Lord Ashcroft’s Proposal to Keep Munro Medals in NZ
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has at the eleventh hour stepped in with a proposal to keep the Munro WWII medals and associated memorabilia within New Zealand while still achieving aviation war hero, Les Munro’s, altruistic aim of providing funds for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial in London. This offer comes only hours after local museums confirmed they had not been able to agree to a solution with Mr Munro and could not participate in the auction of the medals as a consortium.
Lord Ashcroft has offered to donate £75,000.00 to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund that looks after the Memorial in London in return for Mr Munro withdrawing the medals from auction and gifting them to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland. Mr Munro’s awards, which include the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross, are expected to fetch between £40,000 and £50,000 if the auction goes ahead.
MOTAT in turn has offered to cover the auctioneers, Dix Noonan Webb’s, reasonable fees and out of pocket expenses on Mr Munro’s behalf.
Lord Ashcroft stated “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”. The details of the proposal were discussed during a visit by Lord Ashcroft to MOTAT yesterday where he undertook a personal tour of one of the last remaining Avro Lancaster Bombers housed in the Museum’s Aviation Display Hall.
Lord Ashcroft was one of the driving forces behind the Bomber Command Memorial which commemorates the contribution and sacrifice of the thousands of young airmen who died while 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.
Michael Frawley the CEO 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.”
Lord Ashcroft’s proposal has the support of the NZ Bomber Command Association and if it proceeds, MOTAT intends to develop an exhibition that can be displayed at museums around New Zealand to highlight the history surrounding Mr Munro and his Bomber Command comrades’ as well as their commitment, valour and sacrifice during WWII.
Lord Ashcroft said “If Mr Munro agrees to this proposal I will personally collect the medals and logbooks from the auction house in London and fly them to New Zealand so that they can be jointly presented to MOTAT in April.”
Lord Ashcroft and Michael Frawley indicated that whatever the outcome, they would respect and support Mr Munro’s decision but they would not be participating in the auction process if the proposal was rejected.
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. Lord Ashcroft recognises that Les Munro’s auction of his medals to raise funds for the RFA Benevolent Fund is an extraordinary gesture. He is confident that his offer of a £75,000.00 donation to the Fund is more than the medals and logbooks would raise at auction after all the other costs were considered. 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.