaster NG267 IQ-B (Baker) showing its magnificent nose art
NG267 IQ-B (Baker) at her dispersal
The crew's Air Bombardier Flt. Lt. Vernon Thomas Wilkes D.F.C. RAF (retired) passed away in Ipswich Hospital on 2nd May 2013 aged 92 years. This Rolex watch was put up for auction in Colchester in February 2016. The brand is famous for its craftsmanship and prestige, perhaps the reason RAF air bombardier Vernon Wilkes bought one of its Oyster Royalite Observatory watches in 1943.
In the letter he explained the watch had been the only one aboard his Lancaster which continued to operate during a particularly cold raid, thereby ensuring our survival.
For this reason, Mr Wilkes wrote, he did not want to see it scrapped due to its sentimental value and Rolex duly assisted by effecting a repair on the watch for him.
The watch left Mr Wilkes possession before his death and has since been in the hands of collectors. It is now being sold by Reeman Dansie in Colchester in its fine arts and antiques auction next Tuesday (February 16) with an estimated sale price of £1,000 to £1,500.
Auctioneer and valuer Daniel Wright said: It is fascinating because it has this letter with it which details this gentlemans reliance upon the watch, its quite interesting that it was the only watch to keep going through bombing raids and keep them alive".
Rare Second World War British RAF bomber pilots' Rolex Oyster Royalite Observatory wristwatch with red centre sweep seconds, luminous hands and Arabic numerals with inner red twenty-four hour markers, screw-down crown in stainless steel case, 3cm diameter numbered 202181, complete with canvas and leather straps. Sold with fascinating original correspondence from the owner Flight Lt. Vernon Wilkes, RAF 150 Squadron to Rolex in 1975. 'I purchased in Winnipeg in 1943. This watch is of great sentimental value to me as it was the only watch in our aircraft which did not stop through extreme cold on a particular bombing raid I was on, during the war, thereby ensuring our survival'.
A fascinating military watch with wonderful provenance.
The report by the Auction House states that
The watch is currently working although we cannot guarantee the accuracy of its timekeeping. The hands set and adjust correctly. Dial very original good unrestored condition, discolouration and deterioration of the luminescent paint and slight corrosion to the hands. The case is in good condition commensurate with age, the back of the case has a milled edge which is worn/slightly burred. Winding crown screws down tightly.
The watch was purchased by an unknown buyer on the 16th February 2016 for £1700.